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Spending Christmas in Amsterdam is a dream! The glow of festive holiday lights illuminates narrow lanes while the scent of fresh baked treats fills the air. Nearly every neighborhood flaunts decorated trees and there is an undeniable sense of cheer felt throughout the city.
When we decided to go to Amsterdam at Christmas time, we were ecstatic! We envisioned hopping from one Amsterdam Christmas Market to the next, walking along snow dusted canals and reveling in the holiday spirit. In the end, our Amsterdam Christmas holiday was not celebrated as anticipated; there were fewer markets and no snow…but there was still plenty of fun! Regardless of our initial aspirations, visiting Amsterdam in December was pure delight.
So, is Amsterdam good at Christmas? We think so! In this post, we are highlighting everything you need to know about spending Christmas in Amsterdam. From details about the Christmas Markets in Amsterdam to things to do in Amsterdam in December to what to expect on Christmas Day, we have it covered!
Save, Pin or Bookmark this Amsterdam travel post so you can easily access it as your plan your trip to the Netherlands!
Amsterdam In December
If you are wondering what to do in Amsterdam in December, we can assure you there is plenty going on in the city! From the many city museums to classic cozy ‘brown pubs’, there is a long list of places to visit in Amsterdam in December. Add in the full line up of Amsterdam December events, and visitors are spoiled with a choice of fun activities.
Top Things To Do In Amsterdam In Winter
During our trip, we discovered a few of the best things to do in Amsterdam in December! Whether in the city to celebrate the holiday season or simply to see the city sights, if you are in Amsterdam over Christmas time, these activities should be on your to-do list!
Explore Amsterdam Neighborhoods
One of the best things to see in Amsterdam in December is the festively decorated neighborhoods. Some of our favorite districts to explore in the wintertime are the affluent Jordaan neighborhood and the hip De Pijp district. Of course, Amsterdam Centrum is beautifully decorated, too. Visitors who want to see the sights on foot can use our step-by-step Amsterdam Walking Tour.
Visit Amsterdam Museums
Going to museums is always a good wintertime activity – and in Amsterdam, there are an astounding 75 museums to entertain visitors. One of our favorite museums to visit in December is the Willet-Holthuysen Museum – a historic canal house, which is specially decorated for the holidays.
Pro Tip: Visitors interested in visiting the city’s museums should consider purchasing an I Amsterdam City Card, which is a great way to save money on museum entry fees and other city sights!
Feast on Dutch Food
Amsterdam food is savory and satisfying…and perfect winter comfort food! For those who travel to Amsterdam in December, feasting on the local, filling fare is a must! Find all of our tips for what to eat – including traditional holiday meals and treats – in our post, Dutch Cuisine: What To Eat in the Netherlands.
Amsterdam Light Festival
One of the biggest December events in Amsterdam is the annual Festival of Lights. Illuminated artworks are displayed along the canals so that they can be seen by boat or on foot. Each year there is a different theme and artists from around the world compete to be included in the festival.
Get Cozy in an Amsterdam Pub
Amsterdam pubs are fun to visit year-round, but in December the classic taverns are even more inviting. Cozy and jovial, having a beer at an Amsterdam brown pub is the perfect way to end a day of sightseeing. We think the best bars in the city are the ones dedicated to locally produced beer. Get all of our tips in our Amsterdam Craft Beer post.
Go To Amsterdam Christmas Markets
Of course, one of the best things to do in December in Amsterdam is to go to the Christmas Markets! With mulled wine, ice skating rinks and iconic backdrops, the Amsterdam Christmas Markets are a must-see! We detail the top Christmas Markets in Amsterdam in a minute!
More Things To in Netherlands in December
Amsterdam isn’t the only Dutch winter destination! There are many Netherlands things to do in December – like attending the Dickens Festival in Deventer, visiting the largest Netherlands Christmas Market in Dordrect, shopping in Nijmegen and seeking out Windmills covered in snow.
Amsterdam Weather: Christmas and Winter Climate
It is tough to prepare for Amsterdam Christmas weather – it can vary drastically from day to day…and even from hour to hour. Typically, winter temperatures are cold – often dipping below freezing overnight, but warming up slightly during the day. That said, it can get so cold that the canals freeze; when the ice is thick enough, visitors can go ice skating in Amsterdam Central canals. Precipitation – either snow or rain, depending on the temperature – is common during the winter, but is rarely heavy.
Our Amsterdam at Christmas weather was generally mild with temperatures in the mid-40s. There were days of overcast skies and bouts of rain, but not enough to put a damper on our trip! When you visit Amsterdam in winter, you should be prepared for the various elements. It’s a good idea to bring a packable raincoat, a travel umbrella – and hats, gloves and scarfs, too! For more tips on what to pack for your trip to Amsterdam, go to our Packing Tips Page.
