10 Fun things to do in Amsterdam in winter!
Visiting Amsterdam in the winter offers a unique and charming experience that can be equally as enticing as other seasons. First of all, the holiday season brings a festive ambiance to Amsterdam. The streets and squares are adorned with sparkling lights, Christmas markets, and beautifully decorated shop windows. You can soak in the holiday spirit and even enjoy ice skating on temporary rinks. Secondly, during winter in Amsterdam, the city is transformed into a picturesque wonderland, especially if it snows. The city’s historic canals and iconic architecture take on a magical quality when dusted with snow or adorned with festive decorations. And even in winter, you can still enjoy Amsterdam’s iconic canals during winter by taking covered or heated canal cruises. It’s a cosy way to see the city’s beauty. Another compelling reason to consider a winter trip to Amsterdam is the tranquillity. While popular attractions can get crowded in peak tourist season, winter generally sees fewer visitors. This means you can explore the city’s treasures with more space and tranquillity.
About the author: Laura Danielle is co-founder of Comedy Walks: comedy walking tours with a professional stand-up comedian as guide! Amsterdam – Utrecht – Eindhoven
What to do in Amsterdam in Winter?
I get this question a lot: what to do in Amsterdam in winter? Well, in addition to the world-class museums, like the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank house, Amsterdam hosts charming seasonal events that turn your visit to Amsterdam in winter into an unforgettable experience. So, If you are looking for fun things to do in Amsterdam in winter, here are my recommendations for an awesome trip to Amsterdam during the winter season:
#1 Visit a Christmas market
Visiting Amsterdam in the winter means Christmas markets! My favourite Christmas market is the Funky Xmas Market in Westerpark, which will take place on 17 December (from noon till 6pm). Here, you can enjoy a delightful array of food, Christmas gifts, ice skating, and more. Another great option is the Ice*Village at the Museumplein, running from December 13th to December 26th, 2023. You’ll discover the popular typically Dutch delicacy “o-lee-bollun” (check #3), charming gift shops, and a variety of tasty food and drinks. Unfortunately, the renowned ice skating rink will remained closed this year.
The Amsterdam Winterparadise at RAI, from 14-30 December 2023, is a fun destination during the winter season. The event offers a wide range of winter activities, including curling, ice skating, a sliding slope, ferris wheel, and the mega swing ride. The event also features cosy chalets offering a diverse selection of comfort foods, warm beverages, and Dutch winter treats like oliebollen. Visitors are treated to live performances, including music and dance, creating a lively and engaging ambiance. You can book your tickets online (regular entrance fee is €19.50- €29.50.
#2 Go on a Comedy Walk©
Comedy Walks© provides the most enjoyable approach to uncovering Amsterdam! A professional comedian takes you around to the most beautiful historic sites in the city centre or Museum Quarter and enlightens you in a fun way on the city’s history and the typical behaviour of its citizens in the past and present. The Amsterdam Comedy Walks offer is a complete departure from the typical city tour. Picture yourself strolling through the streets with an everlasting grin on your face, all the while soaking up fascinating historical and cultural insights. It is a perfect mix of history and humour. This engaging activity will ensure you stay warm on chilly winter days in Amsterdam. Comedy Walks are organised every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
#3 Eat an oliebol (o-lee-bol)
If you have a taste for traditional local delicacies, then the oliebol is a must-try. Oliebollen are deep-fried dough balls crafted from a blend of milk, yeast, sugar, flour, oil, and delicately dusted with powdered sugar. This delightful treat is synonymous with winter in Amsterdam and is exclusively available from October through December 31st. Wondering where to find these traditional Dutch treats? I have a little confession: a few years ago, I embarked on a mission to visit nearly every oliebollen food truck in Amsterdam and reviewed each of them. Here you can read everything you need to know about oliebollen in Amsterdam.
#4 Visit Museum Willet-Holthuysen
Have you ever wondered about the interiors of the exclusive 17th-century canal houses during their earlier times? Well, now you have the perfect opportunity! The generous couple, Willet-Holthuysen, who resided in 19th century Amsterdam, generously donated their residence, along with all its furnishings, to the city of Amsterdam. Their generous act enables us to travel back in time and marvel at their extravagantly lavish lifestyle at the Willet-Holthuysen museum. To sweeten the deal, the Willet-Holthuysen museum sometimes adorns itself with 19th-century Christmas decorations, exclusively for December visitors! For further details, feel free to explore my previous blog on Museum Willet-Holthuysen.
