This post covers the best things to do in Amsterdam in December, including Christmas activities, free things to do, nighttime, and family-friendly events.
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 December 2nd, 2021, until January 23rd, 2022.
The eighth annual Amsterdam Light Festival brings amazing artwork from both international and Dutch artists to canals, buildings, and squares.
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.
Some companies also offer Light Festival bike tours!
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 centre, 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.
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 usually several professional sporting matches to attend in Amsterdam this December.
If you've never seen a European football match, now is a great opportunity as Amsterdam’s AJAX team is one of the best football teams in the Netherlands.
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 long.
But, the city can certainly take on a different look and feel during the holiday season, and some cruise companies actually 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.
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, and they’re 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
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.
NOTE: This event has not yet been confirmed for 2021.
7. Go to a Concert
Amsterdam in December will host a few different concerts of varying genres. You can find them all here.
- Murder by Death | Dec 3rd
- The Jesus and Mary Chain | Dec 7th
- Karsu | Dec 23rd
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 square to ring in the New Year.
We recommend Leidseplein, Dam Square, Rembrandtplein, and Nieuwmarkt.
Just keep in mind that these spots are popular and will attract crowds earlier in the day.
Be sure to not 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 in Amsterdam a massive Christmas tree is placed on Dam Square. In 2021, the date for the lighting is December 12th at 17:00 (5:00 pm).
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!
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:
- Rembrandt House Museum
- Heineken Experience
- Hop-On-Hop-Off Boat or Bus Tour
- ARTIS Zoo
- Madame Tussauds (with Fast Track Entry)
- Amsterdam Dungeon
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 out your trip to the circus ahead of time.
- Prices per person start at € 20.50 up to € 72.50.
- More information here.
NOTE: This event has yet to be confirmed for 2021.
12. Go to a Christmas Concert
The Theatre Carre will be offering a special Christmas concert on December 11th featuring Michelle David & The True Tones.
The event is entitled It's a Soulful Christmas, and you can expect some unique and wonderful takes on classic Christmas carols.
Tickets start at just €23 per person and the show begins at 20:00 (8 pm), making it an excellent activity to enjoy after dark.
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.
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 Ice Rink Rembrandtplein
Though not free, it is pretty cheap to go ice skating at the Ice Rink at Rembrandtplein.
It is worth the admission cost of €2.50 gives you a whole day on the ice!
If you don’t have your own skates you can rent them for €5.
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 is open starting in November and goes through the entire month of December, ending on January 5, 2022.
Find out more information here.
TIP: There will be a free Christmas market right next to the ice rink! There will be live entertainment as well as trinkets, clothing, and food for purchase.
15. See the Nutcracker with the Dutch National Opera & Ballet
The traditional Nutcracker ballet will be performed for most of the month.
This performance is danced by the Dutch Ballet, and the music performed by the Dutch Orchestra.
There will be over 45 musicians and a beautiful, unique stage design that includes ice skaters on Dutch canals.
- Dates: December 11th, 2021 - January 2nd, 2022
- Prices: €27 - €100+, dependent upon date and time
- Click here to get tickets and more information.
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 centre 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, you’ll probably 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 | Sunday Market