Winter is the perfect time to travel to the Netherlands and to enjoy a city trip to Amsterdam. The Dutch capital looks even more romantic full of Christmas decorations and hundreds of lights over the canals, there are festivals to visit throughout the season and you can experience the famous Dutch gezelligheid for yourself during the winter months.

Amsterdam Light Festival

The Amsterdam Light Festival is a true staple of wintertime in Amsterdam ever since its first edition in 2012. Dozens of light sculptures and artworks from artists from all over the world lighten up the dark canals and create an extra cosy and warm atmosphere in the city. The best way to see all the artworks and the Dutch capital from a different perspective is with an Amsterdam Light Festival Canal Cruise.

Every year the festival has a different theme, allowing for new artwork to be created and brought to the city. This year, the festival’s motto is LOADING... Revealing Art, AI and Tech, to explore the impact technology has on our daily lives. Read our blog post on the Amsterdam Light Festival for more details!

Enjoy the cosy Dutch gezelligheid

Gezelligheid is hard to translate, almost as much as the Danish phenomena of hygge, yet it is a crucial part of Dutch culture. It is all about cosiness and spending quality time with your loved ones. And what season could be better to do so than the winter season?

Whether you travel with your partner, friends or family – gezelligheid is all about the people around you. And no matter where you spend time with them, be it drinking a hot mulled wine at a bar or a Christmas market, taking in the sights on a canal cruise, or a visit to one of the many world renowned museums in Amsterdam, enjoy some quality time together full of joy and comfort during your trip to Amsterdam.

Go ice skating

When visiting Amsterdam in winter you might get lucky and participate in one of the Dutch’s most favourite winter activities: ice skating on the frozen canals, the world’s most unique ice rink. But even if the canals don’t freeze enough to be safe to skate on, there are plenty of alternatives in the city.  

If you are in Amsterdam in the weeks before Christmas, you can go ice skating at some of the city's Christmas markets, such as the Winter Paradise. Outside of the Christmas season, you can always try your hand at skating on one of the permanent ice rinks in the city. The Jaap Eden IJsbaan was one of the first 400-metre ice rinks in the world, and you can even rent skates here.  

The 5 best things to do in Amsterdam in winter

Try Dutch Christmas treats

After a long day of sightseeing it is time to fill your belly with classic winter dishes! Warm yourself up with a steaming hot bowl of Snert, a thick and savoury pea soup served with rye bread, or stamppot, the traditional Dutch version of mashed potatoes and veggies like carrots served with meat.

Once you’re finished with the main course, it’s time for dessert! Oliebollen are one of the Dutch’s most beloved winter treats as they are only available during this time of the year. The delicious, deep-fried dough balls are traditionally eaten covered in powdered sugar but there are many variations out there nowadays! 

Pick a tulip bouquet on Museum Square

Tulips are one of the first things that might come to mind when thinking about the Netherlands. And while the colourful tulips are usually associated with the arrival of spring, the famous flowers can be found in Amsterdam much earlier. The third Saturday of January marks Nationale Tulpendag, National Tulip Day, marking the official start of Tulip season.

Every year in January, the Museum Square is filled with a sea of more than 200,000 flowers. Specially arranged, the tulips form a giant temporary garden. And the best part is that it is all open for visitors to pick their own bouquet consisting of 20 tulips for free! Make sure to come by early though, the garden opens at 1 p.m. and the festival is popular among locals and tourists alike. 

Do you want to learn more about spending time in Amsterdam in winter? We got you covered! Read more about Dutch Christmas traditions and how to best pack for the cold season in Amsterdam in our other blogs.