Snowy street in Amsterdam
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam Winter Guide | Top 20 Things To Do

One of the most frequently asked questions by travelers is whether visiting Amsterdam in winter is worth it. Many people wonder if the weather will be too cold and if there are things to do in the winter, however, I would love to clear up all your concerns right now and tell you that winter in Amsterdam is beautiful and a great time to visit the city!

There are a ton of unique events and things to do in Amsterdam’s winter months. Such that each month of winter thas its own unique events and things to do, and there are also many winter activities that last for the whole season. Since there is so much diversity in the events throughout the winter months I have separated this post by month so you can see exactly what is going on in Amsterdam during your time of visit. Additionally, at the end of the post, there are some events and things to do listed that last the whole season!

Regardless of when you visit Amsterdam, you will fall in love, however, the winter months transform Amsterdam into a charming and fairytale-like city.

Top 20 Things to do in Amsterdam in Winter

Amsterdam Winter Weather

Most people like to base their travels off the weather during that time. However, the weather in Amsterdam is pretty unpredictable! I have seen very warm days in winter and very cold days. But, on average the temperatures stay between highs of 10° and lows of 0°.

The temperature lows in Amsterdam are not that extreme, but they do give you quite the chill – the temperature rarely goes below 0°. As a result, snow in Amsterdam is not very common and it is more likely to rain in winter than snow. Therefore, be sure to pack warm and waterproof clothing!


Amsterdam in Winter: November

Enjoy Amsterdam’s infamous Museum Night

Library filled with old books
  • When: Saturday, November 2 – Sunday, November 3rd
  • Where: Over 50 museums in Amsterdam
  • Price: €22.50

Museum night (MUSEUMNACHT) is an annual event in Amsterdam that happens every November. It is very popular among locals and tourists alike due to its unique and diverse offerings. On this night over 50 museums in Amsterdam stay open after hours and host various different exhibitions.

In every museum, you will find different offerings such as live DJs, special events, food and drink parties, and some unique surprises. No matter what museum you go to you will experience and see Amsterdam’s cultural spirit come alive in a new light.

If you are visiting Amsterdam in November this is one the best winter events this month has to offer. Be sure to get tickets well in advance because they can sell out pretty quickly.


Head to Dam Square for Turn on the Lights

Bijenkorf lit up in white lights
  • When: Thursday, November 14th
  • Where: Dam Square, Amsterdam
  • Price: Free

Turn on the lights is an annual free event that takes place in the famous Dam Square. It marks the opening of the festive season by putting on a grand and theatrical show in the square, that ends with the lighting of the Bijenkorf.

Before the building is illuminated, the square is full of Spanish aerial performers putting on a show full of aerobics, lights, and music, and fairytale-like decorations. Following the pre-show, the Bijenkorf finally lights up with over 400,000 LED lights. The illumination of the 19th-century building is then followed by a fireworks display.

This is the perfect way to watch the festive season take off and enjoy a fun annual event in Amsterdam that has become a fun tradition.

Read More: Two Day Amsterdam Itinerary



Watch the Sinterklaas Parade

Parade with santa and various people
Source
  • When: Saturday, November 17th
  • Where: All around Amsterdam
  • Price: Free

Sinterklaas is a Dutch character who looks quite similar to Santa and comes around once a year. He is the figure of Dutch Christmas, and in Holland is more important than Santa. More so, he is a very significant and celebrated figure in Dutch culture, therefore, each year Amsterdam hosts the largest Sinterklaas parade in the world.

This parade begins on the canals and Sinterklaas sails through the city. He then changes to a horse and continues his journey around Amsterdam. This is a very big event in Amsterdam and the parade attracts over 400,000 spectators.

The whole parade is quite intense and is a very unique Dutch celebration. If you are in Amsterdam during this time you won’t be able to miss these festivities, and it can be really interesting to see how holiday traditions differ around the world.


