10 Things to Do in Amsterdam in Winter

They say that traveling to Amsterdam in winter is not a good idea because of the cold, but let me show you that there is a lot this city has to offer during this season as well. You won't want to miss it!

Carmen Navarro

Carmen Navarro

10 min read

10 Things to Do in Amsterdam in Winter

Amsterdam | ©Luis Villa del Campo

Although you may think that the cold winter may limit the things to do and see in Amsterdam, I have to tell you that it doesn't. Despite the low temperatures, between November and March many activities are organized in the city, some of which make the cold disappear for a few hours. Despite the low temperatures, between November and March many activities are organized in the city, some of which make the cold disappear for a few hours.

In addition, the Christmas season starts early, which undoubtedly makes Amsterdam in winter is full of light. Here are the best of the Dutch capital during its winter. What plans are you going to write down in your travel agenda?

1. Celebrate Christmas in Amsterdam

Christmas tree in front of Amsterdam's Central Station| ©Kitty Terwolbeck
Christmas tree in front of Amsterdam's Central Station| ©Kitty Terwolbeck

It's no secret that the quintessential winter celebration is Christmas. Amsterdam is not far behind, as it is a city that enjoys this holiday in style. From late November until January, the Dutch capital is filled with lights, shows, decorated fir trees and many Christmas plans.

The cold is left in the background when the warmth, smells and flavors of Christmas come to Amsterdam. Here's what you can't miss about this holiday in the Dutch capital.

Admire the big Christmas tree

Dam Square is the center of Amsterdam and is home to the largest fir tree in the city. It is more than 20 meters high and it takes about 4 kilometers of lights to illuminate it. Also, this may be a good time to take advantage and visit the Royal Palace of Amsterdam, which is right in front of it.

Buy gifts at Amsterdam's Christmas markets

If you get hungry, thirsty or want to buy some decorations or gifts during your trip to Amsterdam, do not miss the opportunity to go to the Christmas markets. They are usually placed along central squares such as Leidseplein and Koningsplein. Take the opportunity to taste the Oliebollen, a typical Dutch Christmas doughnut.

Book tickets to the Royal Palace of Amsterdam

2. Illuminate your trip with the Festival of Lights

Amsterdam Festival of Lights| ©Elena Giglia
Amsterdam Festival of Lights| ©Elena Giglia

During the whole month of December and part of January, winter seems less harsh thanks to the Amsterdam Festival of Lights. For several years now, artists from the city (and other countries) have wanted to give life to a new way of expression through light.

With this in mind, more and more institutions and people are joining this event. The most special thing about this exhibition is not only that the canvas is the city itself, which will serve as an excuse to walk through it, but that most of the works and projections are created just for this festival. In order not to miss anything, I recommend you to follow one of the two "paths" proposed by the organization:

  • Vaaroute: the works that are part of this path are projected on the bridges, so they are also reflected in the water of the canals, it is very nice to see it live! To see it better, I recommend you to book a river cruise in Amsterdam.
  • Illuminade: it's almost 3 kilometers, but it's very entertaining because the luminous creations are interactive.

Book a canal cruise in Amsterdam

3. Taste the best cheeses of Amsterdam

Different types of cheese in Amsterdam| ©pigeonpie
Different types of cheese in Amsterdam| ©pigeonpie

They say that to keep the body at a good temperature, even when the cold is unbearable, it's best to eat. The winter in Amsterdam can be a bit harsh, with temperatures bordering on 0°C even during the day. If you don't know what to do to warm up, my suggestion is to fill your stomach with one of the most typical foods of the city: cheese.

Don't think that you will only taste "normal" cheeses, because in Amsterdam they let your imagination run wild when it comes to making cheese. You can find some flavored with pesto, sausage and even marijuana.

Although you always have the option of paying for a food tour, you don't have to. Want to let me tell you a secret? Many specialty cheese brand stores and facilities do cheese tasting experiences. This way you can do a tasting and then choose which varieties to take home.

Book a cheese tasting in Amsterdam

4. Spend your own night at the museum

Allard Pierson Museum| ©Jenifer K
Allard Pierson Museum| ©Jenifer K

Winter nights in Amsterdam are often dark and cold, making it necessary to seek shelter indoors. Where? Museums are always an option but they are not always open at night. However, the month of November is Museumnacht, during which you can purchase a single ticket and visit Amsterdam' s best museums after the normal closing time.

