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Festive market stalls on Rembrandtplein, surrounded by trees festooned in Christmas lights.
Image from Edwin van Eis

All lit up: best spots to see holiday lights in Amsterdam

As the holiday season lands in Amsterdam, the city dazzles with Christmas trees, streets roped in fairy lights and hundreds of illuminated art installations. To help you decide where to go, we've put together a selection of locations across the city that are alive with light to brighten your winter nights.

Amsterdam Light Festival

Amsterdam light festival, a picture of a painting. By Koen Smilde Photography
Image from Koen Smilde photography

For a short period every year, Amsterdam steals Paris' title of the 'City of Lights' with its annual Amsterdam Light Festival. With every edition, there's a new theme, and this year's focus is artificial intelligence and technology. Expect to see AI-art-like digital graphics, virtual bridges, and all manner of light shows illustrating the power and potential of AI as you dip under bridges along the canals. You can choose how you want to explore the festival too; take to the water and get a glimpse of the light festival by boat tour or download their app for a guided walking tour through the city that measures about 7.5km. Running from the end of November until January 21, this is the moment to let a little light into your winter. 

Turning on the lights

Christmas Tree Palace and Nieuwe Kerk at Dam Square 2016
Image from Koen Smilde

Every year, Dutch department store De Bijenkorf marks the beginning of the festive season by lighting up the store’s majestic façade with hundreds of thousands of energy-efficient LED lights. It makes for a beautiful scene and is the perfect backdrop for the massive all-lit-up Christmas tree on Dam Square. Along with De Bijenkorf, other prominent buildings get into the Christmas spirit with bauble-laden trees and elaborate light installations, making a stroll through the city a bewitching affair.


Christmas decorations in the city on Utrechtsestraat. By Koen Smilde Photography.
Image from Koen Smilde Photography

Utrechtsestraat is one of Amsterdam’s most charming streets, with its fantastic mix of bars, cafés – including one of the city's best neighbourhood bars – hip shops and boutiques. During the holiday season, it becomes a winter wonderland with decorations crisscrossing the street from end to end. Stroll down this lovely lane starting at an equally lit-up Rembrandtplein and admire the stunning shop windows of small specialist stores.

Shopping streets

Lights in the winter at Christmas in the PC Hooftstraat shopping street
Image from Koen Smilde

It’s not just the Utrechtsestraat that puts on a show, several other streets pull out all the stops to create wintry street scenes evocative of the festive season. Wander down luxury shopping street P.C. Hooftstraat, the Spiegelgracht, happening Haarlemmerstraat, thronging Albert Cuypstraat and the 9 Streets, where there is no lack of decorations and festive sparkle. 

Waterside views

Scenic view of Amsterdam city and the river Amstel bridge at night (it's the Magere brug)
Image from Koen Smilde

It is a magical time in the city, and nothing is more magical than how the canals come alight. Take a romantic walk along the canals and Amstel to see the light-strewn canals and lit-up bridges. Some of the best views on the Amstel is from De Hogesluis bridge or De Magere Brug (pictured). When Amsterdam is all dressed up in lights and glittering in winter finery, it truly shines.

Botanical glow

Hortus by Night botanical gardens
Image from Jan Jaap Hubeek

For those who love plants and walking in nature, Amsterdam's botanical gardens – known as Hortus – illuminate briefly during the winter season. 'Hortus by Night' takes visitors through a midnight garden of their own, where leafy palms and towering ferns bask in the glow of lights that light up the greenhouses and beyond. Often only on for a matter of weeks towards the end of December and the start of January, this is a lovely family outing or date night activity.