Thinking of traveling to the Netherlands to visit Amsterdam for Christmas and wondering what to expect during the festive holiday season?
What are the best Christmas Markets in Amsterdam (and are they worth it)? Where to find the nicest decorations and Christmas trees? What is open on Christmas Day itself?
In this guide, you can read our honest opinion about Amsterdam Christmas Markets and find our top suggestions for the best places to visit during the holiday season. We also share seasonal tips and helpful information to help you plan your Christmas visit to Amsterdam. Take a look!
Good to know: In this article, we mostly focus on the Christmas events and what it’s like to visit Amsterdam during the holiday season. If you are interested in more practical things such as the weather, whether you can expect snow and white Christmas, what to wear, or how busy it is, etc., be sure to also check out our guide to Amsterdam in December!
Amsterdam in December – OVERVIEW:
First, let’s take a look at some of the best Christmas Markets and festive locations in Amsterdam:
Amsterdam Christmas Market
- Location: Museumplein, between Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum.
- Open: Daily between 13 and 26 December 2023, from 11 AM (noon on weekdays) to 9 PM.
- Entrance: FREE.
Are you looking for the best Christmas Markets in Amsterdam? If you expect to find a list with the locations, then I’m afraid I’ll have to disappoint you…
And yes, I’m well aware that there are articles listing 5 or even 10 best Christmas Markets in Amsterdam… But when you look deeper, you’ll realize that some of them are not even in the city, and others are only open one day or one weekend per year.
The truth is that there is only one Christmas Market in Amsterdam – Christmas Village on Museum Square – that is somewhat comparable to what the traditional Christmas Markets look like in the rest of Europe.
Furthermore, it’s really small and can’t even be compared to e.g. the Brussels Christmas Market or the smaller Bruges Christmas Market, not even talking about the major ones in Germany or northern France… Let’s just say that any of the little towns in Alsace have bigger and more impressive Christmas Markets than Amsterdam…
Below, you can find more information about the Amsterdam Christmas Market.
As mentioned, the Christmas Market in Amsterdam is rather small and the number of market stalls varies by year. Usually, there are not more than 40-50 stands. But the market is very cozy – with nice wooden chalets and Christmas lights.
You will find all kinds of foods and drinks here – from mulled wine to traditional Dutch herring, poffertjes (mini-pancakes), and oliebollen (deep-fried dough balls). There are also places selling seasonal clothing, artisanal handcrafted gifts, etc.
In some years, there is also an ice skating rink on Museum Square. Unfortunately, it’s not the case in winter 2023.
Good to know: Entry to the market is free and everything you buy at the market can be paid by debit card or via your smartphone. Credit cards are not widely accepted and if you want to pay cash, it’s best to bring small bills. For more practical information, see the official website of this Christmas Village.
Amsterdam Winter Paradise
- Location: Europaplein, next to RAI Amsterdam Convention Centre.
- Open: Daily from 14 to December 30, 2023, between 9 AM and 11 PM (midnight on weekends).
- Entrance: Tickets with entry time slots.
Amsterdam Winter Paradise (Het Amsterdamse Winterparadijs) is by far the best place to be if you are looking for all kinds of winter-themed activities in Amsterdam. This is not a traditional Christmas Market, but rather a winter fair.
Here, you will find several ice skating rinks (one indoors and one outside), a Ferris Wheel, sliding slopes, all kinds of light installations, carousels, swing rides, and similar. There are also several bars and eateries and you can even roast marshmallows by the fire. They also organize all kinds of events, both for kids as well as adults.
Good to know: You will need a ticket to enter the grounds and all the regular activities are included (except the ones where you play to win prizes). Entry tickets are timed and prices are higher in the evenings (book in advance!!!), but once you are inside, you can stay as long as you want to.
TIP: Visit earlier in the day and avoid weekends. It’s not just cheaper, but you will also be able to enjoy more activities without the crowds. Evenings can get very busy and you’ll have to queue at most attractions. The good thing is that the queues tend to move fast.
