12 days of Christmas in Amsterdam
We've made a list (and checked it twice) of the top twelve 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 // 28 November 2019 - 19 January 2020 // 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. It’s 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.
Ice skating // various dates and locations
Catch a classical concert
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 at Christmas markets and streetside stalls.
Check out the World Christmas Circus
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 // 19 December 2019 - 5 January 2020
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 // 17 November, Amsterdam city centre
Attend a seasonal feast
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-themed dining events, many of Amsterdam’s hotels offer festive menus with turkey, Christmas pudding and all the trimmings.
Holiday season dining // various dates and venues
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 // From 14 December 2020
See a ballet
Make an evening at the ballet your new Christmas tradition. This year, the Dutch National Opera & Ballet presents 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. Expect exquisite sets and costumes that will introduce the whole family to the delights of classical ballet.
The Nutcracker & Mouse King // Dutch National Opera & Ballet // 14-31 December
Find the perfect gift
Find unique gifts for family and friends in Amsterdam’s 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
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.