Best Things to do in Winter in Amsterdam
Winter is a prime time to visit Amsterdam. There’s festive cheer, gluhwein flowing, Christmas markets and cosy Dutch pubs to escape to when you get too cold. Want to know the best things to do in Amsterdam in the winter months? We’ve rounded up the musts and the must-nots so you can make the most of your trip to the Netherlands during the festive season…
Need a hostel in Amsterdam? Check out the Flying Pig Better yet, spend Christmas with us during your travels and you’ll feel right at home.
Ice Skating on the Canals
When temperatures in Amsterdam reach freezing conditions (below zero degrees celsius), the canals can sometimes freeze over. While this doesn’t happen every year, when it does, locals flock to the canal to skate on the ice. We’d only recommend this to backpackers if it’s safe - but last year, the Prinsengracht and Keizersgracht canals froze solid enough to hold dozens of locals, tourists and children. Some gliding around on skates and others simply walking on the ice in shoes. What’s a more ‘cool’ winter activity to add to your European bucket list?
Visit the magical Christmas Markets
Can you think of anything more heartwarming that sipping on hot chocolate while wandering cute Christmas stalls? If you visit Amsterdam over winter then you can’t miss out on the magical Christmas markets. There are a few amazing ones to check out, just make sure to do your research and first and see which is best suited to you. One of the most popular Christmas markets in the city is Ice Village located on Museumplein where you can skate on an actual ice rink (not a canal) and enjoy the quaint markets and Dutch street food such as Oliebollen (donuts) and stroopwafels. Open from 16th November - 2nd February, Ice Village is open throughout the entire Christmas and New Year period. We recommend taking cash to the Christmas markets just incase they don’t accept card payments. Every year there’s also a big Christmas tree lit up on Dam Square.
Eat Winter Dutch Food and drink Gluhwein
One of our favourite things about winter in the Netherlands is the home-cooked comfort food. Restaurant Moeders (the Dutch word for ‘mothers’) serves up some tasty traditional dishes that would be cooked in a real Dutch family home. Expect real hearty winter warmers at this cosy joint such as homemade soups, stamppot (mashed potatoes, sausages and vegetables), flavoursome beef stews and Dutch spare ribs. We’d recommend this place to all our guests for authentic winter cuisine.
And of course, over the winter period make the most of the flowing gluhwein (spiced mulled wine) that can be found in Amsterdam’s cafes, Christmas markets and food and drink stands.
See the Amsterdam Light Festival
Amsterdam gets ‘lit’ this winter for its annual Amsterdam Light Festival. This year, the 53-day-long exhibition will be held from 28 November 2019 to 19 January 2020, and is a must if you want to see Amsterdam’s incredible city centre and canals be illuminated. The festival showcases light installations by both Dutch and international artists, which can be admired from boat, bike, or on foot. As a result of Amsterdam’s short winter days, you can catch the festival from as early as 5pm, leaving plenty of time to go on a crazy pub crawl afterwards…
Do a Beer Crawl of cosy Pubs and Bars
Say proost (or cheers!) to the end of a great year, or the start of a new one by discovering some of the best beer the city has to offer - and we aren’t just talking about Dutch Heineken. Keep out of the cold and find warmth in some of the best beer pubs in Amsterdam such as Bar Oldenhof (a traditional Dutch pub), Belushi’s (a backpacker bar), Proeflokaal Arendsnest (for craft beer) and Ton Ton West (an arcade bar). That’ll keep you warm!
Avoid Cycling when it’s icy
Don’t ride a bICICLE (get it?) in Amsterdam after a snow day. The roads and footpaths become very icy in the winter so don’t cycle around the city in bad conditions. While cycling is the number one way to get around Amsterdam, locals tend to find alternative means of transport (or walk) when it’s too slippery around the city.
Don't forget to layer up
You’ll regret it if you don’t pack enough warm jumpers and layers for your trip to the Dutch capital. Amsterdam can get pretty cold in the winter with lows of -2 degrees celsius so make sure to wrap up warm. We recommend packing some gloves, a hat and a scarf for those chilly evening at the Christmas markets.
Don't wear the wrong footwear
Stay on two feet when walking around Amsterdam in icy conditions with some robust foot gear. We recommend taking some waterproof shoes or boots that have a good grip if you’re planning to do a lot of walking/sightseeing. Top tip: Don’t wear trainers made from mesh - they’ll just soak through and nobody wants cold, soggy feet.
Article by Shereen Sagoo