In Amsterdam, there are many special Christmas events in November and December 2021. Museum Square turns into a wonderful Ice*Village with one of Amsterdam’s Christmas markets. The Amsterdam Light Festival brightens the beautiful Amsterdam canals with amazing light art sculptures. Looking for more things to do in December in Amsterdam? Visit the Winter circus, eat oliebollen and glüwein or enjoy the Winter Experience.
Christmas in The Netherlands
The spirit of Christmas enters the Netherlands after the traditional Dutch feast of Saint Nicolas (Sinterklaas, Santa in Holland) on December 5. After 5 December, most Dutch people set up a decorated Christmas tree in their homes.
Christmas Eve, December 24, is ‘Kerstavond‘, but Christmas eve is not celebrated in the Netherlands. Christians might attend a traditional Christmas mass followed by hot drinks with family or neighbors.
December 25, it is ‘1st’ Christmas Day. This day is an official holiday. Most people will visit their family to enjoy a Christmas dinner. The next day (26 December) it is ‘2nd’ Christmas Day, also a holiday! The festive period ends with New Year Eve. In Amsterdam, it is celebrated heavily with fireworks.
Are shops and museums closed in Amsterdam on Christmas?
December 26 is Second Christmas Day (‘Boxing Day’). In all of The Netherlands, shops will be closed. But in the bigger cities, like Amsterdam, most shops, museums, and restaurants are open as usual.
Cruise the canals during the Amsterdam Light Festival
From 28 November 2021 until 19 January 2021 the Amsterdam Light Festival takes place. Amazing light sculptures, projections, and art installations are placed in and around the Amsterdam Canals.
The light art installations are best enjoyed on a canal cruise. I recommend the canal cruises listed below because they all have a good guide on board. The guide knows about art installations. You can also take a guided walking tour or a bike tour. Great to take photos!
Water Colours Cruise
Let yourself be enchanted by the illuminated canal houses, bridges and light works of art with this Water Colours Cruise. With audioguide. Prior to the cruise, you can enjoy a winter apple punch, mulled wine (glühwein) or hot chocolate.Book online
Amsterdam Light Festival Cruise
This 75-minute evening canal cruise comes with a comfortable boat: heated, equipped with pillows, blankets, a bathroom, and other luxuries. A good, live guide and mulled wine and hot chocolate on board!Book online
Private boat with unlimited drinks
Are you with a group? Luxurious and comfortable private boats hold 8, 10 or 12 people. The captain can tell you all about the art. Onboard there are unlimited hot and cold drinks (also beer, glüwein!) and there are typical Dutch deep-fried snacks and warm blankets.Book online
Christmas food from Holland
Like elsewhere, food and drinks are a big part of the festive season in Holland. In the streets of Amsterdam, you will find many ‘oliebollen‘ trucks. You can try a variety of the ‘oil balls’: dough fried in hot oil. It’s a special food that is only eaten at this time of year, especially on New Year Eve.
Sweets are also popular: cookies named ‘speculaas‘ and many Dutch treats, often filled with almond. Other seasonal sweets from the Netherlands are ‘tulband‘ (cake), ‘kerststol‘ and chocolate of course.
Spiced hot red wine is also popular. It’s sold at many Christmas markets in Amsterdam under its German name: ‘glüwein’.
Christmas dinner in the Netherlands
At home, a classic Christmas evening in the Netherlands starts with an appetizer of French bread, sausage, and French cheese or raw herring with onions. A classical menu in the Netherlands includes shrimp cocktail, roasted meat or poultry with cranberry sauce, Brussels sprouts, chicory. This is followed by a dessert, Irish coffee (coffee with whiskey and cream) and chocolate. All served with lots of red wine!
Christmas Markets in Amsterdam 2021
Traditionally, Christmas markets are not common in Amsterdam. Because of tourism and the growing popularity of Christmas in the Netherlands, there are now many special markets in Amsterdam to buy special food, drinks, Christmas decoration, and gifts.
Ice*Village at Museum Square, 13 – 26 December 2021
The heart of Christmas in Amsterdam is at Museum Square. From 13 December, the spacious square, location of Amsterdam’s most famous museums, is transformed into an ‘Ice*Village’. Over 45 stands offer seasonal treats from Holland, Germany, and Belgium. Try some mulled wine (glüwein), Dutch pancakes (poffertjes) and sausage (worst).
Among the locals, the ice rink at Museumplein is popular among children. The pond in front of the Rijksmuseum is a skater’s paradise when it transforms into an ice rink all of the month December. There is even a miniature version of Amsterdam’s famous Skinny Bridge.
Albert Christmas Cuyp 20, 21, 23 and 24 December
Albert Cuyp is Amsterdam’s favorite old school market. It lies in the heart of De Pijp, a fun neighbourhood with lots of cafés to go for food and drinks. The week before Christmas, the Albert Cuyp market dresses up seasonally with lots of extra lights and a heavy dose of Christmas spirit.
A favorite Christmas market among local Amsterdam people is the Amsterdamsche Kerstmarkt at Westergasfabriek. Maybe it’s because this Amsterdam Christmas event is much more than just a Christmas Market: it’s a Christmas party.
Of course there are Hollands’ favorite food and drinks associated with this period of the year, but you can also enjoy (live) music, movies, art, and culture. There’s an ice rink, karaoke, a dance floor and lots of things to do for kids as well.
Christmas editions of the Sunday Market
The Sunday Market is a popular market in Amsterdam. All the gems are made and sold by local (Amsterdam) makers. The focus is on design, fashion, and art. The market takes place at various locations and dates. Check out the Amsterdam Events Calendar for dates.
A special Christmas edition of the Sunday Market is planned at the wonderful Westergasfabriek on 15 December . Another Christmas edition takes place at Nieuwmarkt on 27 November and on 27 December.
Dok Amsterdam (metro station Overamstel) promises something more than just the regular Christmas market. This is a more ‘funky’ market, with live music, food hall, an ice rink, and pop-up bars. Children under 10 are free.
More Christmas markets in the Netherlands
Want more? Near Amsterdam lie the cities of Haarlem and Leiden, famous for their Christmas markets. Read more about the best Christmas Markets in the Netherlands.
Winter Experience at RAI,
From December 21 to January 5 the RAI Amsterdam will host the Ultimate Winter Experience. A range of activities are taking place at the halls and square outside of this huge conference center: Ice skating, ice racing, langlauf, snow, tube slides, giant carrousels, and various bars, restaurants, and food stalls.
Hortus By Night
Amsterdam’s botanical gardens, the Hortus Botanicus, celebrates the Christmas season with its Hortus by Night Evenings. You can enjoy the beautifully illuminated garden, greenhouses and winter terrace with campfire and glüwein.
World Christmas Circus at Carré, 22 December 2021 – 9 January 2022
At the beautiful theatre Carré, you can celebrate Christmas in Amsterdam with the amazing World Christmas Circus. You will be treated to live performances of award-winning circus act from the biggest and most renowned circus festivals, like the Monte Carlo circus and the Royal Circus Gia Eradaze from Moscow. The World Christmas Circus takes place from 22 December until 9 January.