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Travel Tips

Amsterdam in December: all you need to know to plan a perfect trip

All you need to know to plan a trip to Amsterdam in December: the best things to see, where to stay, Amsterdam Christmas activities and travel tips.

December is one of my favorite months in Amsterdam.

The weather in the city tends to be cold and grey at this time; however, the city compensates for the less than stellar meteorological conditions with lots of festive cheer and activities. 

Amsterdam in December is an extravaganza of Christmas lights, Christmas markets, ice rinks, cozy interiors and a fantastic place for a city break or a more extended stay. 

It is also a lovely time to visit Amsterdam’s top attractions, especially the city’s stunning museums and shops.

In 2021, restrictions are in place that will impact your stay and will limit your ability to enjoy the city.

Therefore, I recommend you do not travel at this time; however, I recommend you plan a visit in December in Amsterdam when safe to do so.

This travel guide to Amsterdam in December is for then, or if you happen to be in the city right now. 

Please note: check official travel rules and restrictions on the Dutch Government Website here. Check websites of individual attractions for the dates of your travel to monitor sudden closures.

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The weather in Amsterdam in December: what to expect

December is the heart of the winter in Amsterdam. In December, you should expect short hours of daylight, grey sky, some rainy days, possibly a dusting of snow. 

Official temperatures and precipitation data are:

Temperature Max / MinAverage Rainy Days
7C/62F – 2C/3613

In practice, to visit Amsterdam in December, you need to wrap up with a good rainproof coat, scarf, gloves and hat. You also want to wear warm shoes that can take the rain. 

Where to stay in Amsterdam in December

The best place to stay in Amsterdam in December is the city center, within the Canal Ring. 

I recommend you pick a cozy hotel with a good lobby bar, so you can have a drink in the evening even if you don’t feel like going out or an apartment with self-catering facilities.

Addresses you may like are:

  • Pulitzer Amsterdam – Stunning, five star hotel hosted in a historical canal houses in the heart of Amsterdam Canal District. One of the best high end hotels in the city.
  • Hoxton Amsterdam – Hip and modern four star hotel in the heart of Amsterdam, with a great lobby bar.
  • Hilton Amsterdam Centraal – Great , four star Hilton property close to Central Station, offering interconnexting rooms and an excellent rooftop terrace.
  • Zoku Amsterdam – a great hotel with apartment style rooms with private kitchen, with reception desk and coworking space.
  • Hotel Dwarf – pleasant three star hotel in Amsterdam City center, with modern, hip decor, close to shops and restaurants
  • Mr Jordaan – a beautiful three star hotel with qwirky and cozy decor in the elegant Jordaan area, close to the Anne Frank House,

What to pack to visit Amsterdam in December 

To visit Amsterdam in December, you want to have with you:

  • Rain resistant winter coat
  • Scarf, gloves and hat
  • Thermal top for urban sightseeing
  • Rainproof boots 
  • Warm pajamas for the night

Complete packing list for Amsterdam in December coming soon!

Amsterdam houses in winter

The best things to do in Amsterdam in December 

The best things to do in Amsterdam in December are a mix of classic sightseeing, seasonal activities and shopping!

Marvel at the works of art of the Amsterdam lights festival

Amsterdam in December hosts a fantastic lights festival. 

The festival takes place every year during the darkest weeks of the winter, in December, in December and part of January and is a public display of light art installations in outdoor locations around Amsterdam.

Artists from all over the world participate in the festival, and their installations, literally brighten up Amsterdam’s nights! 

The best way to admire the displays is by an evening canal cruise. Many of the installations are on bridges, and the cruise gives you a natural vantage point to see them in all their splendor and reflecting on the water. 

This is an attractive way to visit Amsterdam in winter since it allows you to make the most of hours of darkness that would otherwise likely go to waste. 

It is also a great way to learn facts about Amsterdam: the guides are fun and very informative.

Find info and prices of the light festival canal cruise here.

Go ice skating in Amsterdam city center.

Amsterdam has several seasonal ice rinks perfect for a fun afternoon outdoors. 

The most scenic one is probably on Museum Plein, just in front of the Rijks Museum: here, you have an outdoor skating area open day and evening, when colorful lights light up the ice. 

Other ice skating rinks in Amsterdam city center are on Rembrandtplein, and at Amsterdam Winter Paradise (see below).

Need to know! Occasionally, Amsterdam canals freeze up in winter and people go ice skating on them. This is not a regular occurrence and there are risks associated with it: caution is paramount! The recommendation it so skate in designated ice rinks only.

Visit Amsterdam Christmas markets.

Amsterdam has lovely Christmas markets that are fantastic to immerse yourself in the festive spirit. 

The best one for visitors is the Ice Village in Museum Plein, where you also find the ice skating rink above.

Here, you find stalls serving food and Christmas decorations: this is a great place to explore between museums visits.

