Christmas In Amsterdam: What You Need To Know by

Christmas in Amsterdam: What You Need To Know

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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 Amsterdam neighborhood flaunts decorated trees and there is an undeniable sense of cheer felt throughout the city.

When we accepted a pet sitting assignment in 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, visiting Amsterdam in December was pure delight!

So, is Amsterdam good at Christmas? We think so! In this article, 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 in the Netherlands, we have it covered! 

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Visiting Amsterdam in December

Classic Tree at Christmas In Amsterdam, Netherlands

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 museums and attractions 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 excellent activities.


Top Things To Do in Amsterdam in Winter

View of Amsterdam at Night, The Netherlands, Holland

During our trip, we discovered a few of the best things to do in Amsterdam in December. Whether celebrating the holiday season or simply seeing the top 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 area 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 Amsterdam is the Willet-Holthuysen Museum – a historic canal house, which is specially decorated for the holidays.

Pro Tip: Those interested in visiting museums should consider purchasing an I Amsterdam City Card, which is a great way to save money on entry fees and other Amsterdam sights!


Feast on Dutch Food

Amsterdam food is savory and satisfying…the 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 foodie tips – including traditional holiday meals and treats – in our guide of 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. Check the official website for details on the program for this year.


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 Amsterdam are the ones dedicated to locally produced beer. Get all of our top tips in our Amsterdam Craft Beer guide.

That said, for an over-the-top Christmas Amsterdam experience, track down the pop-up Miracle Bar at Boom Chicago. In a tradition that started in New York City, the spirited holiday bar promises festive cocktails, ugly sweaters and kitsch décor. 


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 will detail all the top Christmas Markets in Amsterdam further along in the article.


More Things To in the Netherlands in December

Amsterdam isn’t the only festive 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 whimsical winter scenes.


Amsterdam Weather: Christmas and Winter Climate

Canal River cruise Blue Boat, Amsterdam, Netherlands

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 in Amsterdam are quite cold – often dipping below freezing overnight.

That said, sometimes the weather in Amsterdam at Christmas gets so cold that the canals freeze over. When the ice is thick enough, brave locals even go ice skating on Amsterdam Central canals. Precipitation – either snow or rain, depending on the temperature – is common during the winter in Holland, but is rarely heavy.

Our Amsterdam at Christmas weather was generally mild with temperatures in the mid-40Fs. There were days of overcast skies and bouts of rain, but not enough to put a damper on our festive spirit! When you visit Amsterdam in winter, you just need to be prepared for the various elements.

It’s always a good idea to bring a packable raincoat, a travel umbrella – and hats, gloves and scarfs, too!

Top Tip: We share all our packing hacks for your trip to Amsterdam at the end of article.


Christmas in Amsterdam

Festive streets and Christmas Lights, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Visiting Amsterdam during Christmas is truly fabulous! In fact, we think it is one of the Best Places To Spend Christmas in Europe. There are fewer crowds, several special events and heaps of merriment. Our list of the best things to do in Amsterdam at Christmas are certain to get you in the holiday spirit. 


Amsterdam Christmas Lights

Wonderful views at each Canal, Amsterdam, Netherlands

While the Light Festival in Amsterdam certainly brightens the short days and dark nights, they aren’t the only lights in the city! Visitors will find twinkling Christmas lights in Amsterdam draped along streets and decorating trees – and simply walking down the illuminated lanes is one of the fun things to do in Amsterdam in winter.

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

Always buzzing, Dam Square, 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 fun Amsterdam Christmas time celebration.

The tree lighting ceremony includes carol singers and vendors selling classic Christmastime Dutch Food, like poffertjes (mini pancakes) and Oliebollen (donuts).  


Amsterdam Christmas Ornaments

Christmas lights on Nieuwendijk, Amsterdam

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, this popular Christmas store in Amsterdam is the perfect spot to pick up Amsterdam Christmas souvenirs and ornaments.


