8 Best Things to Do in Amsterdam in the Winter

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Amsterdam being the key city in the Netherlands has plenty to offer. Even though it is very popular during the warm summer months, the winter of the Netherlands is just as charming and magical. The perfect backdrop for your photo.

In this article you can find ideas and inspiration on the best way to enjoy a cosy dutch winter.

1. See the Amsterdam Light Festival

Amsterdam Light Festival is one of the highlights of the year. From November to January the canals of the city are illuminated by spectacular and colourful artistic lighting created by local and international artists. This makes Amsterdam a huge outdoor gallery during the darkest winter months. Each year there is a new theme and route to explore the city. You can walk through the city to see all the art pieces and there is also an accompanying boat tour to see the lights from the water. Amsterdam light festival is truly a unique and cultured event you must experience during the winter months.

Amsterdam Light Festival
Photo © Jan Konter |
Tour Idea

2. Enjoy a canal boat tour

Taking a boat tour in Amsterdam is a must and a popular choice even during the winter. One of the best ways to experience the city like a local is by the water. There are many choices of tours to take right outside Centraal station, most boats also have a roof, heating and hot drinks available for those very cold days.

Watch the scenery glide past and relax whilst learning about the history and architecture of this magnificent city. Many of the boat tours offer services where you can hop off and on during the day to break up your canal cruise with some more sightseeing.

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Boat tours in Amsterdam
Photo © Dennis Van De Water |

3. Explore the Christmas markets

Amsterdam is known for its many markets but it is only during the winter season when the Christmas markets open up. One of the most popular is ‘De Amsterdamsche Kerstmarkt’ which is located in Westergasfabriek, a buzzing creative complex at Westerpark. This park located to the west of Centraal station is home to many restaurants and bars, the Christmas market is the perfect place for a special gift made locally.


4. Go ice skating

It is very rare for the canals of Amsterdam to freeze but it does sometimes happen. The dutch love to put on their skates though so luckily there are alternatives to the frozen canals. Each year a magical ice rink is built on Museumplein, with the backdrop of the Rijksmuseum and the sparkling lights that will definitely get you into the Christmas mood. There is also a bridge over the rink where you can take that perfect photo!

Skating in Amsterdam
Photo © Ilona Titova |

5. Relax in a Brown bar

Brown bars are very typical dutch. These local bars are a quintessential part of Amsterdam’s culture. The name comes from the dark but cosy wooden interiors and the nicotine-stained walls and ceilings. In the Netherlands brown bars are seen as an extension of their living room. There are many within Amsterdam city centre to choose from to escape the cold weather. See some of the suggestions on

6. Visit museums

Amsterdam being a creative cultural hotspot has many museums to choose from. From handbags to cats, there is a lot of history and culture to soak up. Museumplein is home to the most popular of these museums such as the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gough.

For those wanting to try something a little different, the Moco Museum and the Stedelijk are great ways to spend a cold afternoon inside. The Moco museum specialises in street art and the famous Banksy graffiti artist, with unique interactive rooms and colourful artwork the Moco is not one to be missed. The Stedelijk modern art museum is famous for its unique architecture, this is one of the most famous buildings in the city and home to the legends of modern design.

Photo © Shahid Khan |
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7. Taste delicious Dutch winter food

During those cold winter nights there is nothing as wonderful as drinking a hot chocomel and snacking on some oliebollen.

Chocomel or warm chocolademelk is the typical dutch hot chocolate. Topped with whipped cream the taste is truly unique.

Oliebollen – known as the dutch doughnut is also a distinctive concept to the Netherlands, during the winter period many trucks pop up around the city centre selling fresh homemade variations of the sugary treat. Traditionally eaten on New Year’s Eve with raisins inside and powdered sugar on top.

Oliebollen serving
Photo © Charlotte Lake |

8. See the Christmas lights

There is nothing more magical than the twinkling Christmas lights of Amsterdam. The Museum Quarter in Amsterdam and De 9 Straatjes are the top places to take a winter stroll and do some Christmas shopping.

De 9 Straatjes is a highlight of the city, a small neighbourhood and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This area is filled with authentic local shops, cafes and restaurants in between some of the city’s most beautiful canals. Shop like a local at the speciality stores whilst admiring the lights is certainly unique to the city of Amsterdam.

Amsterdam at Christmas
Photo © Devy |


Winter in Amsterdam is underrated. Perfect for a Christmas weekend away, bring a warm coat and a good camera to truly capture and enjoy the city during the darkest months.

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Written by

Hayley Duszynski

Hayley Duszynski is a designer, doodler, writer & picture taker. Currently falling off her bike in Amsterdam. Working across digital and print doodling her way through life, eager to learn and make a positive impact on the design world. British born, Irish passport, Polish name. Visit her website to learn more. [Read full bio]

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