You'll feel like you're in a movie as you stroll through Amsterdam's incredible museum collections at night. As it is such a special date, concerts, workshops or special guided tours are also organized. There are more than 50 museums participating, so let me recommend my favorites:

  • Allard Pierson Museum: contains archaeological objects such as Greek pottery and Roman utensils, as well as Egyptian mummies. I personally was fascinated by the rooms of Ancient Egypt and Greece, where there are reconstructions of temples and mummification processes.
  • EYE Amsterdam or Film Museum: ideal if you want to see something more modern and interactive. You can learn about the history of the film world from silent films to current major productions, as well as take a look at the objects that are kept there.
  • Hermitage Amsterdam: this is the headquarters of the Russian city in Holland. In total there are two permanent collections. The main one is focused on relations between the two countries and the other is dedicated to the history of the Amstelhof building itself, which was an important retirement home for women in the seventeenth century.

Book tickets for museums in Amsterdam

5. Shelter from the cold in a Bruin Café

Inside a Bruin Café| ©Michyv00
Inside a Bruin Café| ©Michyv00

On winter days in Amsterdam when the sun doesn't appear for a single second and only rain falls from the sky instead, the best decision is to enter a Bruin Café. Don't you know what they are? They are very traditional pubs in the city that were built in wood, which makes the atmosphere even cozier, perfect for winter days!

When you start to warm up, I recommend you to take a look at their beer menu, as they have many varieties. Although there are also some international beers, keep in mind that Holland is a great manufacturer of this drink, so take the opportunity to try the ones they make in the pub itself or in a nearby company.

If the more local beers do not attract your attention and what you want is to know the Dutch brand par excellence, sign up for a tour of the Heineken factory; you will be equally sheltered from the cold and you will not miss the beer.

Get your tickets to the Heineken Experience

6. Go ice skating in the middle of the city

Museumplein ice skating rink| ©R Boed
Museumplein ice skating rink| ©R Boed

Is there anything more winter-like than ice skating? Of course not, that's why Amsterdam has no shortage of ice rinks from November to January. The best ones, for me, are:

  • Rembrandt Square: the whole area is decorated for the occasion. Professional skaters come to it.
  • The one at Museumplein: perfect if you want something more "amateur". The water pond between the museums is frozen to form a large ice rink.
  • Olympic Stadium: I recommend the others, but if you prefer an indoor one, this is the best.

The price is quite affordable; the entrance fee is about 3€ and the skate rental is 5€ more.

Carmen's Traveller Tip

Another very special place to skate (and always free) is Amsterdam's own ring of canals. When temperatures drop low enough all that water turns into a big ice rink. Just avoid skating under the bridges, where the ice is thinner and could break.

7. Enjoy the snow at Winter Paradise

Amsterdam Winter Parade| ©RAI Amsterdam
Amsterdam Winter Parade| ©RAI Amsterdam

If you like winter, you are right to go to Amsterdam at this time of year, as a festival dedicated to this season is held there. The Winter Paradise opens its doors in mid-December and lasts until early January, coinciding with the Christmas season.

However, everything you find there goes beyond Christmas:

  • Concerts by Dutch bands.
  • Artificial ski slopes.
  • A giant Ferris wheel.
  • Artificial and real snow areas to organize a ball fight or go tobogganing with a sled down the slides.

The paradise for winter lovers arrives in the capital of the Netherlands, so that even when the weather in the city is good, you can enjoy the snow.

8. Savor winter treats

Plate of Poffertjes| ©Illustratedjc
Plate of Poffertjes| ©Illustratedjc

What does Amsterdam taste like? You'll have to go to find out, but I'm telling you, it's pretty sweet. You won't want to miss this chance to sample the Dutch treats that are so traditional between December and February.

In Amsterdam you eat well throughout the year, but in winter I would say that its gastronomy reaches another level, especially as far as pastries are concerned. In fact, there are dishes that are only eaten at this time, something you will appreciate because, when it's cold, nothing like eating something fresh from the oven to warm you up, don't you think?


They look like tiny pancakes, and taste similar, but Poffertjes stand out for being fluffier, sweeter and fried. Try to eat just one, although I warn you that it is almost impossible, they are delicious!

