Winter in the Amsterdam Area
Unlike many countries, in winter the Netherlands never seems more alive. Whether you want to get lost spotting the country’s abundant wildlife while walking through misty woods, spend some time perched on a pier by the sea spotting rare seabirds, explore snow-capped castles or see one of its many magical Christmas markets –there’s almost too much to see and do. Fortunately, Amsterdam’s location and transport links let you take a winter day trip outside of the city with as little stress as possible, and get back in time to relax, sit back and enjoy a mug of something comforting and warm before bed. To make life even easier, make sure you grab an Amsterdam & Region Travel Ticket, which allows you to explore all the iconic sights and scenery of the city’s surroundings area for one, two or three consecutive days.
See a concert at the Grote Kerk in Haarlem
The 16th century, Gothic Grote Kerk dominates the Grote Markt in the centre of Haarlem, a city that despite its manageable size is a treasure trove of historical and cultural gems. And there’s no better way to get into the festive spirit than by settling into a seat underneath the church’s magnificent interior to take in a concert. Some events even feature the church’s gigantic organ, which was constructed in 1738 and once played by a young Mozart.
Grote Kerk, Grote Markt 22, Haarlem
Connect with nature at Nationaal Park Nieuw Land
Adventurers hoping to catch a glimpse of the country’s diverse wildlife should venture out to nature reserve Nationaal Park Nieuw Land. Located just east of Amsterdam and featuring birds, deer, foxes and hares, its expansive fields and wetlands feel almost otherworldly in the winter, as the days grow darker and a stillness seeps into the landscape. And after you’ve been there why not take the time to pop to the nearby Nature Park Lelystad, home to otters, moose, bison and wild boar? During winter, a brilliant Christmas market also pops up in the nature park.
Go winter windmill spotting at Zaanse Schans
The perfect place to go windmill spotting in the winter, Zaanse Schans offers a perfectly preserved glimpse into the Netherlands' industrial past. Among the vast fields and traditional houses, windmills, warehouses and workshops, this historical village of Zaanse Schans looks prettier than ever on a winter’s day, proving exactly why it’s one of the Netherlands' best loved attractions (it attracts more than a million visitors each year). Of course, afterwards you can always warm up by popping over to the traditional towns of Volendam or Marken for a cup of ‘snert’ – or Dutch pea soup.
See the bleak and beautiful Schokland
Schokland is a unique combination of cultural history and nature. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, in winter it’s especially beautiful and bleak, as icy mists rise over the land throughout the morning and into the afternoon. Venture around the area and you’ll see a wealth of archaeological treasures, evidence of human habitation from more prehistoric times more than 10,000 years ago. Some of these artefacts remain almost completely intact. While there you can also see fascinating monuments including a historic church and lighthouse keeper’s house, and you might even spot some of the hares, rabbits, roe deer, pine martens, swallows, and harriers which have made the area their home.
Teylers Museum in Haarlem
Like venturing through the back of a cupboard and into a strange new land, a trip to the Teylers Museum in Haarlem is certain to throw up moments of wonder and awe. The perfect place to shelter from the cold of a winter’s day, Teylers invites visitors to delve into art and science. The museum is one of the oldest in the Netherlands and displays an extensive collection of paintings and drawings (many of which from The Hague School and Dutch Romantics), fossils, minerals, instruments and books.
Teylers Museum, Spaarn 16, Haarlem
Discover a winter paradise fit for a princess, with a castle to boot
As far as awe-inspiring sights go, snow-capped castles rising into view out of wintery mists must surely be up there with the best of them. And if you’re looking for a place that looks like it’s fresh from the pages of a popular fairy tale, Muiden is it. Featuring a medieval castle, a quayside lined with cosy cafes and situated on the banks of the river IJmeer, the city is the perfect place for a winter adventure.
Get up close and personal to the seabirds at IJmuiden piers
The beach might not seem like the perfect place to spend a winter’s day, but IJmuiden, with broad beaches, vast sand dunes and a three-kilometre-long pier stretching out into the North Sea, boasts a unique spectacle which makes braving a bit of adverse weather absolutely worth the effort. That’s because it’s one of the best places in the Netherlands to spot seabirds. From Purple Sandpipers to Rock Pipits and Turnstones, there’s always an array of magnificent birds gliding through the air and nestling down in the area. And after you’ve had your fill of twitching? Take shelter in one of the area’s cosy cafes and grab some fresh stroopwafels and a warme chocolademelk (hot chocolate) to dunk them in.
Waterland’s flat polder landscape throws up moments that feel lost in time, and in winter its expansive fields and old-style stolpboerderijen – farmhouses with unmistakable pyramid roofs – feel more magical than ever. It’s a place where endless panoramas are punctuated with places of real beauty: the UNESCO World Heritage Site De Beemster boasts scenic waterways, dykes, restored mills and charming, traditional farmhouses, as well as De Rijp, which has been dubbed ’Holland’s most beautiful village’. Another highlight is Land van Leeghwater, a 1,000-year-old area which features an array of polders - stretches of land that sit below sea level and were once marshes, dunes or even bodies of water – and scenic canals, pastures and locks. It also features on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Grab a bargain at Batavia Stad shopping centre
Whether you’re grabbing some festive gifts for friends and family or taking advantage of the sales, it’s hard to resist the urge to take some time out to shop during the winter season. Luckily the city of Lelystad’s ‘Batavia Stad’ shopping centre offers bargain-hunters the perfect place to seek out big brands and discounted goods. With more than 250 fashion brands, cafés and restaurants, look out for discount deals on everything from Ralph Lauren to Nike. Visitors from outside the EU can benefit from even more savings by shopping Tax Free. And if you fancy a culture fix after all that shopping, it’s only a short walk to see Antony Gormley’s massive ‘Exposure’, 26-metre steel figure crouching on the Strekdam, gazing out over the Markermeer lake.
Batavia Stad Fashion Outlet, Bataviaplein 60, Lelystad
Discover a unique winter wonderland at Haarlem’s Christmas Market
For a real winter adventure, Haarlem’s historic canals and old-world charm bring something extra special to the festive season. Take the short journey from Amsterdam and explore Haarlem’s beguiling grandeur during the winter season, and if you can why not coincide your trip with a visit to the city’s vast Christmas Market. Offering a traditional take on a festive market, it boasts more than 300 stalls which pop up in and around Haarlem’s main square - Grote Markt – and its various shopping streets. Make sure you indulge in festive sweets, stock up on handmade goodies and shop to the soundtrack of a live choir. Also taking place during the Christmas Market is Kerstkorenlint, several choir performances at various locations around the city, including the Gravenzaal (Counts’ Hall) at the town hall in Grote Markt.