Reasons to visit Amsterdam in winter | I amsterdam (2024)

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Reasons to visit Amsterdam in winter | I amsterdam (3)Reasons to visit Amsterdam in winter | I amsterdam (4)

Image from Thomas van Galen

Updated 11 April 2024 at 12:16

For anyone planning a trip to Amsterdam, the colder months are a magical time to visit the Dutch capital when nights are cosy, food is hearty, and everything twinkles in fairy lights. Here are just a few reasons why Amsterdam is the perfect winter destination.

Amsterdam looks like a fairy tale in the snow

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Image from Marie Charlotte Pezé

There are no two ways about it; Amsterdam is stunning in white. Impossibly pretty at the worst of times, the city looks like a Christmas card when it’s dusted in snowflakes – making for a wildly romantic backdrop to any visit. For optimum snowman conditions, head to one of the largerparkslikeVondelparkorWesterpark,where you’ll find vast expanses of uninterrupted white stuff just waiting to be packed into snowballs.

The city becomes a spectacle of light

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Image from Koen Smilde

Transforming Amsterdam into a vast outdoor art gallery during the darkest winter months, the annualAmsterdam Light Festival sees magical light installations adorn canals, streets and landmarks from December to January. And, of course, you can always rely on a grand department store to bring the festive atmosphere and theatrical window displays. De Bijenkorf on Dam Square hosts a special ceremony in mid-November every year to switch on the thousands of (energy-efficient) twinkling lights that decorate its building. Crowds gather to admire the spectacle, which includes performances, a fireworks display and a late-night shopping event. Here's a roundup of the best places to see the holiday lights.

You can (sometimes) ice-skate on the frozen canals

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Image from Koen Smilde

It doesn’t happen often, but if conditions are correct (and generally, the temperature needs to dip below four degrees for four consecutive nights), then canals are blocked off to allow enough ice to form. Et voila;the world’s most beautiful ice rink. Even if the canals don’t freeze over this year, there are plenty of other opportunities foroutdoor ice skating in Amsterdam – including the spectacular Winterparadijs ice fair and the Jaap Eden ice rink.

Everything is gezellig

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Image from Patrick Schneider

Dark nights, twinkling fairy lights, playing board games in cosy pubs… everything about winter in Amsterdam is genuinely gezellig. Pronounced ‘he-zell-ick’, this word with no literal English translation is at the heart of Dutch culture, encompassing everything from ‘cosy’ and ‘quaint’ to ‘friendly’ and ‘relaxing’. It can be applied to any situation or thing that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside, and you’ll be hearing it a lot if you visit Amsterdam in winter. Check out these roundups of brown bars, board game cafes and cosy neighbourhood bars for your gezelligheid induction.

Amsterdam’s winter markets are amazing

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Image from Koen Smilde

Amsterdam does an excellent line in festive fairs; taking a more independent, unique approach than many other European cities. Every weekend in the lead-up to Christmas, you’ll find a different market popping up somewhere in or around the city, ranging from the traditional to the trendy, and selling beautiful produce and lovingly prepared food and drink in unique locations. They’re the perfect place to find art, jewellery, artisanal food products, locally designed homeware and handcrafted decorations. Shopping is usually accompanied by a soundtrack of carol singers and festive entertainment. Find out more about Amsterdam’s Christmas markets.

It's a perfect Valentine's retreat

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Image from Jan de Ridder

Amsterdam is consistently voted amongst the most romantic cities in the world, so what better destination for a loved-up Valentine's break? From romantic candle-lit restaurants and spectacular concerts to old-school cinema or remarkable cultural itineraries, find out more about what to do with your partner in Amsterdam on Valentine's Day.

You can eat to your heart’s content

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Hearty, substantial and satisfying, Dutch cuisine was made for cold days and nights. From stamppot(traditional Dutch mash) tosnert(thick pea and ham soup) and everything in between, Dutch food is designed to warm you up from the inside out. Get inspired with thesecosy winter restaurantsor check out one of the best restaurants for traditionally Dutch cuisine in Amsterdam.

It's oliebollen season

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If there’s one reason to visit Amsterdam in the winter, then oliebollen is it. These delicious balls of doughnutty goodness come out once a year, so you must eat as many as possible while you have the chance. Get them steaming hot and dusted in sugar from a street vendor, and then get some more. Need inspiration? Check out our article on thebest places for oliebollen.

The museums are less crowded

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Image from John Lewis Marshall

Amsterdam is less crowded in winter, meaning shorter queues at the major museums. Save the winter months for exploring theRembrandt House Museum,RijksmuseumandVan Gogh Museum, where you can shelter from the cold and then pile into a cosy brown bar afterwards. For a glimpse into Amsterdam’s past winters, look no further than the 17th-century masterpieces on display in the Rijks. Dutch landscape artists such as Hendrick Avercamp, Adam van Breen and Jan van Goyen painted emotive scenes of entire communities wrapped up warm and enjoying ice-skating, sledging, socialising and even ice fishing.

Sinterklaas is coming to town

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Image from Amie Galbraith

Unlike in other parts of the world where Father Christmas only appears after children have gone to bed, the Dutch Father Christmas is not shy of the limelight. In fact, he likes to make quite the spectacular entrance, sailing into town every winter on a kilometre-long parade of floats and boats, welcomed by upwards of 400,000 spectators. The annualSinterklaas parade takes place in mid-November, with the feast of St Nicholas itself falling on December 5.

