Winter in Amsterdam: What to See and Do

December 11, 2017

A winter holiday is a great idea for many reasons: you can avoid the major tourist crowds, hotels are generally cheaper, and if you’re lucky you have the added magic of snow. An even better idea is a winter holiday in Amsterdam.

This city is magical in the winter, with twinkling lights, cosy cafés, and glittering frozen canals (if you’re lucky). It’s the perfect place for a getaway to banish those post-Christmas blues, and our guide will give you the top things to do and see.

Step into the light

From November to January, Amsterdam brings the darker nights to life with thousands of twinkling lights in its spectacular Light Festival. This annual event sees artists create light sculptures all over the city, suspended over canals and adorning landmarks and streets. One of the best ways to see this spectacle is to jump on a special Light Festival boat tour.

Soak up the gezellig

This uniquely Dutch word is all about creating a friendly and cosy atmosphere, from glowing candles to twinkling lights, to warming mugs of hot chocolate in quaint cafés. When the evening draws in, you want to be firmly installed on a comfortable sofa looking out at the frosty streets and canals. Just be sure to remember the difference between Dutch establishments: ‘coffee shops’ are for over 18s only and will tend to be smoky, while ‘brown cafés’ are more like British pubs.

Scoff some stamppot

Dutch cuisine is perfectly suited to winter weather, with hearty soups and carb-laden pastries. Stamppot is a particularly delicious traditional Dutch mash made with spinach or kale, often served with sausage. Or you could try a warming bowl of (unfortunately named) snert, a thick pea and ham soup. If you are in Amsterdam over New Year’s, be sure to track down some oliebollen, a delicious Dutch doughnut ball.

Admire some art

Amsterdam is famous for its galleries and artistic prodigies, from Van Gogh to Rembrandt, and the winter season means you can peruse them without the queues and crowds. Swan through the Rijksmuseum to see the stunning ‘Night Watch’ by Rembrandt, then head across the Museumplein to the Van Gogh Museum to admire ‘Sunflowers’ and other masterpieces.

Skate down a canal

Ice skating on Amsterdam’s canals is a rare delight, but absolutely magical if you’re lucky enough. The city’s waterways rarely freeze over during the winter, but it does happen occasionally. Alternatively you can head to Museumplein outside the Rijksmuseum and skate on the vast ICE*Amsterdam rink.

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