In Amsterdam, The Netherlands there are many events to spend a great Christmas holiday. Museum Square turns into a wonderful Christmas Village, where you can enjoy Dutch treats, visit the Amsterdam Christmas market and go ice skating. All December there are many Christmas markets. The Amsterdam Light Festival light up Amsterdam in a feast of colours, best seen from the water on a special Canal Cruise. Lastly, find tips on how to spend New Years Eve in 2017 in Amsterdam. (But spend it indoors if fire works scare you!)
Spending Christmas in Amsterdam in 2017
Th spirit of Christmas enters The Netherlands after the traditional Dutch feast of Saint Nicolas (Sinterklaas) on December 5, 2017. Colourful lamps light up the streets of Amsterdam, big departments stores such as Bijenkorf (Dam Square) put up their impressive Christmas decoration. In The Netherlands, Christmas is celebrated during 2 days: December 25 is ‘First Christmas Day’ and December 26 is ‘Second Christmas Day’.
Christmas is considered a family occasion. On Christmas Eve (Kerstavond) there is no special celebration, like in other countries. On Christmas Eve, catholic or protestant people enjoy to a Christmas mass. Traditional Dutch Christmas dinner is held on December 25 (and/or 26). Giving presents during Christmas is not very common. Usually children have already been spoiled during the feast of Saint Nicolas. Santa Claus generally skips Holland. Instead we celebrate the Dutch Santa Claus, Saint Nicolas (Sinterklaas) on December 5. Most people have a real decorated Christmas tree inside the house!
Christmas Village at Museum Square
From December 17 – 30, Amsterdam Museum Square (Museumplein) is the heart of all Christmas events in Amsterdam, when the large square turns into the Amsterdam Christmas Village. The pond at Museum Square will turn into a spectacular ice rink. You can rent ice skates here and try the most popular Dutch winter sports for yourself. There is even a miniature version of the Skinny Bridge when you can skate under. Or just enjoy some hot wine, hot chocolate and other Dutch traditional food and drinks.
Amsterdam Light Festival 30 November – 21 January 22 2017
From the end of November till the end of January, the city of Amsterdam lights up with light sculptures, projections and art installations along the roads, squares and in the canals. A special walking route guides the visitor along the artworks, while a special boat route takes the visitor up the canals and the river Amstel to enjoy the light art.
Amsterdam Light Festival canal cruise
The Amsterdam Light Festivals is best seen from the water, because many of the light art work is place above the canal and the river Amstel.
The Water Colours Cruise takes 75 minutes and costs 21,50 euros. Prior to the cruise, you can enjoy a winter apple punch, mulled wine (glühwein) or hot chocolate. There is also an audioguide in English and Dutch. Departure is from the Lovers Van Gogh Café (near Central Station). The cruise leaves every 20 minutes between 17.00 and 22.00.
More luxurious is the Amsterdam Light Festival Cruise. The boats are smaller (around 12 persons) half covered so you have a great view on the light sculptures. Warmth is ensured by the many comfy pillows, blankets. There is also a bathroom.
The tour takes 75 minutes. There is mullled wine and hot chocolate on board. Kids are free. Best book tickets for the Amsterdam Light Festival Cruise online because there are limited seats and this a popular cruise
Christmas markets in Amsterdam 2016
There is no Christmas market in Amsterdam that you can visit everyday, but the Museum Square will fulfill most of your Christmas mood. If you want to go shopping at a Christmas Market in Amsterdam, check out the list below:
Scandinavian Christmas market – 9/10 December
At Muiderkerk (Amsterdam East) there is an indoor Scandinavian christmas market on 9 and 10 December.
Sissy Boy Christmas Market – 10 December
The Dutch clothing brand Sissy Boy plans it own Christmas Market at the pittoresque Square Amstelveld in the Canal Ring area (near Rembrandtplein) on Saturday 10 December.
Keukenhof Christmas fair – 8-11 December
The most famous Christmas fair is not in Amsterdam, but in Keukenhof, the famous tulip fields in Lisse. From 8 till 11 December you can enjoy their Christmas Fair. Entrance is free.
Westergasfabriek Christmas markets – 11 & 17/18 December
Westergasfabriek is an old gas plant converted in bars, restaurants, clubs. It also hosts markets on weekends. In December 2016 you can visit their special Christmas editions: 11 December there is the Funky X-mas market hosted by Sunday Market. The weekend of 17 and 18 December there is the Christmas special of Neighbour Food Market Weekender combined with Amsterdam BLEND Market Christmas Festival (free entrance). Expect, Flea, Vintage, Upcycled, Design, Activities, Gifts.
Pure Market Amstelpark & Park Frankendael – 11 & 18 December
In December the Pure Market has a special winter version at Amstelpark (11 December 2016) and at Park Frankendael (18 December 2016). You can find christmas presents for everyone here. On offer are organic food from local producers and all types of sustainable goodies like handmade candles and sweet-smelling soaps.
IJ-Hallen Flea Market – 10/11 December
Not especially christmas, but still worth a visit: the IJ-Hallen Flea market is an recurring indoor event where locals sell their stuff. It’s a huge space to find bargain prices vintage clothes, furniture and decorative items. The IJ-Hallen Flea market is on 10 and 11 December across the IJ-water at NDSM. The 15-minute ferry ride is free. Find the ferry behind Amsterdam Central Station. Entrance is €5 for adults and €2 for children (till age 11).
De Hallen Local Goods Market – 17/18 December
De Hallen, located just out of the centre in the friendly neighbourhood of Oud West. On 17 and 18 December they host their Christmas edition of the Local Goods Market. You can enjoy locally produced food and many hand crafted local non-food products.
