What to do in Amsterdam in December
Amsterdam is a picturesque city well worth exploring any time of the year, but particularly in December. But how is Amsterdam in December in terms of weather and activities? The beauty about Amsterdam in December is that you never have to look far to find your next attraction.
The Christmas tree on Dam Square is an imposing sight to behold and you can even join in with the festivities when the tree is lit up. There are musical performances and chores and of course, the Christmas food and drinks add to the magical atmosphere. Amsterdam is a very diverse and cosmopolitan city, which means you can expect to find delicious local fare along with cuisine from many different nations.
Standing outside the Amsterdam Royal Palace, the tree is adorned with some 40,000 energy-saving LED fairy lights.
Amsterdam in December goes the full hog with end-of-year festivities
Amsterdam likes to go the full hog with Christmas celebrations, and that’s why it’s so great to be there in November already. Sinterklaas comes to town amid floats and boats, and thousands of spectators come out to usher him in.
You can immediately get the feeling that what to do in Amsterdam in December isn’t going to require lots of planning because there are simply hundreds of amazing ways to cheer up your time there.
How to Get From the Airport to Amsterdam Center
Amsterdam Center, or Centrum, is the heart or center of the capital city, and it’s a hotspot tourist attraction, so it’s important to know how to get there. From Shiphol Airport, you can –
- Catch the train. The NS train station is below the terminal building and gets you to Amsterdam Central Station in roughly 15 minutes. Look out for the number of the platform from which the train departs. The ticket costs 4,10 Euro. From there you can take the Metro line to your destination. For the Metro line you can tap your credit card as you go in and out, this is cheaper than buying the ticket from the ticket office.
- Uber isn’t your cheapest option for getting to the city center, but it’s an option nonetheless.
- You can book a private transfer from the airport to the city center. You can hire a car at the airport.
- There is a bus station outside the airport at Schiphol Plaza. The Amsterdam Airport Express Bus 397 will get you to Amsterdam City Center within 30 minutes, with the bus leaving every 10 minutes from the airport. You can buy tickets at the red Public Transport Service & Tickets minibus outside the airport or pay directly on the bus.
- Use a taxi from the official taxi stand outside Amsterdam Schiphol Airport.
- Book an Amsterdam Travel Ticket—your city pass to public transportation in Amsterdam, including buses, ferries, trams, and metros run by the Amsterdam Transport Company GVB. The Travel Ticket offers unlimited rides, and you can buy a 1, 2 or 3 day ticket.
Up your happiness levels in Amsterdam
The city is guaranteed to offer a colorful line-up of festive activities that will get your creativity flowing in terms of what to do. The Dutch city goes out of its way to showcase everything Christmassy, and it is guaranteed to be one of your favorite places when it comes to visiting cities, offering a huge variety of things to do.
If you want to sample true Amsterdam flavors and some Dutch culture, visit cozy brown cafés, which are traditional Dutch pubs—informal eateries where you can kick back and relax while they serve up tasty local dishes and local beers.
All the brown cafes have their own unique character and clientele, and they’re dotted all over the city, inviting you to come right in and to simply chill.
Keep a look out for Christmas markets
Who doesn’t love a market, as you can always come away with some unexpected buys? The Dappermarket on Dapperstraat is a market where you’re guaranteed to pick up some awesome goods, from jewelry to clothes to soaps, books, and toys, and you can always find a place to eat and drink too.
For fresh produce shopping at bargain prices, you really should head over to farmer’s markets, where you can buy organic products. These markets over Christmas time are guaranteed to be lively, colorful places packed with fresh products. If you’re planning on preparing your own Christmas feast, you’ll be able to go home with bags of awesome, tasty products.
The special thing about these markets in December is that you can always find things that you won’t find in the regular supermarkets. The Biological Market at Noordemarkt in the Jordaan neighborhood is where you will find everything from fresh, organic veggies to honey, cheese, and much more, plus things such as candles and soap, which make super Christmas gifts.
Amsterdam Ice Bar
This bar surely has to be the most unique in Amsterdam. Amstel 194–196, 1017 AG is where you’ll find it. Once you’re in the amazing bar, you can’t stay long as it gets pretty cold. The ice bar is 10 °C, while the lounge bar is comfortably warm.
When you enter the ice bar, you’re given a warm coat and gloves, as well as one golden coin and two silver coins. The golden coin is for a beer, soft drink, or cocktail at the lounge bar, while the silver coin will get you a couple of drinks at the ice bar.
What an awesome way to celebrate your stay in the Dutch capital than with a glass or two of vodka, rum, Heineken beer, sumbuca, or orange juice—drinks to warm up any cold evening or occasion.
