Things to Do in Amsterdam in December

This post covers the best things to do in Amsterdam in December, updated for 2018, including a top 10 list, free things to do, nighttime activities, and family-friendly events.


TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN DECEMBER

This section will feature our top 10 activities to enjoy in Amsterdam throughout December. Whenever possible, we will make note of attractions and events that are free, family-friendly or great after dark.

For tips on the most popular activities in Amsterdam, check out our posts on walking tours, bus tours, and canal cruises. You might even try a bike tour!

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


1) Amsterdam Light Festival (family-friendly)

During Christmas in Amsterdam, stunning lights decorate the streets. But, from November 29, 2018, until January 20, 2019, the seventh annual Amsterdam Light Festival transforms the city with amazing artwork from both international and Dutch artists. 

The best way to enjoy the lights is by taking a tour by bus or a canal tour. There are also walking tours.


2) Christmas Tree Lighting in Dam Square  (family-friendly)

Each year in Amsterdam a massive Christmas tree is placed on the Dam Square. In 2018, the date for the lighting is December 8th. 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 carol singers, lots of holiday foods available at stalls and holiday jolliness all around!


3) Go to a Concert 

Amsterdam in December has several major concerts available. These international stars hit the stage at the Ziggo Dome or the AFAS.


4)  High Tea at the Tassenmuseum

If you love tea or want to get out of the go inside for High Tea at the Tassenmuseum. They offer visitors arrangements for High Tea or perhaps spend a cozy afternoon with a Period Room Lunch.

The Period Room Lunch includes a two-course meal of sandwiches and soup, which are a part of the Dutch lunch culture. The High Tea includes finger sandwiches, savory snacks, scones with cream, as well as tea flowers.

The Period Room Lunch costs €18.50 per person. The High Tea cost (per person) starts at €23.50 for a basic setting, up to €31.50 for the deluxe arrangement. Check their website to buy tickets. 


 5) Winter Paradise (family-friendly)

From the 21st of December until the 30th, the RAI Amsterdam is transformed from a convention center into a winter paradise. There will be real snow brought inside where you can cross-country ski in a forest of Christmas trees,  go toboggan riding or see nostalgic Christmas movies at the cinema

  • Entrance Only: €5.00. Access to the event site for one day not including activities
  • Regular Ticket: €17.50. Access to the event site for one day of your choice. All activities included
  • Children under 3  are free
  • More information here.

6)  See the Christmas exhibition of Museum Willet-Holthuysen (family-friendly)

The elegant Museum Willet-Holthuysen preserves the lifestyle of the wealthy Dutch family of Willet-Holthuysen. A visit is nice all year round, but in December the house is decorated for the holidays.

  • December 1 – January 9, 2019
  • Monday to Friday 10 am -17:00. Weekends and national holidays: 11 a.m. till 5 p.m. 
  • Adults € 10 / Children 5-18 free. Included in many tourist passes
  • More information here.

7) See a Football (soccer) Match (family-friendly)

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

  • Dec. 2 (vs. ADO Den Haag)
  • Dec. 12 (vs. Bayern Munich)
  • Dec. 16 (vs. De Graafschap)

8) Fireworks on New Year’s Eve (family-friendly)

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.

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) Meesterlijk

This is a two-day design fair that showcases an array of eclectic international designers in the creative complex, Westergasfabriek (Westerpark). You can find glass artists, hat designers, leather crafters, and even food artisans.


10) Go to a museum on Christmas Day (family-friendly)

Many museums are open on Christmas Day. This includes Anne Frank House, Rijksmuseum, FOAM, EYE, and Van Gogh Museum.

Consider purchasing a Museum Pass that would take care of the admission price to many of the museums. However, this does not cover the cost of transportation or other discounts, like an All-Inclusive Pass.  

 


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FREE THINGS TO DO IN DECEMBER 

December is a great time to take advantage of the many free events and activities in Amsterdam.  Several free things to do this December are listed in the Top 10 above, such as the Christmas Tree Lighting in Dam Square and free fireworks on New Year’s Eve.  For more ideas, take a look at all the sections of this post. 


Sunday Market at Westergasfabriek

Surprisingly, the Dutch are not big on Holiday Markets. One great thing about visiting in December is that you can find some Christmas spirit at the Sunday market at Westergasfabriek.  In addition to the stalls selling clothing, accessories, and housewares, you can also find holiday decorations and gifts. 

These two dates have special themes and will be extra fun for the holidays.

  • Dec. 2 Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) Market 12-18:00
  • Dec. 16 – Funky X-Mas 12-18:00
  • Click here for more information. 