Check out the International Documentary Film Festival

Old theatre with red chairs
  • When: Wednesday, November 20th – Sunday, December 1st
  • Where: Various locations
  • Price: Depends on the event

The international documentary film festival is another annual event that transforms Amsterdam into a documentary lovers paradise for almost two weeks. This event has been around since 1988 and is the largest documentary film festival in the world. The films tell stories about life from all corners of life. Some of which are sad, some happy, some humourous. There is a wide range of documentary options and they are all impeccably filmed.

Since there are so many films, screenings take place all around Amsterdam. You may find some indoors and others under the night sky! IDFA is a world-renowned event that attracts visitors from all around the world. If you are in Amsterdam during this time, I urge you to check out one of the documentaries as they are the best the genre has to offer.

Read More: Where to find the best pizza in Amsterdam


Amsterdam in Winter: December

Walk around the Decorated Streets & Canals

  • When: All December
  • Where: Various locations
  • Price: Free

One of the reasons Amsterdam winters are so magical is because of the plethora of lights that are set up around the city. On every street and building, you will find twinkling lights that make the city even more beautiful (if that was even possible!). You will find Christmas lights all around the city, but the best time to go looking is at night when the sun has set and the lights are the only sources of brightness in the sky.

The lights throughout the city make the December month of Amsterdam winters extremely romantic and a little extra cozy.



Check out the Christmas Decorations at de Bijenkorf

Christmas decor in a window with two people in front of it
  • When: All December
  • Where: De Bijenkorf
  • Price: Free

If you are trying to save some money while still enjoying and experiencing the festive season, the Bijenkorf is the place for you. Here you can find various Christmas displays, decorations and more. The best part is that viewing them is completely free. You can view the decor from the outside windows, and by going inside. While going inside could offer a nice escape from the cold temperatures!


Visit the Museum Willet-Holthuysen Christmas Exhibit

Interior of a house decorated in old fashion Christmas decorations
Image Source
  • When: December 1st – Early January
  • Where: Herengracht 305
  • Price: Free

Museum Willet-Holthuysen is an iconic townhouse built in the golden age on one of Amsterdam’s most expensive streets – Herengracht. This house has historically been occupied by wealthy people, including the Willet-Holthusen family. Following their deaths, they bequeathed the house and all its contents to the city of Amsterdam. Today it is a museum in which visitors can admire the 18th-century rooms and decor.

However, during December the museum is transformed to look like a 19th century Christmas celebration. Here you will find festive decorations and even a Christmas tree with presents. This museum is open year-round, however, the month of December is the only time of the year that this unique display is offered.

Read More: Where to find the best beaches in Amsterdam


Watch the Tree in Dam Square Light up

Large Christmas tree and lights in the night
  • When: December 8th
  • Where: Dam Square
  • Price: Free

Each year 20-meter tall Christmas tree is placed in the middle of Dam Square, right in front of the Royal Palace. However, the tree is not lit up with Christmas lights until the Switching on the lights ceremony that takes place in early December. On the day of the tree lighting, many people gather in Dam Square to watch the 20-meter tree illuminate in a magical fashion with over 40,000 LED bulbs.

In addition to the tree lighting, there are festive Christmas carol singers, festive food and drinks, and musical performers. This is another wonderful festive event in Amsterdam that you must go to if you are in the city during the ceremony date.


Go to Haarlems Christmas Market

Christmas market lit up at night
Image Source
  • When: December 7 – December 8
  • Where: Grote Markt
  • Price: Free

The Haarlem Christmas market, as you may have guessed, is not in Amsterdam but 20 minutes from the city in Haarlem. The reason I suggest heading to Haarlem for a Christmas market is that this is one of the largest festival markets in the Netherlands.



Search for Christmas Gifts on the 9 Streets

  • When: All December
  • Where: Various locations
  • Price: Free

Amsterdams 9 streets are a famous collection of the best 9 streets in the city for shopping. These 9 streets are located in the beautiful Joordan district of the city and are made up of the little streets connecting Keizersgracht, Herengracht, and Prinsengracht. The buildings on these 9 streets are full of cute and unique shops with something for everyone. The stores range from local clothing boutiques to obscure interior design items to dainty jewelry and much more!

