Amsterdam Festival of Light

Reasons to Visit Amsterdam in Winter

With its picturesque canals, cosy wood panelled cafés and awesome activities, Amsterdam is one of the best cities to explore, even when the temperature drops. Fast becoming one of the hottest winter break destinations in Europe, we decided to take a look at the best reasons to visit the Netherlands‘ capital this festive season.

1. Amsterdam Light Festival

Amsterdam Light Festival
Image by Frans Karssing

When the sun sets this winter, the city will come to life with an unmissable spectacle. Taking place from 28th November to 17th January 2016 the Amsterdam Light Festival sees canals and public spots across the city transformed into shimmering artworks made of light.

Follow the ‘Illuminade’ walking route around the city to marvel at these vibrant installations giving you a fresh perspective of the city. For an unforgettable experience, make sure to take to the water for a ‘Water Colours’ canal tour to see these enchanting illuminations with the comfort of an evening cruise.

2. Sparkling Christmas Markets

Nothing quite inspires festive cheer like the inviting lights, rich smells and delicious glasses of mulled wine you’ll find in Amsterdam’s Christmas markets. From 20th November to 3rd January a yuletide market will take over the popular Rembrandt Square with fairy-lit stalls. This winter wonderland of wooden chalets sells bratwurst, beers, trinkets and handmade craft items perfect for that present under the Christmas tree.

3. The Freedom to Explore

While the peak season sees long lines at all the city’s most popular attractions, the winter months are comparatively quiet. Whether you want to see the historic Anne Frank House, the fascinating Rijksmuseum or the inspiring Van Gogh museum, you’ll be able to explore the best cultural attractions the city has to offer in your own time and at your own pace.

4. Ice Skating on Canals

Ice Skating on Canals in Amsterdam

When it snows in Amsterdam, the entire city becomes a winter wonderland complete with powder-dusted houses, bicycles and bridges. If the temperature drops below zero for several days, the city’s canals freeze and the whole city turns into a giant ice skate rink. While the canals don’t freeze every year, there are plenty of other places in the city to try your hand at ice-skating. The area in front of Leidseplein and Museumplein are converted into ice rinks over the winter.

5. Cosy Winter Retreats

The Dutch are masters at creating a welcoming, cosy environment – they even have a word specifically for this feeling: Gezellig. So when the weather outside is chilly, you can warm up inside one of the many traditional brown cafés. These homely spaces are the at the heart of the local culture and are the perfect places to duck into and enjoy some bitterballen (deep fried ragu balls) and sample the Jenever, a delicious Dutch gin.

Discover more by visiting our adventure page, and inspire your escape.