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Things to Do in Amsterdam in December

Updated: November 7, 2023

This post covers the best things to do in Amsterdam in December, updated for 2023.

We include Christmas activities, free things to do, nighttime events, and family-friendly events.

As local tour guides, we have been leading tours of Amsterdam during this festive season for many years.

So, we've put together this guide of activities for you to consider for your visit.


This section will feature our top 10 activities to enjoy in Amsterdam throughout December.

Be sure to also check out our post on the weather in December.

For tips on the most popular activities in Amsterdam, check out these popular posts:

Several of the items below are already included for free with the purchase of a tourist discount pass

1. Amsterdam Light Festival 

During Christmas in Amsterdam, stunning lights decorate the streets.

But more than just Christmas decorations will transform the city from November 30th, 2023 to January 21st, 2024.

The 12th annual Amsterdam Light Festival brings amazing artwork from both international and Dutch artists to canals, buildings, and squares. 

The best way to enjoy the lights is by taking tours by bus or canal tours.

Some companies also offer Light Festival bike tours!

Since the sun goes down pretty early this time of year, there are also walking tours you can take while it's dark out to admire the bright installations. 

TIP: Tiqets is offers a digital pass they call the Amsterdam Winter Card which includes a Light Festival canal cruise, admission to Het Amsterdamse Winterparadijs, an audio guide, and more.

2. Take a Tour of the City & Popular Sites

There are a lot of great ways to tour Amsterdam, and although it might be chilly at this time of year, you might want to consider one of the following options.

One of the best and most affordable options is of course a pay-what-you-want walking tour.

Currently, there are free walking tours covering the main city center, the Red Light District, notable WW2 sites, and other interesting subjects.

If you're adventurous enough to brave the cold weather, you can experience Dutch culture by taking a bike tour!

If you'd rather stay out of the wind, hop-on hop-off bus tours are a great way to explore the city with narration about Amsterdam's sights and history.

Popular spots to see on bus tour routes include the Red Light District and Rembrandtplein, which offers ice skating in December!

If you're interested in The Heineken Experience, there are bus or boat combo packages that include Heineken tickets!

The city also has popular food tours.

Of course, you could take yourself on a tour of Amsterdam's Christmas markets and the Foodhallen for a great sampling of wintry street food.

And of course, we recommend taking a free walking tour of Amsterdam!

3. See a Football Match

There are several professional sporting matches to attend in Amsterdam this December.

If you've never seen a European football match, now is a great opportunity.

You can buy Ajax Amsterdam football tickets here and Feyenoord football tickets here.

Kids might enjoy taking a behind-the-scenes tour of the official Ajax arena, a tour free for I Amsterdam City Pass holders.

You can find all the Amsterdam sporting events here.

4. Take a Christmas Cruise

There are several Amsterdam cruise companies offering cruises down the canals all year.

But the city certainly takes on a different look and feel during the holiday season, and some cruise companies offer special services for Christmas.

One popular service is a Light Festival Boat Tour which takes you through the canals during the Amsterdam Light Festival.

If you have a large group, you can have up to 15 people on a Private Group Light Festival Boat Tour.

 5. Grab a Holiday Treat

There are several great festive treats you can find in Amsterdam during the holidays. 

One of the most popular options is a Windmill cookie or speculaas, similar to gingersnaps or gingerbread cookies.

You’ll find them in most bakeries in the city.

Here are a few other tasty snacks you might want to try:

  • Gevulde Speculaas
  • Gourmetten
  • Oliebollen
  • Kerststol
  • Bischopswijn

6. Go to the Christmas Square at Museumplein

Throughout the year, there is a special open market called Museum Market hosted at the public space Museumplein located in the Museumkwartier neighbourhood.

And they have a special festive version of this event during the holiday season.

In addition to a wide range of unique products and special gifts, they also play Christmas music and there are plenty of stalls offering delicious holiday snacks and drinks.

The Christmas Market Amsterdam will be taking place from December 13th - 26th.

7. Go to a Concert 

Amsterdam in December will host a few different concerts of varying genres. You can find them all here

Rock/Pop Concerts

  • Madonna | December 1st, 2nd
  • Sting | November 30th, December 1st

Holiday Concerts

You can find all the Amsterdam concerts here.

8. See Fireworks on New Year's Eve

In Amsterdam, you can find New Year’s celebrations all around.

At around 21:30, people gather at some of the city’s bigger public squares to ring in the New Year.

We recommend Leidseplein, Dam Square, Rembrandtplein, and Nieuwmarkt squares.

Just keep in mind that these spots are popular and will attract crowds earlier in the day.

Don't miss the amazing free fireworks sponsored by the City at Kop van Java (Java Island) along the IJ waters, just East of Central Station.

The festivities start at 23:00 on December 31st.

9. Christmas Tree Lighting in Dam Square 

Each year, a massive Christmas tree is placed on Dam Square.

At 20 meters high, it requires lots of lights, in this case, 40,000 LED lights. That is a four-kilometer string of lights!

The backdrop of the Royal Palace makes for great picture opportunities.