Ice*Amsterdam Christmas Market

From December 14-26, next to the ice skating rink at Museumplein, there is a great Christmas market with free entrance. There will be live entertainment as well as tempting trinkets, fashionable clothing and scrumptious food for purchase.  If you do want to skate in the pretty ice rink, you can get more information below in this post.

The market is open daily from 11 am until 8 pm, except on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day when it opens from 11 am to 5 pm. Get more information from their website


Get Free Tickets with a Tourist Discount Pass

Though these passes come with a price tag, if you plan well, you will essentially get several tickets to attractions or tours each day for free. Tourist discount passes work by bundling multiple tickets into one price, usually between 20%-50% the retail price.   

Read our post comparing the different Amsterdam tourist discount passes.  Several bus tour companies, including hop-on-hop-off buses, also offer discounts and deals. 


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 which 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 6, 2019.  Find out more information here.

 


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NIGHTTIME ACTIVITIES IN DECEMBER

Below is just a short sampling of the many things to do at night in December. These are in addition to the items in the top 10 section, such as seeing a concert or a going to a show. 


Amsterdam Magic Show

On December 4, you’ll have the chance to see seven award-winning magicians from around the world perform mind-blowing magic right before your eyes. This show is geared towards adults, hence the glass of bubbly Prosecco wine included in your ticket. Tickets are € 25 per person. Purchase here.


TangoTrain

Both old and new styles of tango are incorporated into the festival, taking place at a variety of venues around Amsterdam Dec. 26 through Jan. 1, 2019. Prices range from €10 to €15. See the calendar of venues.


Valhalla

On December 22, this Amsterdam holiday tradition returns to the RAI. This festival starts late and ends early! From 10:30 pm until 7 am (22:30 – 07:00), you can party all night long to electronic music and see carnival performers, innovate dance and stage productions. Tickets range from  €47.50- €52.50. Must be 18 years and older to attend. Purchase tickets.


Winter Parade Feast and Performance

An unusual mix of dining and performance. You will enjoy your meal while sitting at a 120-meter-long table, served by waiters walking ON your table! Don’t worry, they are not stomping on your dinner, Rather they will be singing and performing.

  • Dates are December 20, 21, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29
  • Tickets cost €46 per person, including dinner and shows
  • Discounted tickets for children under 12 are € 24.50
  • Get information here.

 


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FAMILY-FRIENDLY ACTIVITIES  IN DECEMBER

Here are a few fun activities that will keep kids and adults amused. Many of the events listed above in other sections of this post are family-friendly, such as going to Winter Paradise and the seeing the Festival of Lights.  Be sure to look in other parts of this post for even more ideas. 


Go skating at Ice*Amsterdam

All of December until Feb. 3, 2019, the Museumplein is transformed into a 1,400 square meter ice rink.  There are many food stalls where you can enjoy cheese fondue and other warming treats. Next door from December 14-26, there is a fantastic Christmas market with free admission.

  • Admission € 6.50
  • Rental skates € 6.50
  • Open daily from 10 am daily, even on Christmas Day and from 12 pm on New Year’s Day
  • For more information and to buy tickets, see their website.

World Christmas Circus

Celebrating the 250th anniversary of the classic circus in a spectacular way, the 34th edition of the World Christmas Circus brings clowns and acrobats from all over the world to the Royal Theater Carré.

  • December 20, 2018, until January 6, 2019.
  • Prices per person start at € 20.50 up to € 72.50.
  • More information here.  

See CATS – the Musical

CATS was first performed in the Netherland 30 years ago and the audiences have enjoyed this British show in Dutch. This year, the timeless musical returns and it will be the FIRST time the musical will be performed in English! Perfect for visitors who don’t speak Dutch!

  • Dates: Dec. 20, 2018  – Jan. 13, 2019 at the RAI Theatre.
  • Tickets range from €29.95 (including reservation charges).
  • More information here.

See real cats at the Catboat

The Catboat is an animal sanctuary on a boat in the canal.  This floating refuge for stray cats which is actually a famous international tourist attraction.

Entrance is free but the cats (and their caretakers) won’t say no to a donation! They are open every day (except Wednesday and Sunday) from 13.00-15.00. Check here for more information.

 

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POPULAR TOURS

Free Tours by Foot offer many tours, including guided, self-guided, free, and much more of Amsterdam. There are numerous options including All-Inclusive, Build Your Own, Preset Package, and Museums Pass.

Because not everyone has the same needs and interests, learn more about what each pass includes, read our article of Which Amsterdam Tourist Pass or Card is Best?

Tours include bike, bus, and boat. To learn more about what each includes and the cost read Best Amsterdam Bike Tours as well as Hop-on, Hop-off Amsterdam. These articles include prices, schedules, and analysis of reviews to ensure you have all the necessary information before making your choice.

 

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