Christmas Shopping Amsterdam

Nine Streets, Shopping Street Christmas Lights, Amsterdam, Netherlands

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 – and the Christmas markets in Amsterdam are a good place to pick up unique gifts, as well. 

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 (Negen Straatjes).


Decorating your Amsterdam Accommodations

Christmas decorations, Van Loon House Christmas, Amsterdam, Netherlands

If spending Xmas in Amsterdam, visitors shouldn’t forego decorating their accommodations! Whether staying in an Airbnb apartment, a hotel or even housesitting for the holidays, you can festively decorate your space!

Wondering where to buy Christmas decorations in Amsterdam? We recommend heading to HEMA for a fun selection of modern (yet inexpensive) Christmas décor. 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 in Amsterdam at Xmas.


Amsterdam Christmas Market Details and FAQs

Ice rink at Ice Park, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Strolling through the Amsterdam Holiday 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, some of the markets only take place on 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!  


What You Need To Know About Christmas Markets in Amsterdam

Riiksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands

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 towns worth visiting, as well.


Best Christmas Markets in Amsterdam

Chairs on the Ice Rink, Amsterdam, Netherlands

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 iconic ‘Skinny Bridge’) and a cozy bistro. The Amsterdam ice skating rink typically opens in mid-November and operates until the beginning of February. Update: Unfortunately there will not be an ice rink in 2023.


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. This market takes place on a Sunday in mid-December (the 17th for 2023).

The Amsterdamsche Kerstmarkt was moved to Westergas in 2019 and is typically 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. Update: This market will not be held in 2023.


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 this Christmas fair in Amsterdam, participants join in the festive 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 Amsterdam Christmas 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 area 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 on Sundays in various Amsterdam parks.

{Keep up to date on changes at the Official Amsterdam Visitors Center events page.}


Christmas Markets Near Amsterdam

Visitors seeking more merriment might want to check out some of the Xmas markets around Amsterdam in nearby cities. Before planning a trip, however, be sure to check the market opening hours and dates.


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 Christmas 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 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 the eastern side of the Netherlands near the German border and the fun Kleve Christmas Market.


Christmas Markets Near The Netherlands

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 jaunt or overnight trip would be to the nearby Dusseldorf Christmas Market (only 2 hours by train) or the Christmas Market in Frankfurt.

It would also be fairly easy to get to Paris and London for their fabulous holiday celebrations. Furthermore, there is an Alsace to Amsterdam Christmas Cruise that allows passengers to cruise in style from Basel, Switzerland on an 8-day river boat tour, visiting some of the best markets in the region – including Strasbourg, Colmar and Amsterdam!

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More Amsterdam Christmas Events

Canal Christmas, Christmas Tree Houseboat, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Christmas events in Amsterdam are not limited to just Christmas markets; there are several themed performances that take place in December!


World Christmas Circus Amsterdam

The Wereldkerstcircus, featuring a theatrical circus act, has been taking place in Amsterdam for over 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 many free concerts, but some do 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.


Amsterdam Xmas: What To Expect

Roof detail, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands

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 via boat from Spain. He travels around accompanied by his (controversial) 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 sails off until next year.

Pro Tip: Kruidnoten, one of our favorite Dutch Christmas cookies, are only eaten when Sinterklaas is in town…so get them while you can!


Christmas Eve in Amsterdam (December 24)

In Amsterdam, Christmas Eve is not a celebrated public holiday. Grocery stores and bars might even 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 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

If you are staying in the city on December 25, you are likely wondering, Are restaurants open in Amsterdam on Christmas Day?

To be honest, there are not many open Amsterdam restaurants on Christmas Day, leaving tourists with few choices for a holiday meal. Those staying in 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 the Dutch 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 an apartment or hotel room, but if it is nice enough outside, as a picnic along a canal or in a park.


Christmas Dinner Amsterdam

Dutch Cuisine - Gourmetten for Christmas JetSetting Fools

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 tabletop oven. This Amsterdam Christmas tradition requires a special Gourmetten set – but ask if your Airbnb host has an extra one and you can pick up ingredients 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 where visitors can eat a festive meal. In fact, many restaurants serve a fixed menu of classic Amsterdam Christmas food. Just note that it is essential to make a reservation in advance.