To visit this fabulous Amsterdam attraction, book your visit by making an online reservation. You then enter by showing your e-ticket.
You might also like the Amsterdam: Canal Cruise and Entrance to Xtracold Icebar
The Heineken Experience
There’s nothing like the colder months to make a bar or pub your cozy haven in the Dutch city. If you enjoy beers and ciders, the Heineken Experience may be of interest to you.It’s a self-guided journey through the world of Heineken, where you’ll learn not only about the company’s history, but also about the beer’s ingredients, the brewing process, and how to pour the beer.
Most beer lovers are familiar with the green bottle with a red star on it. The Heineken Experience is in a historic, monumental building. The cherry on top is being able to enjoy two free Heinekens while there. This is an extremely popular experience, so you will need to pre-book your tour here.
Winter Wonder Walk
Twinkling fairy lights, a sprinkle of snow, and cozy pubs—everything about winter in Amsterdam is like stepping into a fairytale experience. If you’re looking for a thrilling way to spend a couple of hours in Amsterdam, the fabulous Winter Wonder Walk will show you the city center, the Jordaan district, and the Nine Streets.
The Museumplein, or Museum Quarter, is described as the cultural hub of the city, with plenty of activities for kids and adults. The Amsterdam Museum Quarter has 3 of the most important museums in the Netherlands: the Stedelijk Museum, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Rijksmuseum.
These classic art museums are all next to each other, and between them they run creative workshops, organize small exhibitions, and hold weekly lectures. Entry is usually free for kids under the age of 12. The Stedelijk Museum offers guided tours each Sunday.
With the Winter Wonder Walk, there are special eats and drinks to bring festive joy into your heart, so this magical walk is anything but ordinary. The local guide makes sure that the Winter Wonder Walk is fascinating from the moment you set off and the little stops along the way to indulge in hot chocolate make the tour even more worthwhile.
Good food and good wine is part of December’s offerings
There are some excellent cafés and restaurants in the P.C. Hooftstraat and Van Baerlestraat, and you can even picnic with the kids at the large, grassy area. Food always has the power to transport you straight back to happy places, and desserts like kerstkran, appelflap, and marzipan will always remind you of sweet treats that lifted your spirits.
December in Amsterdam is the perfect time to try a traditional Dutch Danish and appelflap, a typical Dutch sweet treat of puff pastry filled with apple, raisins, and cinnamon. While the triangular-shaped pastry is cooling from coming out of the oven, it is sprinkled with sugar, which is guaranteed to satisfy anyone with a sweet tooth.
For your picnic in Museumplein, why not pack in some true Dutch pastries? The kerstkrans will also satisfy your sweet tooth, as they’re made from cake mixed with glace fruit and almond paste.
There are so many fabulous snack stalls along Amsterdam’s streets during the festive season, and marzipan, whether it’s balls dipped in chocolate or something else, is always big in Dutch bakeries and food stalls this time of year.
Perhaps it’s time to try a true holiday treat: oliebollen, deep-fried golden dough balls topped with raisins and sugar made from pantry ingredients such as flour, yeast, salt, water, and sugar. They often contain raisins or currants and are generously sprinkled with powdered sugar on top.
You’ve got to make hay while the sun shines, as these delicious balls only make an appearance at this special time of year.
With so much festive fare in the Dutch city, the only disappointing thing about a getaway in Amsterdam over the holiday season is that you’re going to return home feeling decidedly heavier than when you left.
Go Iceskating at Museumplein
The skating rink on the Museumplein in Amsterdam is a thrill-a-minute experience—the perfect place for beginner and advanced skaters. Situated on Museumplein on the side of the Rijksmuseum, everything is well organized, and for this thrilling event, you can book a ticket in advance.
The price of the ticket will give you 2 hours of skating, and this includes rental skates. Wearing gloves at the rink is compulsory.
December in Amsterdam always ensures super opening times, and the Museumplein ice rink is open every day from 10 in the morning to 10 at night and till 11 pm on Friday and Saturday nights. On New Year’s Eve, you will be able to skate your way into the new year, as the skating rink will be open extra long hours until 1 am.
There’s plenty to entertain non-skaters
If you’re a non-skater, you don’t have to rule out ice skating at Museumplein, as there are a host of other things lined up for non-skaters.
There is a fabulous, vibey restaurant next to the rink, and there is also the wonderful Christmas Market Amsterdam Ice Village, where you can shop, eat, and drink in an exciting Scandinavian atmosphere.
There are also several world-famous museums around Museumplein, such as the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. The cool thing about December in Amsterdam is that many outings and activities are free, and yet you still get the ultimate experience.