Christmas In Amsterdam
Visiting Amsterdam during Christmas is fabulous! In fact, we think it is one of the best times of year to see the city. There are fewer crowds, special events and heaps of merriment!
Amsterdam Christmas Lights
The Light Festival in Amsterdam certainly brightens the dark nights, but they aren’t the only lights in the city! Visitors will find twinkling Christmas lights in Amsterdam draped along streets and decorating trees. It should be noted that Christmas decorations in Amsterdam tend to be simple and understated, rather than flashy or gaudy. Some of our favorite Amsterdam Christmas decorations were modest wreaths hung on doors and sparsely decorated trees in quaint neighborhood squares.
Christmas Tree Amsterdam
The largest Amsterdam Christmas tree stands in Dam Square in the heart of the city. The Dam Square Christmas Tree reaches the height of 20 meters (65 feet) and is covered in more than 40,000 lights. The tree is usually lit in mid-December in a tree lighting ceremony that includes carol singers and vendors selling classic Christmastime Dutch food, like poffertjes (mini pancakes) and Oliebollen (donuts).
Amsterdam Christmas Ornaments
During Christmas time in Amsterdam there are several shops that sell Amsterdam Christmas baubles and other holiday keepsakes.
Christmas Shop Amsterdam: The Christmas Palace Amsterdam
The Christmas Palace is an all-year Christmas shop in Amsterdam. Located along the Singel Canal near the floating flower market, the Christmas store in Amsterdam is the perfect spot to pick up Amsterdam Christmas souvenirs and ornaments.
Christmas Shopping Amsterdam
For many people, one of the highlights of being in Amsterdam for the December holiday is the shopping. Both brand-name stores and boutique shops are found throughout the city. Nieuwendijk is the famous Amsterdam shopping street that extends north from Dam Square to Central Station. The city’s most atmospheric shops, however, are centrally located in an area dubbed The Nine Streets (or Negen Straatjes).
Decorating Your Amsterdam Accommodations
City visitors shouldn’t forego decorating their temporary digs! Wondering where to buy Christmas decorations in Amsterdam? We recommend heading to HEMA for a fun selection of modern (yet inexpensive) Christmas decor. Looking to buy a Christmas Tree in Amsterdam? Live Christmas trees are sold at Nieuwmarkt by the Waag and small trees are on sale at the Flower Market.
Amsterdam Christmas Market Details and FAQs
Strolling through the Amsterdam Xmas Markets is one of the top things to do in Amsterdam at Christmas! After spending Christmas in Europe in several different cities, we assumed Amsterdam, Netherlands holidays would be celebrated the same way. However, there are a few key differences that visitors need to know about before planning Christmas trips to Amsterdam.
Steaming spiced wine, sweet treats and traditional huts are all part of the scene, but Dutch Christmas Markets are quite different from the neighboring German Christmas fairs. Unlike the sprawling, month-long celebrations in other European cities, the Amsterdam winter markets tend to be smaller and more subdued. Furthermore, the markets often only take place in a single day or weekend – meaning, unless you plan to spend the entire month of December in Amsterdam, you will not have the opportunity to go to all of them.
FAQs: What You Need To Know About Christmas Markets in Amsterdam
Before organizing Amsterdam Christmas breaks, be sure to read through our FAQs so that you can best plan what to do in Amsterdam at Christmas.
Is There A Christmas Market In Amsterdam?
Yes, Amsterdam does have Christmas Markets! Not just one, but several.
When do Christmas markets start in Amsterdam?
Amsterdam Christmas Market dates vary – so there is no easy answer to the question, “When do Amsterdam Christmas markets start?”. Some markets run through the entire Christmas season, while others take place on a specific weekend. Visitors will find that there are a variety of Christmas Markets in Amsterdam, both traditional and modern, from mid-November until the end of January.
Where are the Christmas Markets in Amsterdam?
Amsterdam Christmas Market locations are spread across the city – and there are markets in nearby cities, too.
Best Christmas Markets In Amsterdam
An Amsterdam Christmas vacation would not be complete without visiting at least one of the city’s holiday markets! Just be sure to check dates and times in advance of your trip!
Museumplein Christmas Market and Ice Festival Amsterdam
Two of the city’s best holiday events take place in one square that together create the quintessential Dutch winter market! The Museumplein Amsterdam Christmas Market and Ice*Amsterdam Festival are two overlapping events that shouldn’t be missed! The atmospheric market – which features traditional holiday chalets, fire pits and cauldrons of mulled wine – is open in the weeks running up to Christmas through the day after Xmas.
The Amsterdam Ice Festival is the ideal place to go ice skating in Amsterdam at Christmas. The rink is backdropped by the striking Rijksmuseum and features a replica Magere Brug (the city’s iconic ‘Skinny Bridge’) and a cozy bistro. The Amsterdam ice skating rink opens in mid-November and stays open until the beginning of February.