Pro Tip: Find out more about what to eat in Amsterdam at Christmas in our guide to Dutch Cuisine!


Christmas Mass Amsterdam

Attic Church, Our Lord in the Attic Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands

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 heavily attended (or, of course, 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 for your Amsterdam Christmas trip.


What Is Open on Christmas Day in Amsterdam?

So many good beers at Foeders Craft Beer Bar, 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 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 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 establishments remain closed through the 26th. Additionally, Public Transport operates on a Sunday schedule on Amsterdam Boxing Day.


Amsterdam between Christmas and New Year

Amsterdam after Christmas is a busy time of year. Between school holidays 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 (Dec 31 and Jan 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 (traditional Dutch donuts) are the NYE tradition.

In Amsterdam on New Year’s Day, many people dive right in with a frigid North Sea swim. The event in nearby Zandvoort aan Zee hosts one of the biggest New Year Day plunges. Do you dare join in?!


Planning a Trip to Amsterdam around Christmas

Must drink Gluhwein, Amsterdam, Netherlands

We have highlighted the top things to do in Amsterdam during Christmas, but we have a few more tips that will help you plan your holiday trip! 


Where To Stay for an Amsterdam Winter Holiday

Regardless of the season, we think the best place to stay in Amsterdam is in – or close to – the city center. Amsterdam accommodations tend to be on the pricey side year-round, so you will need to consider your budget when searching for a place to stay. 

Also, keep in mind that many restaurants will be closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day in Amsterdam, so it may be helpful to find accommodations with a kitchen (or at least a refrigerator) or a hotel that has an on-site restaurant (just confirm that it will be open for the holidays!). 

Start your search for the best Amsterdam accommodations (both hotels and apartments) on – but first, read our Tips For Finding the Best Places to Stay


How To Get There: Visiting Amsterdam in December

Getting to Amsterdam for the Christmas season is relatively simple. The Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS) is a major hub for international flights year-round. Use our Top Tips For Booking Cheap Flights – and then start your search on Skyscanner.


What To Pack for your Amsterdam Christmas Holiday

We already mentioned that you will need warm clothes for your trip – Amsterdam December weather can be chilly! However, there are a few more things you will want to pack in your backpack or suitcase

We recommend investing a real travel camera – like a Canon Rebel DSLR – that is easy to use and takes high quality photographs. 

Other essential electronic gadgets are a power bank (phone batteries drain faster in cold weather) and a outlet converter. For Wi-Fi connectivity during your trip to Holland, we recommend using a Pocket WiFi Device, like GlocalMe.  

Make sure to also bring a good day pack that you can use during your long days of sightseeing. The bag should have multiple zippered pockets and it needs to be big enough to carry your everyday necessities, plus your extra winter gear. We carry these lightweight backpacks, but also read our reviews for some of the other Best Day Bags for Traveling

For more advice, go to our Packing Tips Page (and grab your FREE Packing Checklist now!)


Amsterdam Travel Planner

When preparing for your Vacation To Europe, you need to stay on top of the details – especially when planning what to do in Amsterdam in December! You will not only want to track your travel plans (like hotel, flight and tours), but it is also best to plan out your sightseeing (particularly for the Amsterdam Christmas Markets that only take place over a couple of days). 

We recommend using our Printable Travel Planner. It contains dozens of pages of travel organization so that you can plan a perfect Amsterdam trip! 

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Amsterdam Travel Insurance

Travel insurance may help protect your trip when things go wrong – like the airline losing your luggage or getting sick while traveling abroad. Check the affordable rates and robust coverage with World Nomads


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! 


Start planning your trip to the Netherlands! Search for the lowest airfares, the best accommodations and fun things to do…then start packing!  Want more travel planning tips? Head over to our Travel Planning Page for more information and tips on traveling – and for country-specific information, take a look at our Travel Guides Page!


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