Look at the extraordinary Winter Paradise in the Amsterdam RAI, a winter theme park, with loads of activities including ice skating, but also snow slides, a ferris wheel, après-ski, shopping, and the most decadent Dutch foods and drinks.
Light festival in the city
The cool thing about wondering what to do in Amsterdam in December is that there are great activities in which you don’t have to become uncomfortably cold to participate. The fantastic Amsterdam Light Festival canal cruise allows you to see Amsterdam in a heated canal boat.
What a thrill it can be to experience Amsterdam by night and to take in the splendid show of Christmas lights. Sit back and relax for 90 minutes as you glide past the spectacular light artworks from the warmth and comfort of the heated canal boat. What is special about being in Amsterdam during the Christmas holidays is that there are early departure times, especially for kids.
This wonderful light spectacle lasts 53 days, and apart from seeing the lights from your warm canal boat, you can also do the Light Festival bike tour. It’s a guided tour that will take you to the most awesome locations in Amsterdam. The tour departs at 5 pm every day during the Light Festival, and afterwards there is a cup of tea or coffee to warm you up.
You can also enjoy the lights from the quay, which is ultimately a walking tour of roughly 6 kilometers.
There’s a buzzing nightlife
It’s all happening in Amsterdam, and you’ll find cool rooftop bars, restaurants, and clubs where you can enjoy views from rooftop terraces. You can enjoy the sounds coming from the different DJs’ music styles. Later on, as midnight approaches, the atmosphere over the festive season changes as people get ready to club their way into the early hours of the morning.
Of course, when all the fun is over, Amsterdam offers all kinds of different accommodation options, and you can flop into your comfortable room with air conditioning and recharge yourself for another fascinating day.
The intriguing Red Light District gets into the festive spirit
Amsterdam’s world famous red light district also gets right into the festive spirit—just with a bit of a different slant. The cafes and coffee shops also sport Christmas trees and decorations, just leaning more towards the erotic side of things.
This is a fascinating area, and it is the oldest part of the Dutch capital.De Wallen is surprisingly full of other sights and attractions; after all, who would expect to find a chapel in these parts? But yes, there is a chapel that was built by an underground Catholic congregation once their religion was outlawed by the Protestant Dutch government.
It’s an important part of Dutch history, and you can enjoy exploring the city’s troubled history at this fascinating museum right in the middle of the Red Light District.
Try some winter warmers at the Brouwerij de Prael, where they brew traditional styles of beer and where you can taste beers in the tasting room. The beers are strong, which means you have to be careful of how many you down in the Red Light District as it could lead to an experience you’ll find hard to forget. A trip to the brewery will warm up any cold evening—guaranteed.
Get your winter card
If you are visiting Amsterdam between mid December 2022 and 1 January 2023, get your Winter Card Amsterdam, as it simplifies getting around the city and makes it a whole lot more affordable, and you can get free access to the best activities and great discounts. The card contains the –
- Light Festival Cruise.
- Winter Paradise Amsterdam | Ultimate Winter Experience, ensures ice-skating and access to all activities, guaranteeing lots of family fun.
- 10% discount on attractions and museums.
- A city tour app of Amsterdam with an audio guide covering over 100 of the city’s attractions With the Winter Card, you select how many tickets you want, make your payment, and receive your tickets via email. You’ll benefit from a host of wintertime activities with a time-saving pass.
Where to stay in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a super busy tourist destination, so you want to arrive in the city with your accommodation reservation settled. It’s always a wise move to book accommodation early, especially for such a busy tourist season where people are arriving to celebrate a host of festive events.
You can take your pick from guest houses, self-catering units, bed and breakfasts, and hotels. Holidaymakers love the Notting Hill Hotel as it offers so much at a reasonable price. Check out the rates and availability here.
The hotel is well situated, just 650 meters from the Heineken Experience, 11 kilometers from Schiphol Airport, 8 kilometers from Blijburg Beach, and just one or two kilometers from some of the top attractions mentioned above.
Some of the other useful features and facilities include –
- Lovely, comfortable, air conditioned rooms
- Room service
- Facilities for disabled guests
- Free wifi
- Tea and coffee making facilities in rooms
- Luxuriously modern bathrooms with a bathrobe and slippers
- Fitness center
How is Amsterdam in December?
Jack Frost will not spoil your December getaway in the capital Dutch city. Amsterdam in December is pretty chilly, with the average high being 5.5° and you can expect some rain and gray, overcast skies. Nonetheless, don’t be put off by Jack Frost, as you will still find that Amsterdam pulls out all the stops to ensure it is the perfect destination for a magnificent festive break.
It’s no wonder that the Dutch city draws legions of holidaymakers, both local and international, to explore its many splendors.