In Amsterdam, there are many special Christmas events in november and december. 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 long there are Christmas markets in Amsterdam.
The Amsterdam Light Festival lights up Amsterdam in a feast of colours, best seen from the water on a special Canal Cruise on the Amsterdam canals. In 2017, there is the new Amsterdam Winter Parade in the Amsterdam RAI convention centre. With ferris wheel, christmas market, food, drinks, wellness centre, cinema and ice rink!
Spending Christmas in Amsterdam in 2018
The spirit of Christmas enters The Netherlands after the traditional Dutch feast of Saint Nicolas (Sinterklaas) on December 5, 2018. In The Netherlands, Christmas is celebrated during 2 days: December 25 is ‘(First) Christmas Day’ and December 26, Boxing Day is called ‘Second Christmas Day’. But all month December, the Christmas feeling is in town.
‘Turn on the Lights’, November 2018
The Christmas spirit enters Amsterdam when the lights on the gable of luxury department store Bijenkorf are lit. Every year, a crowd gathers on Dam Square to witness the event. In 2018, the event, Turn on the Lights, is on November 17. It is a great event to see.
Lighting the Christmas tree, 8 December
On Friday 8 December, the massive Christmas tree on Dam Square is put in its place. When the light in the Christmas tree are turned on, it’s a festive celebration with carol singers and festive food.
Amsterdam Light Festival: 29 November 2018 – 20 January, 2019
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 even on the water of the canals. A special walking route guides the visitor along the artworks. The Amsterdam Light Festival 2018 can be seen by everyone for free. Great to take photos!
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. Canal cruises offer special guided routes along the artwork. The Amsterdam Light Festival Cruise takes 75 minutes.
Enjoy the Amsterdam Light Festival in a 75-minute evening canal cruise. A comfortable boat: heated, equipped with pillows, blankets, a bathroom and other luxuries. Mulled wine and hot chocolate on board! More info
On board you can enjoy unlimited hot and cold drinks (also beer, glüwein) and there are typical Dutch deep fried snacks and warm blankets. More info
Christmas Village and Christmas Market at Museum Square
From December 17 till 30, 2018, the Amsterdam Museum Square (Museumplein) is the heart of all Christmas events in Amsterdam. The large square is transformed into an Amsterdam Christmas Village. The pond becomes a popular 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.
Around the pond, stalls are set up for an Amsterdam Christmas market. You can buy Christmas presents and original souvenirs. The markets stall offer the best of seasonal treats from Holland, Germany and Belgium, like mulled wine, pancakes and warm sausages.
Christmas Eve, 24 December
Christmas is considered a family occasion in The Netherlands. On Christmas Eve, December 24, (‘Kerstavond’) there is no special celebration. Catholic or protestant people might attend the traditional Christmas mass followed by hot drinks with family or neighbours.
Christmas Day, 25 December
Christmas Day is an official holiday in The Netherlands. Most shops and restaurants are closed. Dutch people spend Christmas with their family, enjoy the Christmas dinner. Giving presents for Christmas is not a Dutch tradition. Usually children have already been spoiled during the feast of Saint Nicolas.
Boxing Day, 26 December
The Second Christmas Day (Tweede Kerstdag) or ‘Boxing Day’ is another official holiday. Most people spend this day also with family. In Amsterdam, many shops and restaurants are open.
Christmas markets in Amsterdam 2018
Many markets in Amsterdam hold a special Christmas edition during the winter months. Often accompanied by live performances, food and drink to really get into the festival mood.
Funky X-Mas Market, December 10
Sunday Market is a regular recurring market at Westergasfabriek. The edition on December 10 is a Christmas Market. The design, fashion and art at this popular market is sold by their own makers, which makes it even more special. The market is indoor and outdoor.