Although the 9 streets are the most famous shopping streets, there are even more shops beyond the 9 streets and all over the Joordan. Heading to the Joordan is the perfect place to go to get some last-minute Christmas gifts while exploring the city.

This area is beautiful so even if you don’t end up finding a gift (which is near impossible) you will have an amazing time exploring!

Read More: The Most Instagrammable Spots in Amsterdam


Buy some Pepernoten

White and brown chocolate candies
  • When: All December
  • Where: Various locations
  • Price: It depends on how much you buy!

Pepernoten is a traditional Dutch sweet that is associated with the winter season. It is a small, round cookie-like treat that comes in various flavors. The base of the treat is gingerbread flavored, however, many people choose to get mix and match with different flavors.

Around Christmas time, every supermarket in Amsterdam has pepernoten available. More so, there are also some stores – like De Pepernotenwinkel Amsterdam – that sell it in abundance and offer unique flavors such as stracciatella, ginger, tiramisu and many more.


Amsterdam in Winter: January

New Years Celebrations

Fireworks exploding over a city
  • When: December 31st – January 1st
  • Where: Various locations
  • Price: Depends on what you do

Whether you are looking for a huge New Years party to start the year off with a bang, or you just want to enjoy an excellent fireworks show with a lively crowd, Amsterdam is the place to ring in the new year! The city of Amsterdam is full of fun events of all kinds for new years that will surely find one that fits your new year’s desires. There are budget events, and expensive ones, huge parties, and intimate gatherings. Truly something for everyone!

Amsterdam is the electronic dance music capital of the world, and on New Years the city lives up to its fun and eventful name to host some of the best new year parties in Europe. Just be sure to buy tickets well in advance because they sell out very quickly.

The city also puts on a grand fireworks display when the clock hits 12 and there are various places around the city to get a front-row view.


Enjoy National Tulip Day

Hundreds of tulips in front of the Royal Palace
Image Source
  • When: January 18th
  • Where: Dam Square
  • Price: Free

The Netherlands is widely known for its tulips, and in January the city kicks off flower season with a bang by hosting a national tulip day celebration in Dam Square. The celebration brings over 200,000 tulips to the huge square in a display of brightly colored flower arrangments. The best part is that you are able to go inside the displays and pick some tulips to bring home, free of charge!

Read More: Amsterdam Tulips Guide – Where to find them all year



Amsterdam in Winter: February

Enjoy a Romantic Valentines Day by the Canals

Two people standing along a canal in Amsterdam
  • When: February 14th
  • Where: Canals of Amsterdam
  • Price: Depends on what you do

Despite Amsterdam’s party reputation, it is actually a very popular tourist destination for lovers. This is because it is extremely romantic and there is a ton to do with your significant other. What better time to come to one of the most romantic cities in Europe, than on Valentines day?

Activities you can do with your partner include walking hand in hand along the canals, taking a private boat ride around the city, enjoying an intimate dinner along the canals and much more.


Check out the Chocoa Festival

Various chocolates on display
  • When: February 22nd – February 23rd
  • Where: Beurs van Berlage, Amsterdam
  • Price: €14

Chocoa Festival is an annual festival in Amsterdam that is completely devoted to chocolate. At this festival, you can learn about the processes that go into making chocolate, discover new chocolate flavors, and explore diverse food pairings. This is a thing to do in winter that is both educational and tasty! You will leave with a new perspective and understanding of chocolate from bean to bar.

Read More: The Ultimate Amsterdam Sweets Guide


Amsterdam all Winter

Go On An Amsterdam Light Festival Tour

  • When: December & January
  • Where: Various locations
  • Price: Free

Amsterdam Light Festival is a very special and magical time of the year. It is where art exhibitions created by artists from around the world are displayed around the whole city of Amsterdam. During this time the canals of Amsterdam are lit up by the brightest and best art displays in the world. The best part is this festival runs for almost two months so there is quite a bit of time to catch the stunning lights.

There are two ways in which you can admire the lights. One is by simply walking around the canals and finding them on foot. Or you can find a canal boat tour that is dedicated to cruising the canals to show the best displays. Either way is a great way to see this unique and fun Amsterdam festival.

