From unwinding in nature to exploring the city's amazing cultural institutions (in some cases, virtually), here are a few highlights we're looking forward to this season. Remember to check locations before going and book online if required. Stay safe this winter.

Go ice-skating

Amsterdam winter canal ice skating Toyah Boer

Head to the Jaap Eden IJsbaan for a sporty vibe as you skate around the track as if you were competing in the Winter Olympics. Or, if the weather turns super cold, you can glide across the canals. But don’t bank on it as the canals don’t freeze over as much as they once did.

Get cultural at Museumplein

As the name suggests, you’ll find some of the city’s most famous museums on this green square in Oud-Zuid:

  • Rijksmuseum: Along with exhibitions featuring Dutch photographers Ed van der Elsken and Willem Diepraam, you can also see items from the museum’s substantial collection and watch on as research and restoration work continues on Rembrandt’s Night Watch right before your eyes.
  • Stedelijk Museum: "From Thonet to Dutch Design" presents a fascinating timeline of contemporary design while Arthur Jafa’s compelling video installation will bring you up to speed on black representation in media. And don’t miss "Stedelijk Base" for the best pieces from the Stedelijk’s collection.
  • Van Gogh Museum: Explore the letters of Van Gogh and gain insight into his process through sketches, notations and thoughts. While you’re there, see how Van Gogh inspired future generations of artists such as photographer Jean-Luc Mylayne.
  • MOCO Museum: Prefer modern hotshots to old masters? Head to MOCO to see works by the likes of Banksy, Basquiat, Warhol, Haring and many more.

Check What’s On for more exhibitions.

See the best photography

FOAM gallery Amsterdam

Amsterdam packs the punches when it comes to photography. With several museums dedicated to the medium along with major festivals and commercial galleries, there’s always something to see:

  • Foam: Talent highlights the work of a selected group of artists under 35 from around the world. Les Adu’s I Am presents 100 portraits of black people that highlight pride, strength and resilience, a project the artist started following George Floyd’s death.
  • Huis Marseille: see how Instagram is being used by eight artists who use the platform to give their work a virtual element.
  • Stadsarchief: take a look at 100 years of the school garden initiative designed to introduce kids to gardening.
  • Jewish Historical Museum: learn all about Amsterdam’s Waterlooplein and its amazing history through archival photographs and documents.

Check What’s On for more photography exhibitions.

Go exploring

Haarlem winter shopping Hans Guldemond

Did you know there’s a wealth of interesting locations on Amsterdam’s doorstep? A day trip is a fantastic way to take in the sights and get a taste of life in the Dutch countryside:

  • Haarlem: just 15-minutes by train, Haarlem’s medieval charms will win you over. Visit Grote Kerk or any of the café’s on the square, wander through Vijfhoek’s charming streets and small shops, mosey into a hofje (courtyard) and visit the Teylers and Frans Hals museums.
  • Old Holland: step back in time to see windmills, the influence of the Industrial Revolution and stunning landscapes.
  • New Land: what’s the newest part of the Netherlands? Find out as you explore the country’s cities and land recently reclaimed from the sea.
  • Castles and Gardens: boasting everything from old castles to fortified towns, this region is just as enchanting as you might imagine.
  • On yer bike: plenty of places are easily reachable by bike including Weesp, Muiden, and Marken.

Check the Amsterdam Area for more ideas.

Celebrate Christmas

Christmas tree on Dam Square Koen Smilde

At time of writing, it’s looking as if most of the Christmas markets have been cancelled for 2020. But even without the markets, Amsterdam dazzles during the festive season, lighting up with the perfect sprinkling of gezelligheid. Beautifully decorated shop windows, small streets and canals sparkle with holiday spirit and are a joy to walk. Try the Negen Straatjes, the beautiful Utrechtsestraat and De Bijenkorf’s stunning window displays at Dam Square. While there, stop by the beautiful big Christmas tree just across from the Royal Palace.

Check out our Christmas roundup for more ideas.

Eat oily balls. No really!

Oliebollenkraam Amsterdam CC BY-SA 2.0 Franklin Heijnen via Flickr

While oliebollen literally translates to oily balls, they are actually closer to everyone’s favourite sweet treats — donuts. Around October, oliebollenkramen (donut vans) pop up across the country serving fresh donuts in a range of flavours including apple, chocolate, cherry and more. Traditionally eaten on New Year’s Eve and washed down with champagne, these doughy treats are much better than they sound. Find out where to get the best oliebollen in Amsterdam.

Go for a walk

Koen Smilde Amsterdamse Bos

A very Dutch thing to do over the Christmas period is to go for a walk. Not only is it a great aid for digestion following deliciously heavy festive meals and donut overload, but you also get to experience nature first-hand. Here’s a few tips for where to go:

  • Amsterdam’s parks: north, south, east or west, Amsterdam’s parks are amazing and each has its own unique charm.
  • Amsterdamse Bos: this massive forest in the city’s south is beautiful the whole year through and in winter it has a quiet, eerie charm that’s perfect for cold days.
  • The coast: mosey along the beach or sift through the dunes encountering Highland cows and other wildlife. Afterwards, drop into a beach bar for a delicious hot chocolate or something stronger.
  • Art outside: enjoy Amsterdam’s rich collection of public art on foot. See quirky pieces by Amsterdam’s @streetartfrankey, a work by Picasso and many others, some with fascinating stories. Find out where by reading our in depth article all about the city’s street art.

On stage and online

Entertainment has taken a hit with COVID-19 but the good news is that some of Amsterdam’s theatres are open and performing to their usual high standards. ITA’s productions include The Things That Pass and A Little Life (English surtitles on Thursdays) plus you can view Alice In Wonderland and La Voix Humane online on demand.   

Check What’s On for a complete list of performances or read through our winter roundup for more seasonal inspiration.