Location and getting there: Amsterdam Winter Paradise is located right next to RAI Amsterdam Convention Centre, about 2km south of Museum Square. While you can walk here from the city center in about 30-60 minutes, you can easily get here by metro. It’s just 4 stops/8 minutes ride from the Central Station.
The popular Upside Down Museum is located just nearby. So you can easily combine a visit to Winter Paradise and Upside Down – both are fun for the whole family.
Ice Skating Rink on Rembrandt Square
- Location: Rembrandtplein.
- Open: Daily between 17 November 2023 and 6 January 2024.
- Entrance: Free to watch, a few euros to skate.
On Rembrandt Square in the historic city center, you can find a small ice skating rink. There are also a couple of street food stalls selling mulled wine, hot chocolate, grilled sausages, and similar.
It’s not really what you could call a ‘Christmas Market’ but if you are looking for a cozy festive atmosphere and winter activities in Amsterdam, this is one of the few places worth checking out. In the winter of 2023, it’s also the only ice skating rink in the center of Amsterdam.
Good to know: You can rent skates or bring your own. A day ticket costs just a few euros and you can skate as long as you want to. Also here, debit cards and mobile payments are accepted, but credit cards are pretty much useless…
Amsterdam Christmas Trees
If you are wondering where to find the Amsterdam Christmas Tree, you may want to know that this varies year by year. There is also not one ‘main’ Christmas Tree, but several of them, in different locations, and they are usually rather simply decorated.
Usually, there is a big Christmas Tree on the Dam Square, in front of the Royal Palace. However, it’s not always the case. On my recent winter visit to Amsterdam, there were no decorations here at all, just a big group of pigeons…
There is usually a Christmas Tree on Museum Square, behind Rijksmuseum where the main Christmas Market is. This is often one of the bigger trees you’ll find in the center.
You might also find a Christmas Tree on Beursplein (Stock Exchange Square) or some other location on the main avenue, Damrak.
In other words, just walk around, explore the city, and you will likely stumble upon several Christmas Trees here and there.
Amsterdam Light Festival
- Location: all over the city center.
- Open: Daily from 30 November 2023 until 21 January 2024. Nicest in the dark.
- Entrance: FREE, unless you buy an app with the walking route or take a canal cruise.
Amsterdam Light Festival takes place every winter and is one of the best-known holiday season events in the city. The theme varies every year, but the concept is always the same – there are all kinds of lit artworks set in various public locations all over Amsterdam’s city center.
Because the light installations and their locations change every winter, it’s impossible to say in advance where you can find them. While you will probably run into a couple of them while walking around the city center, the only way to see them all is to download their app with the walking route. The entire route is usually around 7-8 km (4-5 miles), but you can also just do part of it.
TIP: The easier way to enjoy the Amsterdam Light Festival is by taking an evening canal cruise. If the weather permits, opt for an open-boat cruise. Since it rains a lot and you never know how the weather will turn out to be, most companies play it safe and use (semi) covered boats. This is one of the most popular Light Festival cruises departing near the Central Station.
If you want to do a lights cruise and visit the Amsterdam Winter Paradise, this 2-in-1 combi ticket will save you some money (and make it easy to book everything in one go).
Good to know: While the artworks of the Amsterdam Light are nice to see, they are just a few and scattered all over the city. Luckily, there are also regular Christmas lights to enjoy all over Amsterdam.
Most shopping streets and popular dining areas have really pretty light displays, so if you are looking for a fairytale-like Christmas atmosphere, you don’t have to worry – Amsterdam is really cozy at Christmas, especially after dark.
What is Open at Christmas Itself (24-25-26 December)?
Visiting Amsterdam during the holiday season, you might be wondering what to expect on Christmas Day itself and the days before and after that.
- December 24 – Christmas Eve – is a regular working day, but some places might close a few hours earlier than usual.
- December 25 – Christmas Day is an official public holiday in the Netherlands. Most businesses and shops are closed but the majority of tourist attractions in Amsterdam are open.