Westergas: The Funky Xmas Market Amsterdam and Amsterdamsche Kerstmarkt
Westergas is the city’s hip, artistic district that occupies a former gas factory within the spacious Westerpark. Ideal for events, two Christmas fairs take place in the historical and stylish venue.
The Funky Christmas Market Amsterdam is a unique market in that it features handmade wares and artsy events. The market takes place on a Sunday in mid-December.
The Amsterdamsche Kerstmarkt was moved to Westergas in 2019 and was held for just a few days before Christmas. The market features food trucks, Dutch craft beer, live music, films and art. They also have an ice rink and Christmas karaoke.
Rembrandtplein Christmas Market
The Winterland Market in Rembrandtplein is one of the only Amsterdam Central Christmas Markets. Complete with an ice-skating rink and numerous Christmas houses doling our classic treats, the Christmas Market at Rembrandtplein is the perfect place to warm up with a cup of mulled wine.
Amsterdam Winter Paradise
The Het Amsterdamse Winterparadijs is a wintertime amusement park. At the Christmas fair in Amsterdam, participants can take part in activities – like ice racing, curling and snowball throwing. In the Winterplein, visitors can roast marshmallows, ride the Ferris Wheel or slide down the Tube Jump. During the day, the event is family friendly, but at night there are DJs, live musicians and plenty of places to imbibe. Note: This is not a free market; tickets are required for entry.
Dam Square Christmas Market
Okay, so technically there is not an organized Christmas Market on Dam Square, but the square does exude an extra Christmassy feeling with the gigantic tree and a few vendors selling Christmas treats.
Pure Winter Market Amsterdam
With a special focus on food and sustainable gifts, the Pure Winter Market offers a different kind of Christmas market. The one-day events are held mid-week in an Amsterdam park.
Christmas Markets Near Amsterdam
Visitors seeking more merriment might want to check out some of the Xmas markets around Amsterdam in nearby cities.
Haarlem Christmas Market
The Christmas Market in Haarlem is considered to be one the biggest and best Christmas Markets in the Netherlands. In addition to the hundreds of holiday stalls, there are Xmas events planned, too. Find out more about the nearby city in our post, Things To Do in Haarlem.
Pro Tip: The Christmas Market Haarlem takes place on one weekend, usually in the beginning of December…so plan accordingly!
Amstelveen Christmas Market
The Christmas Market Amstelveen is a Winter Village that features an ice rink and 60 vendors selling handmade gifts.
Den Ilp Christmas Village Amsterdam
The small village of Den Ilp, just north of Amsterdam, only has a population of 800 residents, but they put on an incredible Christmas light display!
More Dutch Christmas Markets
Those who don’t mind traveling a little bit further for a good Christmas market might want to check out the Floating Christmas Market in Leiden or The Royal Christmas Fair in The Hague. We have also celebrated Christmas in Nijmegen; which is in eastern Netherlands near the German border.
Pro Tip: Amsterdam is well-connected to Germany by train, plane and bus – which is perfect for making a quick trip across the border for a few German Christmas Markets! Our top picks for a short day trip or overnight trip would be to the nearby Dusseldorf Christmas Market (only 2 hours by train), Paris or the Christmas Market in Frankfurt. Use our list of the Best Places to Spend Christmas in Europe for more ideas!
More Amsterdam Christmas Events
Christmas events in Amsterdam are not limited to Christmas markets; there are several themed events that take place in December.
World Christmas Circus Amsterdam
The Wereldkerstcircus, featuring a theatrical circus act, has been taking place in Amsterdam for 35 years. The Christmas Circus in Amsterdam takes place at the Royal Theatre Carre.
Christmas Concert Amsterdam
There are several concerts in Amsterdam in December that help to usher in the holiday spirit. Concerts range from organ performances in old churches to Christmas Carols on Amsterdam city streets. There are free concerts, but some require tickets.
Christmas Canal Cruise Amsterdam
Special holiday cruises are scheduled during the Light Show in Amsterdam in December. Hop aboard, take in the spectacular lights and sip mulled wine as you glide down the canals after dark.
Alsace to Amsterdam Christmas Cruise
Amsterdam Xmas: What To Expect
If you are spending Christmas in Amsterdam, your biggest question is probably, “What is Open on Christmas Day in Amsterdam?”. No need to worry, we have all the details of important December holiday dates.
Sinterklaas (December 5/6)
Sinterklaas – or Saint Nick – is one of the best Amsterdam Christmas traditions for kids! In mid-November, Sinterklaas arrives in the country via boat from Spain. He travels around the country accompanied by his Zwarte Piet helpers visiting children in a buildup to Feast Day on December 5. That night, Sinterklaas brings presents to good boys and girls – then the following day (St. Nicolas Day), he departs the country.
