Wintertime in Amsterdam could be dark and gloomy but the Amsterdam Light Festival brightens up the long nights of winter in the Dutch capital. This year is the festival’s twelfth edition, and asks visitors to consider the impact of technology and AI on our society.

Amsterdam Light Festival history

Ever since 2012, the winters in Amsterdam have been lit up by the bright lights of the Amsterdam Light Festival as well as the yearly Christmas decorations. The festival is dedicated to light art, which are installed on and above the Amsterdam canals. Over the past decade, the various themes of the festival have allowed artists to create artwork which brought contemporary issues to light, surprised, told stories and transformed the urban surroundings of the artwork.

This year’s theme is LOADING... Revealing Art, AI and Tech. Each artist has created a piece that in some way shows the effects of technology and artificial intelligence on our everyday lives. Some look at the reality that has been created, others consider the possible future that awaits us and then there are also those that considered the place of humanity in tech.

This year the route is around 7.5 kilometres and has 24 works of art displayed along it. We don’t want to give away too much about the art displayed this year… but we can give you a peek at some of the art and tell you about the ideas behind them.

Atlas by Jon Voss

Amsterdam Light Festival 2023-2024

Artist Jon Voss created Atlas, portraying the Greek titan as a cyborg with a village on its shoulders. Historically Atlas carefully balanced the heavens or sky on his shoulders, but in Voss’ piece Atlas represents technology. Maybe it will fix the climate crisis or if the balance is off it might wipe out nature instead.

Is it really you? by Studio Mast shows us some of the issues that currently exist with using technology and AI and should be carefully considered for the future. The piece gives an impression of how facial recognition might work, with every once in a while a glitch. The result of glitches in the system can be far reaching, such as leading to false arrests.

Cell Phone by Liam Campbell looks at the reality we live in today, as for many of us our lives revolve around our phones. They are almost always within reach but whether that is a good thing or not is the question. Could we still live without them, do we realise how much of our private information they share with others, do we even want to escape theme anymore?

Is it really you? by Studio Mast

Amsterdam Light Festival canal cruise

There are two ways to enjoy the Amsterdam Light Festival. You can walk the route on foot, or you can take a canal cruise. This year there are pieces exclusive to the walking route and pieces exclusive to the water route. Maybe you’ll want to try both options?

We believe the water route is the most comfortable way to enjoy the light art around Amsterdam. The heated boats from LOVERS Canal Cruises have windows all around, so that you can see the art on both sides of the canal. The canal cruises come with an audio guide in English and Dutch, which will tell you all about the different artworks and the artists.

Together with LOVERS Canal Cruises, Tours & Tickets offers three ticket options to enjoy the Amsterdam Light Festival with. There are two different departure points both just outside Amsterdam Central Station, one at the main LOVERS dock and the other at Restaurant Loetje. The third option shows you the Amsterdam canals by day and night, with the first focusing on the sights along the canals and the second on the art from the festival.

Christmas lights and light art

Like most western cities, Amsterdam’s streets are decorated with Christmas lights during the holiday season and a big Christmas tree takes pride of place on Dam Square. With the addition of the light artworks on the canals, Amsterdam is a shining light in the darkness of the cold winter months. This makes a Light Festival cruise a great thing to do in Amsterdam.

During an Amsterdam Light Festival Canal Cruise around Christmas time, you can see the amazing light art of the festival as well as the Christmas decorations of those who live in the canal houses. The Dutch are known for their lack of curtains, which allows you to look straight into their living rooms. During the holiday season this is especially fun, so why not celebrate Christmas with an Amsterdam Light Festival canal cruise?

Cell Phone by Liam Campbell