While there’s no doubt that Amsterdam at Christmas is a yuletide wonderland, a visit to the Dutch capital doesn’t have to be all about markets, mulled wine and festive merrymaking. With fairytale architecture, cosy pubs and plenty of events to take part in, Amsterdam comes alive in the winter months, and is bursting with alternative activities to suit all.
You’ll find there’s plenty of things to do in Amsterdam for people of all interests. Here’s our guide to some of the best non-Christmas activities to enjoy in one of The Netherlands‘ most famous cities.
Amsterdam Light Festival
1 December 2016 – 22 January 2017
For just over seven weeks in winter, 35 artists, designers and architects combine forces to set the dark night sky ablaze with spectacular light installations across Amsterdam city centre. Now in its fifth year, the festivities are split into two different routes. The first, named Water Colors, runs throughout the season, and offers views from the water via a canal boat tour. The other is Illuminade, which runs from 15 December to 8 January, and is a sensational walking route beginning outside the Hermitage Museum. Past installations have included light boxes, animations, laser shows and a magnificent house of cards structure – and every year it gets bigger and better.
Dutch Ice Sculpture Festival
10 December 2016 – 5 February 2017
Beginning in Zwolle back in 2011, the annual Dutch Ice Sculpture Festival finally makes its Amsterdam debut in 2016. 42 artists are set to descend on Arena Park in December to transform over 550,000kg of ice into frozen masterpieces, which will remain in place until early February. This year, the theme is ‘Music Inspires’, so expect to see all the greatest music stars that history holds – all expertly rendered in ice. Once you’ve finished browsing the beautifully intricate sub-zero installations, warm up in the pop-up music museum at Arena Boulevard, where you can enjoy a steaming mug of thick hot chocolate, as well as food stalls and fairground rides.
100 Years of Schiphol: Ready for Take-Off
Until 7 May 2017
In September 1916, the first small plane landed on the site of Schiphol, Amsterdam’s main airport. Back then it was a mere muddy field, but over the past century Schiphol has been through two world wars, jet innovation and a major expansion, and is today the largest international airport in the Netherlands. To celebrate its centenary year, an exhibition is being held at the Amsterdam Museum, where you can play flight simulator games, see a WWII bomb and learn all about the history of Dutch aviation. Journey 100 years back in time and see how much air travel has changed since its inception – you’ll see artefacts and installations charting everything from Schiphol’s past to the future of flying.
The first built brewery in Amsterdam, a tour of the Heineken experience is a must-visit to discover the secrets of one of the country’s greatest exports. With countless interactive activities and historical objects on show, you can master how to pour the perfect pint, see the brewing process taking place and even sample some of the beer made onsite. After touring the facility, head to the rooftop bar for unrivalled panoramic views of the city below.
If this has inspired your very own winter getaway, try out our exciting adventure planner, where you can tailor your next escape to suit you.
Main image by Dmitry Dzhus