Read More: 12 Things to do in Amsterdam at night


Go Ice Skating at Museumplein

Skating rink in front of the Rijksmuseum
  • When: 16th November 2019 – 2nd February 2020.
  • Where: Museumplein
  • Price: €6.50

Starting in November the magical Museumplein is transformed into a winter wonderland full of exciting things to do. The main attraction here is the skating rink that is placed right behind the Rijksmuseum and offers a skating experience in a location like no other. In addition to the rink there are food and drink stands that are perfect for getting warm hot chocolate after a day of skating.

The rink is open until February and is a great place to go with family and friends. Here you can also capture a few breathtaking photos with the Rijksmuseum in the background.



Go Ice Skating on the Frozen Canals

Canals of Amsterdam frozen and people walking on them
  • When: All winter
  • Where: Various locations
  • Price: Free

When the temperatures drop below 0 degress everyone eagerly hopes the canals will freeze over for a period of time. This is pretty rare in Amsterdam as the winter weather is quite mild, however, there are a few rare days where the cold is too much for the canals to handle and they freeze. When this happens, putting on some skates or walking on the canals made of ice is a must. It is such a unique and rare occurrence you must take advantage of it.

Read More: Where to get the best brunch in Amsterdam


Stay Warm & Cozy in a Cafe

Two hot chocolates with whipped cream and sprinkles
  • When: All winter
  • Where: Various locations
  • Price: €2 +

One of the best things to do in Amsterdam in winter is going to one of the many cafes for a warm drink. Upon arriving in Amsterdam you may be shocked by the number of cafes scattered around the city, but the amount comes in handy during the winter season.

Around every corner, you will find a nice cafe just waiting to be entered. Here you can either take a warm coffee, tea, or hot chocolate to go to keep you warm while you walk around the city. Or you can sit in a cozy cafe and enjoy a drink while watching the bustling city from the window.

Read More: 20 Best Cafes in Amsterdam


Go to Famous Museums

Statue in front of a window in MOCO museum
  • When: All winter
  • Where: Various locations
  • Price: Depends on the museum

Amsterdam is famous for its plethora of museums around the city and as a result, these museums can get very busy. However, they are much less busy in the winter months. This is the best time to visit one of the many famous museums in the city – Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh, Banksy & more – for explorations with fewer people and a more enjoyable museum experience.



Take a Day Trip From Amsterdam

Green windmill covered in snow
Zaanse Schans
  • When: All winter
  • Where: Various locations
  • Price: Train ticket prices vary

What’s great about Amsterdam is that it is very close and accessible to many other cities and towns in the Netherlands. Therefore, while visiting Amsterdam in the winter a day trip to one is a must. Some of the best and most beautiful in the winter season are Zaanse Schans, Utrecht, Zaandam, and Nijmegen.

Read More: The Best Day Trips from Amsterdam


As you can see there is more than enough to do in Amsterdam during the winter. Depending on your travel preferences it could almost be more enjoyable in the winter than in the summer! Nonetheless, if you are contemplating whether or no to go to Amsterdam in the winter, I urge you to do it! And use all these exciting things to do to guide your adventure.

Planning a visit to Amsterdam this winter? Pin this post!

Love,

SSW

Comment

22 Comments

  • Eric Rafael Gamble
    October 7, 2019

    You had me at chocolate…haha! But seriously, I would eat my weight in chocolate in Amsterdam during the winter so that is a key idea for me! We have only had stopovers in Amsterdam but each time it was wintertime and I was shocked how the cold temps don’t stop the locals from getting outside! I think Ice Skating would be a blast for sure but I have to say the watching of all the lights sounds perfect even if there isn’t a cool parade or festival going on while there!

    • Samantha Karen
      Eric Rafael Gamble
      October 9, 2019

      The cold never stops us! There is so much to do, but the lights are amazing 🙂

  • Wendy
    October 9, 2019

    I would love to visit Amsterdam in the winter especially around Christmas the lights at Dam Square look beautiful as do the shops De Bijenkorf. I think my favorite thing would be the Christmas market in Haarlem.