Colorful Christmas decoration at market
Colorful decorations on the Christmas market in Strasbourg, Alsace, France.

Other Christmas markets in Amsterdam you may like are:

Amsterdam Winter Paradise at RAI – a fantastic Christmas village with stalls, ice skating rinks, ferry wheel

Funky Market at Westergasfabriek – great for finding work of local artists, fashion designers and creatives

Amsterdamsche Kerstmarkt at Westergas – where you also find an ice rink, live music, food, children’s activities and events.

Pure Market – a weekly market dressing up in Christmas decor during the festive season

Go shopping and window shopping

.Amsterdam is fabulous for shopping, and the shops in December are something special.

Big department stores decorate their fronts with lights and bows while smaller, independent shops light up with decorations and light displays.

A wonderful shopping area in Amsterdam is the famous ‘Nine streets’. In December, this area is exceptionally pretty as its concept store dress up with individual and imaginative window displays!

Lovely shopping areas in Amsterdam are also around Dam Square, where you find great department stores, Kalverstraat and Leidsestraat, where you find high streets brands. 

If you prefer markets, the Albert Cuyp market has many stalls perfect for small presents.

Good to know: During the weeks leading up to Christmas, shops in Amsterdam tend to have longer opening hours, often until 9 pm. The big department stores are your best option for out-of-hour shopping, but they tend to close on Christmas day to reopen, with some exceptions, on the 26th.

Have Christmas afternoon tea and The Duchess

Afternoon tea in Amsterdam is a bit of a treat. However, if budget allows, high tea at the Duchess in The W is one of the most pleasant ways to enjoy a December afternoon in Amsterdam.

Book a table, dress up and enjoy their delightful china and tea cakes with canal views!

Posh china for High tea at Amsterdam plaza

Visit the Rijksmuseum

A visit to the Rijksmuseum is always worth it, but I love it in December especially. 

First and foremost, there is no more stunning place to escape the cold! Also, the museum has a wonderful Christmas tree (often virtual!), and this adds a touch of magic to this already outstanding attraction. 

Get tickets in advance here

Have a private photoshoot in amstrdam city center

If you are looking for a fun memento of your Christmas holiday in Amsterdam or a great photo for Christmas cards, then you should consider a private photo shoot in Amsterdam city center.

The photoshoot doesn’t take more than twenty minutes, so it won’t disrupt your sightseeing and the photos make for an unusual souvenir! Find info here.

Visit the Van Gogh Museum

Another stunning museum to visit in Amsterdam in December is the Van Gogh Museum. 

At this time, booking well in advance is mandatory as the demand is huge. Get tickets here.

Eat olienbollen

tasting Dutch Christmas food is a must when visiting Amsterdam in December. My favorites are ‘Olienbollen’, fried sweet dough balls. 

Christmas Dutch food in decorated shop in Amsterdam city center

You can find them in bakeries and markets, and they are the perfect food to munch on while sightseeing. 

See the tree in Dam Square

Christmas trees are in several locations around the city, and all it takes is to step out of the central station to see a beautifully lit one. 

The tree to see, however, is in Dam square.

The tree is tall and beautiful, and the ceremony to light it up is accompanied by the singing of Christmas carols. 

Meet Sinterklaas

If you are lucky enough to be in Amsterdam in early December, you might be in town on the day Sinterklaas arrives! Sinterklaas sports a red suit, a white beard, and he brings presents to the good children. 

However, he is not a local Santa Claus! 

St Nicholas is said to have ties with Amsterdam since 343 AD.

Originally from Turkey, Sinterklaas spends the year in Spain and makes his way to Amsterdam every ear on 5 December, on St Nickolas’ eve.

He goes around with his faithful travel companion Amerigo (a horse) and he dresses in a red and white outfit with a tall Papal hat.

On St Nicholas day, the streets of Amsterdam fill with kids and adults running to see the big man: this is a wonderful family event and one worth being in town for. 

The best things to do in Amsterdam with kids in December 

If you are in Amsterdam in December with your kids, there are several more child-friendly activities you can pursue. 

Fun Amsterdam kids activities are:

A visit to Nemo, Amsterdam’s stunning science museum

An afternoon in Amsterdam library for reading, playing and admiring the Mouse Mansion

Warm-up on a canal cruise a serving all you can eat delicious Dutch pancakes

Go ice skating (see above)

Escape the cold in one of Amsterdam’s child-friendly museums

Visit Our Lord in The Attic, wonderfully decorated at Christmas and with special Christmas themes activities for kids 

A afternoon at Amstrdam Winter Paradise or the Christmas Market in Westergas, two of the best Christmas markets in Amsterdam for kids!

I hope you enjoyed this quick overview of the best things to do in Amsterdam in December and it helped you plan your trip. Safe travel planning!

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