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. To stay safe this winter follow the social distancing guidelinesand leave overcrowded areas.

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 the Remember me exhibition featuring Rennaisance portraiture 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: POST/NO/BILLS presents contemporary graphic design. Alongside it, the Now You See Me Moria photography exhibit transports you to a Moria refugee camp in Greece. Looking for more? 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.

Don't miss the seasonal Ice Village market on the Museumplein and check out Amsterdam's best Christmas markets.

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: this winter, see masculinity explored in Boys Won't Be Boys, explore 15 Years of Talent from the Foam 3h Collection and explore Liz Johnson Arthur's series celebrating daily events and human emotion.
  • Huis Marseille: December is the time to enjoy two new exhibitions, Le Village by the French photographer Luc Delahaye and Ao, a short film on Yonaguni island and the wild horses inhabiting it by Charlotte Dumas.
  • Stadsarchief: take a look at 100 years of Tuindorp Oostzaan: an exploration of the neighborhood's past and present or explore the beautiful tribute to Sweelinck, a 17th century city musician of Amsterdam.
  • Jewish Historical Museum: it's Hannukah time with A Celebration of Light exhibition that delves into the holiday's origins. If you like sculpture you will enjoy Sigalit Landau's Between Worlds collection of artworks made out of Dead Sea salt.

Check What’s On for more photography exhibitions.

Enjoy the Amsterdam Light Festival

Once the nights get dark in December, the canals light up with artworks from a host of artists. This year, the Amsterdam Light Festival celebrates its 10 year anniversary and it will include special  Edition #10 works by three talented Breitner Academy students. Enjoy the festival from the water with a special Amsterdam Light boat tour or explore the walking route that gives a completely different perspective of the city.

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

Keep an eye out for updated COVID-19 regulations but as far as we know, the Christmas markets are going ahead this year! If you want the full deal, Amsterdam Winter Paradise is waiting for you in RAI, or you can step out of the city bounds to discover Amstelveen's Winter Village for a spot of ice skating. The city is all dressed up for the occasion as well so prepare to be dazzled by Amsterdam's festive season. 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 and what better way to finish the day than with a festive dinner show?

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.