Dutch design at the Museum Square Christmas Market – 18 December
The Museum Square is already a large Christmas feast, with a large ice skating rink. The Sunday before Christmas, on December 18, the monthly recurring Museum Market holds its special Christmas edition. Find a lot of stands here with original and stylish products designed by Dutch designers: art, fashion, accessories, home & textiles, paper & craft and jewellery. There is also music and international food stands.
Outside Amsterdam: Christmas Market Haarlem – 10/11 December
Another easy to reach neigbouring city is Haarlem. Haarlem is a much more attractive city than Amstelveen and is worth a visit. Their Christmas Market is rather nice and huge. Over a 150 stalls to visit around the central Square of Grote Markt. The Christmas Market of Haarlem is on 10 and 11 December 2016. Haarlem is 20 minutes by train from Amsterdam Central Station.
Outside Amsterdam: Winter Village Amstelveen – 24 – 26 December
Neighbouring city Amstelveen (tram/metro 5 or 51) hosts its own Christmas Market from 24 till 26 December. There is an outdoor terrace and ice rink and lots of stall to find winter and christmas items on the large Square outside a large indoor shopping area.
Outside Amsterdam: Christmas Market Alkmaar – 11 December
Alkmaar is another pittoresque town near Amsterdam. It is known for its traditional cheese market and a popular tourist destination in The Netherlands. On Sunday 11 December their Winter Fair is held in the old historical centre.
Christmas at Amsterdam’s North Sea Jazz Club
What to do during the most wonderful time of the year? Those who are fortunate enough to be in Amsterdam during the December holidays can enjoy special dinner concerts with live music in an intimate jazz club setting at the North Sea Jazz Club. Experience top of the bill performances and a great dinner with your family and friends.
On December 23rd, Christmas Eve (December 24th) and Christmas Day (December 25th) renowned American soul singer and keyboard player Frank McComb will play a fine mix of soul and fusion with his quartet. On Boxing Day (December 26th) the very talented Dutch jazz cat Ruben Hein will take place behind the grand piano to play intimate songs during an exclusive solo concert.
Dinner & Jazz
New chef Michiel Visser will prepare an exclusive four course dinner during the Christmas concerts. At December 23rd, a three course dinner will be served. Special needs concerning the dinner? No worries. The chef is honored to provide a suitable alternative on request.Check out the complete North Sea Jazz Club program during the December holidays (including New Year’s Eve) here.
Netherlands Ice Sculptures Festival
Impressive ice and snow sculptures are on display at the Arena Boulevard, easily within reach by metro. The event takes place from December 10 2016 till February 5 2017. This year’s theme is Music Inspires. Entrance is €16,50 for adults and it’s open from 10 till 7 pm.
Museums during Christmas
Some museums (Anne Frank House, Biblical Museum, Rijksmuseum, Foam) in Amsterdam are opened on Christmas Day, though they tend to close earlier than usual.
Attending a Christmas Mass in Amsterdam
If you want to go to a Kerst Mis (Christmas Mass) in Amsterdam, prepare, because it has become more and more popular. Go early and don’t be discouraged by the line of people waiting outside. And dress warm.
Some famous churches that have a mass on Christmas Eve in Amsterdam Centre:
Noorderkerk (Jordaan) – Singing Christmas songs and listening to Bach, Mendelssohn, 20.00. Hot chocolate afterwards.
Westerkerk (Jordaan) – Singing and organ, 22.30
Oude Kerk (old centre/red light district) – Singing international songs, 21.15. Money collected goes to prostitutes from the area, gluwein afterwards.
Mozes & Aaronkerk (Waterlooplein)– Celebration with representatives from different religions (priest, Buddhist monk, Islamic imam, Jewish chazzan, 19.00. Christmas bread and gluwein afterwards.
During the holidays, shops open longer than usual in Amsterdam (till 21.00), especially departments stores such as Bijenkorf, Kalvertoren and shops like H&M, Zara, Mango and Primark.
On Christmas Day most shops in Amsterdam are closed! Except the big shops mentioned above, they are open until 17.00.
Bars and restaurants
Most bars and restaurants are closed on Christmas Day, though some might open and prepare special Christmas dinners.
New year eve Party Amsterdam
Celebrate New Years Eve in the streets in Amsterdam. The biggest get together traditionally takes place at Museum Square. Party starts at 18.00. There are live performances from mostly Dutch bands. At 00.00 there is grand fireworks. The event is broadcast live on television.
Entrance is free, but controlled. You cannot bring any glass, nor fireworks.
Other options are Leidseplein and Rembrandplein and Waterlooplein. At Nieuwmarkt, traditionally the Chinese take over, which means lots of (dangerous!) fireworks around everywhere. So go there at your own risk.
Warning: In The Netherlands New Year is celebrated with the use of lots and lots of fireworks. Apart from the large scale firework show in Amsterdam by the Amsterdam council, there’s many people who buy it themselves and set it off in the streets. So Amsterdam will transform into a war-like zone. If you don’t like explosives going off around you, stay at home.
Amsterdam clubbing New Years Eve
Tip: If you want to enter a party or club very late (like after 4.30), try to bargain off the price at the door.
Tip: New Years Eve in Dutch is ‘Oud en Nieuw‘ (old and new). Happy new year is: ‘Gelukkig Nieuwjaar‘, not the easiest thing to pronounce, so start practicing now…
Enough to see and do for a great Christmas Market in Amsterdam.