There will be Christmas carolers, lots of holiday foods available at stalls, and holiday jolliness all around!

The date for the lighting is December 8th.

10. Save with a Tourist Attraction Discount Pass

The easiest way to see more attractions in Amsterdam is by purchasing a discount pass. These tourist passes work by allowing you to bundle admission tickets for heavy discounts.

You could get up to 50% off retail prices on several passes – or get in for free with an all-inclusive pass.

If you're planning on visiting as many paid attractions as you can over multiple days, an all-inclusive pass might be your best option to save the most.

If you're looking at just a few select museums and experiences, take a look at the build-your-own passes.

Attractions on Various Passes Include:

See which pass can save you the most on your trip with our in-depth comparison post.

11. World Christmas Circus

Every holiday season, the World Christmas Circus returns to Theater Carre in Amsterdam. 

All of the acts in this circus are top-ranked performers who have been hand-picked by the Golden Clown Awards.

This is a very popular activity, and tickets tend to sell out well in advance, so we recommend planning your trip to the circus ahead of time.

12. Go to Holiday on Ice

From December 8th, 2023 through January 7th, 2024 the festive ice skating show A New Day will be performed in Amsterdam.

This event features 40 international skaters performing a variety of sophisticated moves at an Olympic level.

Tickets can be purchased through Groupon.

If you’re looking for something affordable and family-friendly, you won’t find much better!

13. Enjoy Church Concerts & Performances

If you’re looking for another opportunity to enjoy some classic Christmas Carols, several churches will be either hosting concerts or leading visitors in holiday songs.

Noorderkerk church in Amsterdam. Source:

In the past, some historic churches, such as Noorderkerk, have welcomed notable artists to perform special Christmas concerts.

Most churches will provide this type of service on Christmas Eve, so even if you don't want to worry about a ticket, there should be several free opportunities to enjoy this activity. 

14. Skate at the Rembrandtplein Ice Rink

Though not free, it is pretty cheap to go ice skating at the rink at Rembrandtplein.

Last year, for just €2.50 you could skate for the whole day on the ice (or €5.00 if you don't have your own skate).

The square is decorated for the holidays with Christmas trees around the skating rink.

There will also be food stalls serving traditional Dutch winter foods and mulled wine.

The rink typically opens in November and stays open into January.

Check out the Rembrandtplein website for more details.

TIP: There will be a free Christmas market right next to the ice rink with live entertainment, trinkets, clothing, and food for purchase.

15. See Raymonda

The well-reviewed ballet Raymonda will be performed from December 9th, 2023 through January 1st, 2024.

What is being called "the ideal new Christmas classic" and the "best production of the year is danced by the Dutch National Ballet.

The Dutch Ballet Orchestra will be providing the music for the performances.

To see pictures and videos and to purchase tickets, visit the website.

16. Enjoy Some Holiday Shopping

Everyone needs to do a bit of holiday shopping at some point, and there are a lot of great places to find that last-minute gift in Amsterdam. 

If you’re looking for a wide range of items, consider going to De Bijenkorf in Dam Square. 

This department store sells a variety of things that would make perfect gifts. 

You may also want to consider stopping at the Magna Plaza, a shopping center that typically erects a Christmas tree at the center and includes a variety of interesting shops.

17. Go to the Ice Village at the Rijksmuseum

There are always Christmas markets in various locations around Amsterdam each year.

One of the most popular examples is the Ice Village, which opens up in front of the Rijksmuseum at Museumplein.

In addition to great holiday treats, this market also includes an ice rink where the family can enjoy some ice skating. Entrance is entirely free!

18. Discover Christmas Light Displays

When it comes to Christmas lights, the Amsterdam Light Festival is arguably the main event, and there will be installations all over the city.

However, in addition to this festival, you’ll also find plenty of interesting lighting displays in the shop windows and storefronts all throughout Amsterdam. 

No matter where you go, see some pretty cool holiday lights!

19. See Holiday Displays in the Red Light District

Just like everywhere else in the city, the Red Light District celebrates the holiday season as well. 

Cafes and coffee shops put up Christmas trees, the erotic museum dresses up a mannequin-like Santa Claus, and more.

No matter where you go in this part of town, chances are you’ll see or experience at least a few festive (and potentially erotic) attractions during the winter.

20. Visit Other Christmas Markets

In addition to the Ice Village, we also recommend these markets:

  • Amsterdam Christmas Market | Westergas
  • Pure Market Winter Market | Park Frankendael
  • Funky Xmas Market | Watergas
  • Christmas Market | Haarlem
  • Royal Christmas Fair | The Hauge


About The Author

Stephen Pickhardt

Stephen is the CEO of Free Tours by Foot and has overseen the transformation of a local walking tour company into a global tour community and traveler’s advice platform. He has personally led thousands of group tours in the US and Europe, and is an expert in trip planning and sightseeing, with a focus on budget travelers. Stephen has been published and featured in dozens of publications including The Wall Street Journal, BBC, Yahoo,, and more.
Updated: November 7th, 2023
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