    • Samantha Karen
      Wendy
      October 11, 2019

      Everything is wonderful during the Christmas season 🙂

  • Sandra Papas
    October 10, 2019

    Thats it, I’m going to Amsterdam! One of the few places in Europe we just never seem to get to. We will be there in Summer though but looks like most of these things will still be there. Maybe not ice skating?

    • Samantha Karen
      Sandra Papas
      October 11, 2019

      Summer is great aswell! The iceskating is gone, but the city remains full of exciting things to do 🙂

  • Yukti Agrawal
    October 10, 2019

    Wow great list of things to do in Amsterdam during winter. I thought that there is not much to do during winter but there are so many things. I would love to stroll around festive markets and festive lighting in whole city during New Year.

    • Samantha Karen
      Yukti Agrawal
      October 11, 2019

      Yes you’d love it 🙂 so much festive lightening

  • Alison
    October 10, 2019

    What a fabulous list! I am all over the museum night and the Christmas markets. I also love National Tulip Day in January. What a bright and cheerful way to celebrate in January, whereas in Canada we are still frozen solid!

    • Samantha Karen
      Alison
      October 11, 2019

      Musuem night is awesome! and national tulip day is super fun 🙂 Come to Amsterdam in January and skip some of the freezing temperatures.

  • Erica
    October 11, 2019

    Great post! I finally visited Amsterdam last spring and adored it, but it looks like winter has a lot to ofer as well. Tulip day in January looks like a a great way to cheer up in the chilly winter months, along with some Pepernoten and chocoa of course 🙂

    • Samantha Karen
      Erica
      October 11, 2019

      Of course :)!

  • Mel Butler
    October 11, 2019

    I have been to Amsterdam many times. I just love the place and there is always so much to do. I like your list there are things on there which I would love to add to my next trip there like Museum night I didn’t know about that. I think I might also add a day trip to Zaanse Schans or Utrecht.

    • Samantha Karen
      Mel Butler
      October 11, 2019

      Yes, you’d love Zaanse Schans and Utrecht! So beautiful 🙂

  • Joanne
    October 11, 2019

    I’ve always wanted to visit Amsterdam but we haven’t made it there yet. It looks like an amazing place for a winter visit, especially December. The Haarlem Christmas Market would be a great way to celebrate the season but I’d also love to skate on the canals. They do that at home too when they freeze over but I had no idea it was cold enough in Amsterdam for them to freeze! So cool!

    • Samantha Karen
      Joanne
      October 13, 2019

      Very rare for them to freeze so when it does everyone goes crazy! 🙂

  • Nic
    October 11, 2019

    I visited Amsterdam one year in the winter and it was bloody freezing but it was also so magical at that time of year with the snow too. I love when cities don’t seem to close down for the winter but instead then sort of enter another faze and come to live in another way. Amsterdam is one of those places where there is so much going on at all times of the year! This also makes me want to go back to much!

    • Samantha Karen
      Nic
      October 13, 2019

      Yes a beautiful winter destination. I’m originally from Canada so the cold doesn’t phase me 🙂

  • Kevin | Caffeinated Excursions
    October 12, 2019

    I really love this idea for a post! I’m sure that even without a guarantee of snow, Amsterdam would be one of the most picturesque places to spend the holidays. The Christmas exhibit at the Museum Willet-Holthuysen looks absolutely amazing, and MUSEUMNACHT also sounds like so much fun, especially with museums temporarily turning into venues for cocktails and food.

    • Samantha Karen
      Kevin | Caffeinated Excursions
      October 13, 2019

      Everything is fun in Amsterdam, the winter only amplifies it 🙂

  • Esther
    November 20, 2019

    Thank you so much for this post! I’m going to be in Amsterdam from Dec 31 to Jan 6 for the first time and I’m so looking forward to checking out some of the places you’ve listed! I grew up in Toronto, so I’m not worried about the cold and all the cafes everywhere sound perfect for warming up😊

    • Samantha Karen
      Esther
      November 20, 2019

      That’s great to hear! Amsterdam is great in winter, not nearly as cold as Toronto 🙂

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