Amsterdam is a city that you can visit multiple times and still find new things to do. With a rich history, beautiful buildings, open skyline, and easy-going attitude, it’s worth a visit at any time of year. However, like many European cities, Amsterdam transforms into a festive haven during the winter months. Average temperatures in December are around 6°C with just 70mm of rain. Light snow is not uncommon – making it an ideal spot for a Christmassy winter wonderland.
There are numerous direct flights a day from London Gatwick, London Stansted, London Southend, Southampton and Bristol airports – costing as little as £47 return in December. So if this sounds up your street, keep reading to find out the best events, attractions, and budgeting tips to help you get the most out of your European adventure.
There are numerous Christmas Markets across the city – so there will be something to suit everyone. Whether you’re after a taste of the traditional or something a little more quirky – Amsterdam will have a place for you. Here are our top picks within the city centre:
Christmas Village/Ice Village
Every year Amsterdam’s Museumplein transforms into a charming Christmas village, complete with everything you’d expect at a traditional market – and more! Take a spin on the ice rink, listen to live music, sample all the local delicacies, and get involved with some Christmas games (human bowling, anyone?). Set in the iconic square against the backdrop of the Rijksmuseum, this is not one to miss. The market itself is full of fashion, home goods and decorations – not to mention the endless supply of delicious Dutch food and drink. This year the Ice Village is open from 17th – 30 December.
Inspired by London’s Winter Wonderland, The Winterparade is Amsterdam’s most elaborate festive event. The 12-day event is held in the RAI – a large convention centre featuring both indoor and outdoor facilities. Between 21st December – 1st January, you’ll find everything you could possibly need for a Christmas festival like no other. Watch festive films at the Christmas cinema, sing your heart out in the karaoke bar, or soak it all away in an outdoor Jacuzzi – Winterparade has it all. There is fun for the whole family too – with a 50m Ferris wheel, an ice rink and outdoor fire pits for toasting marshmallows. There are hundreds of wooden market stalls selling enough gifts, food and drink to keep you going all day (literally, it’s this market stays open until 2am some nights!) – and if that wasn’t enough there are even pop-up restaurants. There is an entry fee to enjoy all of this, ranging from €7.50 to €32.50 (£6.73 – 29.17, children under 13 enter for free), and worth every penny for a truly unique experience! This market is located in the south of the city centre and is easily accessed by Metro.
Amsterdamsche Christmas Market
This market opens its doors for just one weekend but packs a lot in! On 22nd-23rd December, head to the Kromhouthal warehouse in Amsterdam Noord for a magical Christmas experience. Find some last-minute gift inspiration among the independent market stalls, filled with authentic produce and delicious food. Along with the shopping opportunities, enjoy all-day entertainment and festive cheer. Don’t forget to check out the wintergarden BBQ, craft beer tasting and charcuterie!
Funky Xmas Market
Somewhat of an institution in Amsterdam, the Sunday Market goes festive one week of the year!
The Sunday Market is a year-round feature of Westergasfabriek, in which artists, designers and other creatives sell their wares - however one week of the year (this year on the 10th December), the market takes a festive twist. Browse through the beautiful handmade art and accessories, or just sit back and enjoy the artsy atmosphere – this is a more unique Christmas experience!
When it comes to shopping at these festive markets, it’s always best to carry cash with you. There is no guarantee that the stall holders will have a card machines, it’s better to be safe rather than sorry. In particular, many food and drink vendors only accept cash to keep things moving quickly – so you can get the food while it’s hot! To give you an idea of how much cash you should take with you, we’ve found average prices of the most popular delicacies*:
*All prices are estimates based on our own research, and should be used as an average guide only.
**EUR to £ conversions have been made using our online rate, correct as of 30/11/17 at 19:00GMT .
Of course, there are more festive-themed attractions outside of the markets too. Don’t forget to check out the famous Christmas tree in Dam Square, and the Amsterdam Light Festival. The light festival literally can’t be missed; between 30th November – 21st January, light art installations illuminate the canals from 17:00 – 23:00. These installations are exclusively made for the festival to make the most of specific locations across the city. Enjoy the installations by boat, bike or foot, with numerous guided tours available. Prices for the Water Color Open Boat tour start from just €22.50 (£20.20), guided bike tours €22 (£19.75, student/children/+65 discounts available), and walking tours from just €12 (£10.77).
If you’d rather stay indoors, why not check out the ABBA Gold Christmas Special! On 23rd December, one of the best tribute bands are putting on a Christmas show dedicated to the legendary artists. If this is for you, head down to the Q-Factory, with tickets starting at €25 (£22.44). Or if you’d prefer something a little more traditional, The Nutcracker will be performed at The Royal Theatre Carré; tickets for this range from €17 to €49 (£15.26 - 43.99).
If you fancy venturing outside of the city centre, there are plenty of Christmassy options too. Within easy reach by car or public transport – here are a few that are well worth a trip:
Get back to nature! Warm yourself around the fire pit, take part in a baking workshop and pick up some locally made wine or jam. Located in Natuurpark Lelystad, this market is just a 30-minute ride outside of the city and well worth the journey – open on 16th December.
Winter Village Stadshart Amstelveen
About 5 miles South of Amsterdam, the town of Amstelveen transforms into a winter village with over 60 market stalls for browsing. Enjoy the ice rink, winter food and gift shopping in a picturesque setting between 29th November – 7th January.
Between Amsterdam and Utrecht is a little town packed with culture. This cosy market is open on 9th December – on this day you’ll be able to browse the gorgeous homemade gifts, take part in Christmassy crafts and even meet Santa and his reindeer. Of course, no Christmas market is complete without a big serving of mulled wine and hot chocolate – Vreeland has it all!
15 miles out of the city centre, which is a 30 minute drive, but also accessible by public transport.
Castle Christmas Fair
What’s more magical than a Christmas Market? A Christmas Market in a castle! From 7th – 10th December, take a 30-minute drive northwest of Amsterdam to Heemskerk to check out the Christmas Castle Fair. Enjoy the fairy tale setting combined with everything you’d expect from a festive fair – live performances, gourmet food, workshops, and alpacas…
Haarlem Christmas Market
One of the biggest markets in the whole of the Netherlands, with over 300 market stalls this is a must-do experience. Open on the 9th – 10th December, this market does not disappoint. It is recommended to take public transport from the city centre, which takes around 30 minutes.
Whether you plan to stick to the city centre or venture out, it’s worth buying a travel card for public transport. There are a few types available, so research which is best for you. If you’re sticking to the city centre, we’d recommend a GVB card. These are available for 1 – 7 days and allow for travel across trams, buses and metros across the city – costing €7.50 – €34.00 (£6.73 - £30.52). The Amsterdam & Region travel ticket allows you to travel further afield and includes trains. These are available as 1 -3 day tickets and cost €18.50 – €33.50 (£16.60 – £30.07).
When it comes to dining out, you’ll find more affordable options outside of the main tourist locations. There are options for all tastes and preferences, so you’ll find something for everyone. Many restaurants include 15% service charge in the bill, in which case tipping is not an obligation, however if this is not the case, leaving around 5-10% tip is the average.
So, if Amsterdam sounds like the right place for you this festive season, don’t forget to pre-order your Euros before you go. Our Reserve & Collect service offers our best rates, and allows you to order your currency up to 2 weeks in advance (minimum 24 hours in advance) for collection at all of our airport and central London locations. Order now for one less thing to think about in the run up to Christmas!
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