12 days of Christmas in Amsterdam

We've made a list (and checked it twice) of the top 12 things to do (one for each day of Christmas) in Amsterdam over the festive season.

See a light show on the canals

Cruise the canals during the Amsterdam Light Festival to see the city’s already oh-so-beautiful waterways wearing their winter finery. This two-month-long festival invites Dutch and international artists to create spectacular light sculptures around Amsterdam's historic Canal Ring, the River Amstel and other picturesque routes. 

Amsterdam Light Festival // check back for 2020/21 dates // various locations

Explore Amsterdam’s Christmas markets

Caroling, hot-chocolate, spiced wine, vintage shopping: Amsterdam’s Christmas markets will warm up your winter. Do some last-minute shopping at floating market, take a ride on a giant Ferris wheel or marvel at the Rijksmuseum’s architecture while you ice skate through Museumplein. 

Amsterdam Christmas markets // various dates and locations

Carve up the ice

If the canals don't happen to freeze this winter, take a spin around the one of the pop-up skating rinks found all around the city. Ice skating in Amsterdam is a fun way to warm up on frosty evenings, and goes perfectly with a post-skate cup of hot Chocomel or gluhwein. Find more inspiration in our blog post about the Netherlands’ ice skating legacy. 

Catch a classical concert

Amsterdam Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Pictures at an Exhibition Anne Dokter

There’s no better way to immerse yourself in the spirit of Christmas than by suiting up for a festive concert. From carols to orchestral renditions of Christmas classics, there’s a vast selection of concerts taking place at atmospheric concert halls throughout the city.  

Christmas concerts // various dates and locations

Try Dutch Christmas treats

Christmas in Amsterdam tastes like spiced cookies known as speculaas and kruidnoten, chocolate letters representing children’s initials given at Sinterklaas and piping hot oliebollen (fried doughnuts filled with currants). Look out for these treats and other classic Dutch winter foods at Christmas markets and streetside stalls. 

Check out the World Christmas Circus

Amsterdam Wereldkerstcircus, Thierry Bissat

Amsterdam’s Royal Theatre Carré was originally built as a circus ring, and it returns to its roots every year for a glittering spectacular that’s a highlight of the holiday season. Expect a night of entertainment featuring performers from all over the world, acrobatics, breathtaking choreography and exquisite costumes. 

World Christmas Circus // check back for 2020 dates

Welcome Sinterklaas

Sinterklaas arrives by boat to Amsterdam

Sinterklaas arrives in Amsterdam in mid-November where he’s met by thousands of onlookers for a parade through the city streets. Join in the festivities that welcome the much-loved Dutch icon. If you’re invited to a traditional family Sinterklaas celebration, read our tips for writing the perfect poem

Sinterklaas’ arrival in Amsterdam // check back for his 2020 arrival date

Attend a seasonal feast

Thanksgiving turkey

Spending the holidays in another city doesn’t mean missing out on the elaborate fare you’d enjoy at home. Along with a host of holiday-season dining events, many of Amsterdam’s hotels offer festive menus with turkey, Christmas pudding and all the trimmings. 

Rock around the Christmas tree

Every year, an enormous Christmas tree towers over Dam Square in the historic city centre. Sparkling with fairy lights, it’s a festive spectacle that brings holiday cheer to visitors and locals alike. Last year, the tree was donated to the elephant enclosure at Amsterdam’s ARTIS Royal Zoo after Christmas.

Dam Square Christmas tree // Check back for the 2020 dates

See a ballet

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King

Make an evening at the ballet your new Christmas tradition. In 2019, the Dutch National Opera & Ballet presented a special twist on The Nutcracker & Mouse King, moving the story to a grand canal house in Amsterdam, with dancers skating along the canals outside. Whatever the 2020 performance may be, expect exquisite sets and costumes that will introduce the whole family to the delights of classical ballet. 

Find the perfect gift

Christmas shopping in Amsterdam presents many opportunities to find unique gifts for family and friends in shopping districts that are lit up with festive lights. Head to the Jordaan for artsy, independent stores, PC Hooftstraat for luxury fashion, Amsterdam’s leading department store, De Bijenkorf, for high-end Dutch brands, and the I amsterdam Store at Central Station for artisanal Amsterdam-designed pieces.

Celebrate New Year’s Eve

New Year's eve party Amsterdam

Raise a glass of champagne to the year ahead in one of the best cities for celebrating New Year’s Eve. An enormous assortment of parties are planned in venues throughout the city, or you can head to a rooftop bar to watch the fireworks. If you’re feeling brave, you can also take an icy dip on New Year’s Day.

New Year’s Eve celebrations // 31 December

Looking for more festive inspiration? See our guide to Christmas in Amsterdam.