Things to Do in Amsterdam in December

This post covers the best things to do in Amsterdam in December, including Christmas activities,  free things to do, nighttime, and family-friendly events.

 

 


TOP 21 EVENTS AND THINGS TO DO

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 28, 2019, until January 19, 2020.

The eighth 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.

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. 

For more free things to do in Amsterdam, check out our full article. We also have other fun suggestions for nighttime activities.


2. 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.


3. Go to a Concert 

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

 

 

If the kids are sports fans, they’ll love going to the game and taking a behind-the-scenes tour of the official Ajax arena, and the tour is free for Amsterdam Pass holders.

You can find all the Amsterdam concerts here.


4. 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, 2020. 

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.

 

 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
  • Gourmetten
  • Oliebollen
  • Kerststol
  • Bischopswijn

6. Take a Tour of the City & Popular Sites

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!


7. 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.


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 2020, the date for the lighting is December 6th 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:

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.


12. Go to a Christmas Concert

The Dutch National Opera & Ballet offers a special Christmas concert on December 16th which is entirely free to attend. 

In addition to playing classic holiday tunes and Christmas Carols, you’re also invited to join in and sing along with their performers.

Guests will also be treated to free hot drinks and other holiday treats. 

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, Frommerkerst will be performing at the Noorderkerk Church on December 12th. The tickets start at €15.

Noorderkerk will also hold special services on Christmas Eve, including the opportunity to sing Christmas Carols with all the other visitors. 

Most churches will provide this type of service on Christmas Eve.


14. 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.


15. See a Football Match 

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

This may not be the case in 2020 due to the pandemic, but we recommend keeping an eye out on their calendar anyway.

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.

Ajax Amsterdam Football Tickets

You can find all the Amsterdam sporting events here.


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. 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.


19. 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!


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
 

21. See Alice’s Adventures Under Ground

The Dutch National Opera will also be hosting Alice’s Adventures Under Ground on December 19th, 22nd, and 30th. This is based on the tale of Alice in Wonderland.

This is a great family show which is appropriate for children ages 8 and up.

 


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About the author

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, Washington.org, and more.