Though average temperature in winter in Amsterdam rarely drops below 0ºC (32ºF), the chilling Amsterdam wind can make it feel like you have just undertaken a journey to the plains of Alaska. Winter in The Netherlands can feel very cold because there is always a lot of wind in Amsterdam. Prepare for winter in Amsterdam by dressing up warm, with mittens, a wollen hat and keep eating Dutch traditional winter food like hutspot en pea soup!
Winter in Amsterdam feels cold
The Netherlands has what we call a ‘temperate climate’, because the country is located in the North. Basically it means there is no extreme weather in Holland. Like in Ireland, England and France, differences between winter, spring, autumn and winter are not so great. But within the seasons (even in one day), the weather can change quickly from cold to warm and vice versa.
Mild in winter
In November, December and March, temperatures in Holland range from 1 to 12ºC (33 – 48ºF). In deep winter, the months of January and February, average temperatures range from 0 to 5ºC.
Mild in summer
In summer, average temperatures in Amsterdam go from 12 to 21ºC (53 to 70ºF). If you want to know when is the best time to go to Amsterdam, the answer is always: Summer! Unfortunately, it is no guarantee the weather in Amsterdam will be nice during your holiday: it can feel like winter in summer and it can feel like spring in winter!
So winter in Amsterdam is not cold?
Chances are the weather in Amsterdam is rather unpleasant in any season! That’s because Amsterdam is located near the sea. The nearest beach from Amsterdam is less than 20 kilometers.
Wind determines the weather in Amsterdam
Areas near the sea, like The Netherlands, always have a lot of wind. The wind pretty much determines what weather it will be. Most of the time, the wind comes from the sea. The famous Western winds comes from the Atlantic ocean, swooping easily over the low lands. The western wind brings clouds, mist and rain and a mild temperature. In winter, a western wind means temperatures will not drop below 0 degrees Celsius in Amsterdam. But that doesn’t mean you will not feel cold!
How cold is it in winter in Amsterdam?
Because of the strong winds, a normal winterday of 5 – 10ºC, can make it FEEL like -5 (23ºF). In Dutch we call this ‘gevoelstemperatuur’ (feel temperature). In English it’s called windchill. In a normal Dutch winter, because of the wind, the feel temperature is almost always a few degrees lower.
A wind blowing in from the Northeast means a drastic change in the weather. A little bit of the arctics pays a visit and temperatures easily drop below 0 at night. When the Northeastern winds are strong, the ‘feel’ temperature can drop to dangerous levels, making you feel extremely cold, even when its -7!
When can we go ice skating in Amsterdam?
But don’t worry, as long as the winds are not strong, it feels okay. Better yet, this is the moment all Dutch people have been waiting for because the frost gives hope of practicing the most popular sports of The Netherlands (after football): ice skating on frozen lakes, rivers and canals! As the Dutch themselves say in times like these: it’s time to get the skates out of the grease (‘schaatsen uit het vet halen’: after winter, the irons of the skates and the leather binds are smeared with vaseline, so they don’t rust/dehydrate so when it’s time to go ice skating again, you first need to wipe of the vaseline.)
Dutch expressions about ice skating
- Je begeeft je op glad ijs – You are on slippery ice (You are talking about things you know nothing about)
- Hij komt beslagen ten ijs – He comes to the ice well ‘equiped’ (He is well prepared)
- Het ijs was gebroken – The ice was broken (The conversation had started)
- Hij is met de klompen op het ijs gekomen – He’s come to the ice on his wooden shoes (He came unprepared to a place he doesn’t belong)
- Het ging niet over een nacht ijs – It didn’t go over one night of frost/it didn’t only take one night (The decision was made after careful consideration)
- Hij heeft een scheve schaats gereden – He rode a skate aslant (He cheated on his wife)
Do the canals freeze over in Amsterdam?
As the climate in winter is mild, natural ice does not grow as fast in Amsterdam as in more Eastern parts of The Netherlands. Ice needs to be at least 7 centimeter thick to go ice skating.
For that to happen, you will need not only need the temperatures to drop a few degrees below zero for several nights in a row. You also need the temperature to stay below zero during the day.
You need at least 3 days and 3 nights of -5 frost to go ice skating on the Amsterdam canals. Especially in a city like Amsterdam, heated by combustion and people, that happens rarely.
In current times of climate change, it happens maybe once every 20 years! Still, it happened in 2012. The canal boats were detoured, to make way for good, solid ice and people were iceskating on the Amsterdam canals!
Does it snow in Amsterdam in winter?
As in pretty much every ‘cold’ country, the possibility of a white christmas in Amsterdam gets people pretty excited. A white christmas means the city turns white and stays white.
Sledding in Amsterdam
In deep winter (January and February), the soil is cold enough to make snow ‘stay’ long enough to enjoy and go sledding. When you visit Amsterdam in winter, it’s likely you will see snow falling, but some serious sledding might be too much to hope for. Most snow melts away right after touching the ground.
How to dress in winter in Amsterdam?
Careful dressing and thoughtful packing is an important feature of a vacation to Amsterdam in winter.
Tips to stay warm in winter
- Bring a good winter jacket, don’t think there is such a thing as dressing too warm in winter in Amsterdam.
- To avoid sweating and losing body heat too easily, wear layers of clothing and remove clothing when you are inside and feeling warm.
- Wear mittens and a hat to cover your skin when you go outside (extra socks!).
- Don’t stand still for too long.
- Pop into a Dutch café for a big plate of mashed potatoes with cabbage (‘stamppot’ or, with carrots: ‘hutspot’), poured over with gravy and a sausage with mustard on the side. You will then learn why traditional Dutch food is so rich in protein: it’s meant to keep you warm in winter in Amsterdam!