Pro Tip: Kruidnoten, one of our favorite Dutch Christmas cookies, are only eaten when Sinterklaas is in the country…so get them while you can!
Christmas Eve In Amsterdam (December 24)
In Amsterdam, Christmas Eve is not a celebrated holiday. Grocery stores and bars might be a bit busier than usual, but there is not a traditional Christmas Eve dinner in Amsterdam or any other holiday customs celebrated on the day.
Amsterdam Christmas Day (December 25)
Xmas Day in Amsterdam is an official city holiday, so many things are closed. Expect closures at most grocery stores, shops, markets, restaurants and museums. However, there are exceptions – and still plenty of things to do in Amsterdam on Christmas Day!
What and Where to Eat on Christmas Day in Amsterdam
There are not many open Amsterdam restaurants on Christmas Day, leaving tourists with few choices for a holiday meal. Tourists staying in Airbnb apartments where they have use of a kitchen can prepare festive meals at home, but we have a few tips for travelers staying in hotels, too!
Christmas Lunch Amsterdam
Many locals celebrate the holiday with Christmas Lunch in Amsterdam. Typically, lunch – or Christmas Brunch – is eaten at home with family and friends. For visitors, there are a few restaurants that are open for Christmas Day lunch in Amsterdam…but not many. Instead, an easy – yet so very Amsterdam – Christmas lunch could be a simple charcuterie platter of local cheeses and meat. This could work in a hotel room or, if it is nice enough outside, as a picnic.
Christmas Dinner Amsterdam
Christmas night is usually highlighted by a feast at home. Traditional Christmas Dinner in the Netherlands consists of a shrimp starter, thick pea soup (called Erwtensoep or Snert), roasted vegetables (like brussel sprouts and potatoes) and a main meat dish (often game meat such as rabbit, venison or duck).
However, a relatively new custom for Christmas Day dinner in Amsterdam is Gourmetten – where diners cook their own meals of bite-sized meats and veggies in small skillets over a small oven. This Amsterdam Christmas tradition requires a special Gourmetten set – but ask if you Airbnb owner has an extra one and you can pick up fixings already prepared at the local grocery store.
If a kitchen and/or Gourmetten set is not available to you, do not fear! There are a handful of Christmas Day restaurants open in Amsterdam…but it’s best to make a reservation in advance!
Pro Tip: Find out more about what to Eat in Amsterdam at Christmas in our post, Dutch Cuisine!
Christmas Mass Amsterdam
Despite the hefty number of churches in Amsterdam, the residents of the city are not particularly religious. Most churches do hold a Christmas Eve or Christmas Day mass, but it won’t likely be in English.
Pro Tip: Museum Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (Church in the Attic) offers Christmas Mass, which we think would be quite atmospheric. Tickets are required and should be booked in advance.
What Is Open on Christmas Day in Amsterdam?
Not everything is closed! In fact, top city museums – like the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House – are all open on Christmas Day. Additionally, the Museumplein Christmas Market and Ice Amsterdam skating rink are open, too. Some canal cruises are also operational. While most coffeeshops and bars are closed, there are a handful of Central and neighborhood establishments (like Foeders in De Pijp) that are open for business.
If the weather is nice, Christmas Day is the perfect day to visit some of the city’s parks. The sun was shining when we were in Amsterdam for Christmas, so we headed for Vondelpark, which was full of locals, families and tourists.
Amsterdam Public Transport Christmas Day
Public Transport is fully operational on Christmas Day, following the Sunday schedule.
Boxing Day Amsterdam – Second Christmas (December 26)
The day after Christmas, Second Christmas, is another holiday celebrated in Amsterdam. Although more restaurants, bars and shops are open than on Christmas Day, many city establishments remain closed through the 26th. Public Transport operates on a Sunday schedule.
Amsterdam between Christmas and New Year
Amsterdam after Christmas is a busy time of year. Between school and work vacations, people flood into the city beginning the day after Christmas, so expect it to be a bit more crowded.
Amsterdam Holidays: New Year’s Eve and Day (December 31 and January 1)
New Year’s Eve in Amsterdam is celebrated with fireworks (A LOT of fireworks) and parties (both elegant affairs and all-night raves). Champagne is the holiday drink of choice and, in the Netherlands, Oliebollen are the NYE tradition.
On New Year Day, many people dive right into the new year with a frigid North Sea swim. The event in nearby Zandvoort aan Zee hosts one of the biggest New Year Day plunges.
We Want To Know: Is there anything you would add to our list of things to do in Amsterdam in December? Do you have any tips for spending Christmas in Amsterdam? Share your comments below!
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