#5 Go see Hortus by Night and Amsterdam Light Festival
On top of all citizens of Amsterdam things-to-do-in-Amsterdam-in-winter-list is the Amsterdam Light Festival. At Hortus by Night, which typically commences around December 18th, you have the opportunity to explore the beautifully illuminated gardens until 10 pm! If you’re not particularly into plants, you can still enjoy some mulled wine (glühwein) or hot chocolate by the campfire near the entrance.
The Amsterdam Light Festival is an annual winter event that transforms the city of Amsterdam into a captivating open-air art exhibition. During this festival, artists from around the world create illuminated installations, sculptures, and light artworks that are displayed throughout the city’s canals, streets, and public spaces. These artworks are designed to interact with the city’s unique architecture and waterways, creating a stunning interplay of light and art. The festival takes place during the winter in Amsterdam, from 30 November – 21 December 2023. adding a touch of seasonal charm. The contrast of the cold, dark evenings with the warm, vibrant light displays is enchanting and captures the holiday spirit. Many of the artworks are displayed along the city’s iconic canals, making a canal cruise an excellent way to experience the festival. It’s a unique perspective that lets you appreciate the light displays from the water.
#6 Warm up at sauna Deco
When you find yourself in Amsterdam during the winter, you might just be lucky enough to experience a true snowy day. But for those who prefer to escape the cold weather of the Netherlands, Sauna Deco stands as a welcoming haven. Situated in the heart of the city on Herengracht, Sauna Deco holds the unique distinction of being the world’s sole Art Deco sauna.
Should you fancy a bit of retail therapy during your relaxation, you’re in for a treat. Sauna Deco’s decor is a delightful relic from a 1920s Parisian department store, which adds a touch of vintage charm to your visit. For further details, feel free to explore my previous blog post on Sauna Deco.
#7 Play at the Ton Ton club
Any chance you associate cold winter evenings with games or board games? Here’s some exciting news: Amsterdam is home to the Ton Ton club, a haven for game enthusiasts. Here, you can dive into a world of arcade games and board games. The options are plentiful and diverse, ranging from classic air hockey, numerous pinball machines, thrilling race games, and exciting shooting games to engaging options like Jenga and Halli Galli.
The process is simple: head to the bar to purchase your game coins, then make your way upstairs to immerse yourself in an arcade paradise. As a delightful bonus, the Ton Ton Club also offers delicious food to keep you fueled and entertained throughout your gaming adventures.
#8 Shop at the 9 little streets
The 9 little streets are Amsterdam’s small and picturesque shopping streets where you can still find some specialized and authentic shops from the 80s (yep, last century). Somehow these streets have a permanent Christmas vibe, but with the winter street decorations it is even more beautiful. Stop by at Pompadour to indulge in premium pastry, chocolates and hot drinks! See my previous blog on the 9 little streets.
#9 Go ice skating
Typical Dutch wintertime fun: ice skating on the frozen canals in Amsterdam. It is a unique experience, but very rare these days so don’t put your money on it. The second best option are the ice rinks at the Westerpark and the Amsterdam Winterparadise at the RAI. For me ice-skating is like breathing, but if you feel your legs might go in the opposite direction, you can take ice-skate lessons. Skates are for rent.
#10 Cuddle up during a movie
To stay warm, cuddle up to each other during a movie, preferably to someone you know. Ideally you book a love seat at the Pathé Tuschinski movie theatre; it includes a snack and bubbles. The Tuschinski theatre was built exactly 100 years ago in the dramatic Art Nouveau/Jugendstil style, hence a lust for the eye! You can also try the most striking cinema in Amsterdam: the Eye Filmmuseum. Just take the free ferry behind Central Station across the river.
Winter in Amsterdam
In essence, visiting Amsterdam in winter offers a chance to experience the city’s unique seasonal charm, cultural festivities, and indoor attractions while avoiding the large crowds of the peak tourist season. Whether you’re interested in festive celebrations or a quiet winter retreat, Amsterdam has something special to offer during the colder months.
All information in this blog post is based on personal experiences and commission free.