In Amsterdam, the spirit of Christmas enters after the traditional Dutch feast of Saint Nicolas (Sinterklaas). Colourful lamps light up the streets of Amsterdam, big departments stores such as Bijenkorf (Dam Square) put up their impressive Christmas decoration.
In The Netherlands, Christmas is celebrated during 2 days: December 25 is ‘First Christmas Day’ and December 26 is ‘Second Christmas Day’.
Christmas is considered a family occasion. On Christmas Eve (Kerstavond) there is no special celebration, like in other countries. On Christmas Eve, catholic or protestant people enjoy to a Christmas mass. Traditional Dutch Christmas dinner is held on December 25 (and/or 26). Giving presents during Christmas is not very common. Usually children have already been spoiled during the feast of Saint Nicolas. Santa Claus generally skips Holland. Instead we celebrate the Dutch Santa Claus, Saint Nicolas (Sinterklaas) on December 5. Most people have a real decorated Christmas tree inside the house!
Christmas markets in Amsterdam
At Museum Square (Museumplein) you wil find Amsterdam’s most spectacular ice rink combined with a Christmas market. On sale is jewelry and craftwork.
At Damrak (between Central Station and Dam Square) there is the Winter Market Amsterdam, open 24 hours a day.
Also at Rembrandtplein you can find many food stalls selling food such as typical Dutch winter treats (oliebollen, poffertjes, Glüwein) and German varieties (sausage!).
On December 13, you can visit the special Scandinavian Christmas Market at the Muiderkerk.
Evening market: Amsterdam Christmas Special
Roest is a fun bar, club and restaurant in the old industrial area in the East of the city. On December 18 and 19, expect no only a christmas market, but also, live music, drinks and food. The Evening market: Christmas special is free to enter.
Amsterdam Christmas Market NDSM
There’s also food, drinks & dancing and a special program for kids. NDSM shipyard is easily reachable by free ferry.
Keukenhof Christmas fair
The most famous Christmas fair is not in Amsterdam, but in Keukenhof, the famous tulip fields in Lisse. From 4 till 13 December you can enjoy their Christmas Fair. Entrance is free.
Pure Market Amstelpark
In December there are several markets that have a Christmas special. The Pure Market has a special winter version at the Amstelpark and at Park Frankendael. You can find christmas presents for everyone here. On offer are organic food from local producers and all types of sustainable goodies like handmade candles and sweet-smelling soaps.
De Hallen Local Goods Market
Indoor food market De Hallen is a new market. You can enjoy lovely food here from many of the amazing food stalls. There is also a local goods Saturday market where you find a selection of locally produced food and non-food items. In December they have a Christmas special.
At Westergasfabriek, there is special Christmas edition of the Sunday Market, theFunky Xmas Market.
Ice skating in Amsterdam
The biggest outdoor ice skating rink in Amsterdam you will find at Museum Square. The pond has been frozen en kids and adults enjoy the ice. You can rent ice skates here. There is even a miniature version of the Skinny Bridge when you can skate under.
At Westergasfabriek, next to Pacific Parc, there is a temporary ice rink that’s open from 10 in the morning for kids until 22.00 hours in the evening, when dj’s hit the decks. There is a restaurant and typical Dutch ice skating snacks (‘koek & zopie’), not to be missed.
Amsterdam Light Festival
From the end of November till the end of January, the city of Amsterdam lights up with light sculptures, projections and art installations along the roads, squares and in the canals. A special walking route guides the visitor along the artworks, while a special boat route takes the visitor up the canals and the river Amstel to enjoy the light art.
Amsterdam Light Festival
From December 1 2016 – January 22 2017
Museums during Christmas
Some museums (Anne Frank House, Biblical Museum, Rijksmuseum, Foam) in Amsterdam are opened on Christmas Day, though they tend to close earlier than usual.
Attending a Christmas Mass in Amsterdam
If you want to go to a Kerst Mis (Christmas Mass) in Amsterdam, prepare, because it has become more and more popular. Go early and don’t be discouraged by the line of people waiting outside. And dress warm.
Some famous churches that have a mass on Christmas Eve in Amsterdam Centre:
Noorderkerk (Jordaan) – Singing Christmas songs and listening to Bach, Mendelssohn, 20.00. Hot chocolate afterwards.
Westerkerk (Jordaan) – Singing and organ, 22.30
Oude Kerk (old centre/red light district) – Singing international songs, 21.15. Money collected goes to prostitutes from the area, gluwein afterwards.
Mozes & Aaronkerk (Waterlooplein)– Celebration with representatives from different religions (priest, Buddhist monk, Islamic imam, Jewish chazzan, 19.00. Christmas bread and gluwein afterwards.
During the holidays, shops open longer than usual in Amsterdam (till 21.00), especially departments stores such as Bijenkorf, Kalvertoren, V&D, H&M and Maison de Bonneterie.
On Christmas Day most shops in Amsterdam are closed! Except the big shops mentioned above, they are open until 17.00.
Bars and restaurants
Most bars and restaurants are closed on Christmas Day, though some might open and prepare special Christmas dinners.
New year eve Party Amsterdam
Celebrate New Years Eve in the streets in Amsterdam. The biggest get together traditionally takes place at Museum Square. Party starts at 18.00. There are live performances from mostly Dutch bands. At 00.00 there is grand fireworks. The event is broadcast live on television.
Entrance is free, but controlled. You cannot bring any glass, nor fireworks.
Other options are Leidseplein and Rembrandplein and Waterlooplein. At Nieuwmarkt, traditionally the Chinese take over, which means lots of (dangerous!) fireworks around everywhere. So go there at your own risk.
Warning: In The Netherlands New Year is celebrated with the use of lots and lots of fireworks. Apart from the large scale firework show in Amsterdam by the Amsterdam council, there’s many people who buy it themselves and set it off in the streets. So Amsterdam will transform into a war-like zone. If you don’t like explosives going off around you, stay at home.
Amsterdam clubbing New Years Eve
Tip: If you want to enter a party or club very late (like after 4.30), try to bargain off the price at the door.
Tip: New Years Eve in Dutch is ‘Oud en Nieuw‘ (old and new). Happy new year is: ‘Gelukkig Nieuwjaar‘, not the easiest thing to pronounce, so start practicing now…
Enough to see and do for a great Christmas in Amsterdam.