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Reasons to visit Amsterdam in winter | I amsterdam (2024)

FAQs

Is it worth visiting Amsterdam in the winter? ›

For anyone planning a trip to Amsterdam, the colder months are a magical time to visit the Dutch capital when nights are cosy, food is hearty, and everything twinkles in fairy lights. Here are just a few reasons why Amsterdam is the perfect winter destination.

Why do people want to go to Amsterdam? ›

As one of the most famous cities in the world, Amsterdam is synonymous with vibrant culture, rich history, inclusiveness and beautiful canals. Since its construction in the 17th century, the Amsterdam canal ring has grown into one of the most unique urban landscapes in the world.

How do you get around Amsterdam in the winter? ›

Walk the Canals

Although it is cold in Amsterdam in winter, walking is still the best way to get around. Especially in the mornings at sunrise (around 9am) and of the evenings at 5pm when locals are starting and finishing work, walking is the best option.

What are the positive things about Amsterdam? ›

Amsterdam has a place on pretty much every traveler's bucket list. The scenic rows of buildings, the winding canals, the prestigious museums, the locals whizzing by on bikes, the coffee shops selling marijuana, there are so many iconic things about Amsterdam that everyone knows about before they even get there.

What to do in Amsterdam in winter time? ›

10 Best Things to Do in Winter in Amsterdam
  • Museumplein. Explore the museum quarter. ...
  • Amsterdam Christmas Markets. Immerse yourself in the holiday spirit. ...
  • See also. Overtoom in Amsterdam. ...
  • National Tulip Day (Nationale Tulpendag) ...
  • Amsterdam Canal Cruises. ...
  • Canal Ring Amsterdam. ...
  • Ice* Amsterdam. ...
  • Willet-Holthuysen Museum.

Is Amsterdam colder than Paris? ›

Typically, the weather in both Paris and Amsterdam isn't that different. Both locations see similar amounts of rain and sunshine. However, Paris often sees slightly higher temperatures when compared to Amsterdam.

Why do Americans love Amsterdam? ›

And, Americans love Amsterdam too! I cannot count how many times I've heard declarations of willingness to come see Amsterdam. In the eyes of Americans, the city seems to be a materialization of European culture, with its culture, cleanliness, order, and equality.

Why is Amsterdam called Sin city? ›

Sin city is not only Amsterdam. There is an immense number of cities involved in such activities collectively that they gain a tag of sin city to them. Amsterdam is a place where the red light district being famous around the globe for its prostitutional activities in it.

What is Amsterdam most popular for? ›

Perhaps most famous for its art galleries and museums, from the Van Gogh Museum to the Anne Frank House, Amsterdam stands proudly as one of the most culturally significant cities in Europe (and it's got a poppin' nightlife scene too).

Is Amsterdam snowy in winter? ›

The weather in Amsterdam in December is cold with average temperatures of around 5 °C. The colder temperatures bring with them the chances of snow and there are as many as 11 days of snowfall to be expected in December and January. Wind speeds also pick up in December which can make the temperatures feel even colder.

Does Amsterdam have a winter wonderland? ›

The Amsterdam Winter Paradise is held every year in the large halls and outdoor area of the RAI Amsterdam.

Is Amsterdam good over Christmas? ›

It may be cold outside, but the joy and sparkle of Amsterdam's festive season will keep everyone warm. From November to January, the city comes alive with twinkling lights, buzzing holiday markets, concerts, plays, and parties whilst the aroma of mulled wine and oliebollen wafts through the air.

Do and don'ts in Amsterdam? ›

You should follow all traffic lights and signs, hand-signal before turning, and park respectfully in designated places. You'll notice that a lot of the locals hardly ever adhere to these and most also don't wear helmets. However, for your safety, don't do as the Amsterdammers do in these cases.

Why do people like Amsterdam so much? ›

Amsterdam is home to so much culture!

Some of the museums you can visit on a tour to Amsterdam include the Rijksmuseum and Rembrandt house, where you can see works by some of the most famous Dutch painters. At Anne Frank House you can learn more about World War II and the effect it had on the Jewish people.

Why are tourists attracted to Amsterdam? ›

With its historic buildings, canals, and famous museums Amsterdam is one of the leading European city destinations. Not only known for its leisure tourism, the Dutch capital is also a business travel destination, attracting thousands of global business visitors from across the world each year.

Is it a good time to visit Amsterdam in December? ›

Amsterdam in December is one of the coldest and rainiest months indeed but the festivity of Christmas markets with beautifully lit up canal houses are worth braving the chill. The city squares are thriving with holiday markets and the canals freeze into stunning ice skating rinks.

Is January a good time to go to Amsterdam? ›

Not only is it the coldest month of the year, but the weather is typically grey and wet. However, many people choose to skip Amsterdam in January so if you'd prefer to discover the city without the crowds, this is your chance!

What are the best months to visit Amsterdam? ›

Amsterdam is a year round destination. However, the peak tourist season is between May and August when the weather is at its best. Here's a monthly breakup of Amsterdam's climatic conditions so you can plan when to go: May to August: Amsterdam enjoys pleasant weather from May to August.

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