They are usually served with powdered sugar and butter, although sometimes they are also served with strawberries or cream.

Preparing them is not easy, so don't try it at home. Why? Because you need a frying pan or a special plate, like the one they use in Amsterdam restaurants, to get the right shape and to prevent the dough from sticking.

Apple pie

The typical Amsterdam apple pie, no matter where you try it, always looks very homemade, as they try to respect the traditional recipe of the grandmothers.

In Dutch they are known as Appeltaart and the thick dough covering the baked apple and cinnamon filling is always surprising. The most recommended is the one from the restaurant Winkel 43; the taste is unmistakable and I don't know anyone who hasn't liked it, I don't think you'll be the first!


Still have a sweet craving? If you are in Amsterdam on New Year's Eve you can try the traditional dessert of this date: the Oliebollen. These fried buns are reminiscent of doughnuts and doughnuts, although they are a bit softer.

The history of this dessert goes back to Germanic times, when tribal people ate Oliebollen to celebrate the winter solstice.

9. Celebrate Tulip Day in Amsterdam

Tulips, Tulip Day| ©Boudewijn Huysmans
Tulips, Tulip Day| ©Boudewijn Huysmans

You wouldn't think of leaving Amsterdam without a tulip, would you? It is the most emblematic flower of the city and there are many street stalls and stores that encourage you to take a bouquet. However, if you are in Amsterdam during the month of January, you can attend the opening of the tulip season, which begins on January 21, and take one (or several) for free.

That's right, the month of January kicks off the tulips and their colors. To celebrate, every year thousands of people gather in Dam Square around the garden that is set up. If you come, you can take a flower for free, in addition to attending one of the events that are organized in parallel. However, keep in mind that a large crowd of people gather there, so you will have to queue and wait.

If you run out of your tulip, do not worry, because from that moment dozens of stores, markets and stalls begin to sell them in the city. In fact, from winter to spring every year millions of flowers and seeds are sold.

10. Bring out your sweet side at the Chocolate Festival

Chocoa Festival at the Beurs Van Berlage in Amsterdam| ©Pavol Cevicela
Chocoa Festival at the Beurs Van Berlage in Amsterdam| ©Pavol Cevicela

How many types of chocolate do you know? During your trip to Amsterdam in winter you will get to know more than 700 thanks to the Chocolate Festival, which every year in February brings together the best artisans and also gourmands who want to taste every bar.

The event takes place in the Beurs van Berlage building, which is in the center of Amsterdam. It is attended by professionals from the world of chocolate (chefs, farmers, producers, etc.), although it is also open to the public for a price of about 13 € to publicize this product and everything around it.

Of course, I recommend you go to the tastings, but I also encourage you to listen to the lectures or attend the workshops, many of them focused on the sustainability of chocolate production and respect for the areas where it is grown.

What is the weather like in Amsterdam in winter?

Winter in Amsterdam| ©Amsterdamming
Winter in Amsterdam| ©Amsterdamming

I'm going to give you a tip that I guess you already expect: be prepared for the cold. Amsterdam is a city with quite low temperatures in winter (highs are only around 7ºC), especially during the nights, when it gets to 0ºC. Rain is very frequent, but not snow. In any case, always check the forecast.

Beyond the cold, something to keep in mind is that daylight hours decrease a lot between November and March. There is hardly any sunlight left at four o'clock in the afternoon, something that limits certain visits quite a bit. However, Amsterdam is a very modern, cosmopolitan city with many alternatives and plans to do even in the darkest and coldest days.

What should I pack in my suitcase if I am going to Amsterdam?

Preparing the suitcase| ©Craig Adderley
Preparing the suitcase| ©Craig Adderley

Since temperatures can drop down to 0ºC, you will need to wrap up warm. In your suitcase you can't miss:

  • Sweaters and a raincoat, which also protects from the wind, as it will rain a lot and an umbrella is not always comfortable.
  • Closed and stable footwear, because it can freeze and the floors can be slippery.
  • Gloves, hat and scarf, which you will surely appreciate having at night, when temperatures drop even more and any extra layer of warmth comes in handy.

Are you ready for winter plans in Amsterdam? Don't forget your coat, but don't forget to be warm, you're sure to have a great time!