- December 26 – Boxing Day – is also an official bank holiday in the Netherlands. However, most shops and pretty much all tourist attractions are open on this day.
Most shops are closed on the 25th only. Some museums/tourist attractions are closed on December 25 but are open on December 26, some others remain open daily but have shorter opening hours, and some are open as usual. Most restaurants are open at Christmas, but if you are looking for a nice restaurant for dinner on the 24th or 25th, we highly recommend reserving a table in advance.
Below, you can find a list of some of the best tourist attractions in Amsterdam that are open at Christmas, including Christmas Day itself.
Here are some of the top places to visit in Amsterdam that are open at Christmas 2023:
- Amsterdam Christmas Market (free entry).
- Amsterdam Winter Paradise (book ahead!!!).
- Van Gogh Museum (you have to book tickets weeks ahead!!!).
- Rijksmuseum (book ahead).
- Heineken Experience (book a time slot in advance).
- Madame Tussauds (more info and tickets).
- Moco Museum (more info and tickets).
- Icebar Amsterdam (more info and tickets).
- The Upside Down Museum (more info and tickets).
- Rembrandt House Museum (daily, except 25/12 – more info and tickets).
- Royal Palace (daily, except 25/12 – more info and tickets).
PRO TIP: Book your tickets in advance, especially if you are traveling between Christmas and New Year! That way, you will immediately see what’s open, and at what time, and avoid disappointment. Tickets to the most popular attractions tend to sell out, in some cases even several weeks in advance.
Christmas school holiday is the peak season, so booking ahead is the only way to be sure that you can visit the places that you want to visit (and choose the time that best suits you).
Where to Stay
Staying at a beautifully decorated accommodation can make your Christmas visit to Amsterdam so much more festive. However, while most Amsterdam hotels have some kind of Christmas decorations, in most cases, it’s not much more than a few light guirlands and a Christmas Tree…
We haven’t visited all the hotels in Amsterdam, of course, but from the ones we did, Hotel Estheréa has by far the nicest decorations for Christmas. It’s already a very nice and cozy hotel but they really go out of their way to make it even more festive for the holidays.
Furthermore, their canalside location is very central, meaning that you can easily walk to all the main landmarks in 5-20 minutes. Dam Square and Royal Palace are just 5 minutes walk, the ice skating rink at Rembrandt Square – 15 minutes walk, and the main museums and the Christmas Market are about 20 minutes walk.
On a higher budget, Anantara Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky is also a wonderful option right on Dam Square. This hotel also has really nice Christmas decorations. The location couldn’t be more central and is perfect for shopping and some of the most popular tourist attractions such as the Royal Palace, Madame Tussauds, Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, and Amsterdam Dungeon.
Is It Worth Visiting Amsterdam at Christmas?
As you can see, the Amsterdam Christmas Market is not exactly what you may have expected, especially if you have seen pictures or read about some of the nicest Christmas Markets in Europe.
So if Christmas Markets are what you are after, honestly, skip the Amsterdam. Instead, check out the Christmas Markets in Belgium, Germany, and Alsace in France.
However, there are so many other reasons to visit Amsterdam during the holiday season!
First, the main tourist sights are quieter and accommodation prices are much lower than in the warmer months. Furthermore, the city is really cozy with beautiful light displays and festive decorations, and everything is open (including Christmas Day itself!).
In addition, you can visit a traditional Christmas Market (even if small), go ice skating, and enjoy a festive atmosphere. So yes, it’s well worth visiting Amsterdam during the Christmas season.
That being said, if you can, avoid visiting right after Christmas and before New Year. This is the busiest time with big crowds everywhere, especially in the evenings on weekends and public holidays.
So, this is our guide to visiting Amsterdam during the Christmas season. I hope that it gives you a better idea of what to expect and what the holiday season is truly like in the Netherlands.
More travel inspiration for Amsterdam & beyond:
- What to see & do:
- Sightseeing itineraries:
- Seasonal guides:
- More of the Netherlands:
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