Christmas market at Amsterdam artist village Ruigoord, 16 & 17 December
Ruigoord, the small hippy village in the Western harbour area of Amsterdam, celebrates Christmas in their own special way. In the weekend of 16 and 17 December, you find the perfect christmas gift. There are over 30 stands with handmade gifts, art, fashion, lifestyle & spirituality. There is food, fire, glühwine and fun kids activities. (free entrance)
Expect a lot of fun at this Amsterdam Christmas market! Buy all your Christmas presents, enjoy the Wintergarden-BBQ by HotMamaHot, a craft beer tasting and charcuterie special by Oedipus x Brandt & Levie and more! Not withinn easy reach, it’s at the Kromhouthallen in Amsterdam North, but worth while.
Pure Market Amstelpark & Park Frankendael, 10 & 17 December
In December the Pure Market has a special winter version at Amstelpark (10 December 2017) and at Park Frankendael (17 December 2017). 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, December 16 – 17
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).
Christmas Village at Museum Square, December 17 – 30
From December 17 till 30 the Amsterdam Museum Square (Museumplein) is the heart of Christmas in Amsterdam. Around the pond, stalls are set up for a christmas market. You can buy your Christmas presents, original souvenirs, food and drinks.
Dutch design at the Museum Square Christmas Market, December 17
The Museum Square is already a large Christmas feast, with a large ice skating rink. The Sunday before Christmas, on December 17, 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 jewelry. There is also music and international food stands.
NEW in 2017: Amsterdam Christmas Market at RAI, December 21 – January 1
In 2017, for the first time, a huge winter and Christmas market takes place in Amsterdam. The ‘Winter Parade’ is set up at RAI, a convention centre in the south of the city. The RAI Amsterdam, indoor and outdoor, will be renamed to the Amsterdam Winter Park.
Outside, on the Winter Square you can roast marshmallows by the fire and stroll around on the Christmas Market. Expect a Christmas Choir and a food market where you can try typical Dutch winter food like pea soup and ‘oliebollen’ Several well known restaurant ‘pop-up’ at the Amsterdam Christmas Parade. A 50 meter high giant ferris wheel takes you up above to give you a grand view of the city. In the evening it’s time for music, drinks and karaoke, German style.
The Amsterdam Winter Parade offers a Indoor relaxing sauna or jacuzzi indoors, as well as a Christmas Cinema.
A Christmas market in Amsterdam wouldn’t be a Christmas market without a ice rink. Expect 700m2 covered with ice, even curling, slides, fun games for kids and a silent disco on the ice.
Amsterdam Winter Parade RAI
Amsterdam Winter Parade (website only in Dutch)
Open from 12.00 – 02.00. Outdoor closes at 22.00 hours (10 pm).
Closed on Christmas Day (25 December).
Entrance: from €7,50, free for children under 13.
How to get to RAI
You can get to RAI using public transport in Amsterdam. RAI has its own metro station (Metro 51 from city centre/Central Station and Metro 50 from Amsterdam West)) and train station. Tram 4 runs between the RAI (Europaplein stop), Amsterdam’s city centre and Amsterdam Central Station.
Christmas Markets outside Amsterdam:
Winter Village Amstelveen – 29 November – 7 January
Neighbouring city Amstelveen (tram/metro 5 or 51) hosts its own Christmas spirit. 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.
Another easy to reach neigbouring city is Haarlem. Haarlem is a much more attractive city than Amstelveen and is worth a visit.
The Haarlem Christmas Market is one of the most famous Christmas markets in The Netherlands. Over 300 stalls are set up around the central square of the ‘Grote Markt’.
Haarlem is 20 minutes by train from Amsterdam Central Station.
Outside Amsterdam: Christmas Market Alkmaar – 14 – 17 December
Alkmaar is another pittoresque town near Amsterdam. It is known for its traditional cheese market and a popular tourist destination in The Netherlands. Their annual Winter Fair is held in the old historical centre and is quite a charming Christmas Market.
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.
Are shops in Amsterdam open on Christmas Day?
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. But on Christmas Day most shops in Amsterdam are closed. On Boxing Day, 26 of December, most shops and restaurants are open as usual.
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.