Keeping Cosy at Christmas: Top 12 Ways to Enjoy Winter in Amsterdam
Winter in Amsterdam: The perfect time and place to bundle up in your woollies, grab a warme chocolademelk and explore the very important Dutch concept of “gezellig”. The closest English translation would be something like “cosiness” but in Dutch it means so much more, encompassing everything from laughing with friends to poking about for bargains at a fleamarket, to spending an evening in the comfiest chair in your favourite brown cafe. Grab your toastiest hat and gloves and embrace real Dutch gezelligheid in Amsterdam!
Strap On Your Skates: Various outdoor ice rinks are opened up in the Christmas season. Rent a pair of skates at one of the various rinks at the Museumplein, Westergasfabriek or Leidseplein. Every few years the weather gets cold enough for the canals to freeze, and the hardy Amsterdammers can be found enjoying the novelty of skating through the centre of the city.
Don’t Dip Your Oliebollen In Your Bisschopswijn: Don’t do what to your what, now? If you are a first time visitor to Amsterdam then you have a treat ahead of you. Dutch snacks and street food are perfect winter warmers, and a visit to the city would not be complete without scoffing a decent number of oliebollen, the famous freshly fried Dutch doughnuts, or swigging a glass or three of seasonal bisschopswijn, or mulled wine. A splash of vieux (Dutch brandy) in a warme chocolademelk (gorgeously rich hot chocolate) is another welcome way to keep the cold on the outside. Head to the Patisserie Pompadour on Huidenstraat for one of the best, with dark chocolate melted into hot milk.
Get Lit Up: From 27th November to 18th January, Amsterdam will be hosting its annual Light Festival and it truly is a thing of wonder. This year’s theme is “A Bright City” and artists from around the world will be assembling light displays and sculptures to “create a tribute to life in the city”. There will also be a boat route passing installations on the canals and river, and a walking route through the centre. Check out the programme on their website.
Spend An Evening In A Brown Cafe: A quintessential part of Amsterdam life, the laid back bruine kroegen get their name from their dark wooden floors and walls, and atmospheric low lighting – the perfect ambience for an evening of plotting, planning and good Dutch beer – most places will serve some simple snacks as well. Head to De Pieper on Prinsengracht to check out one of the oldest, and to the Jordaan neighbourhood for a few biertjes (small Dutch beers) at Cafe ‘t Smalle, one of the cosiest in town.
Grab Some Friends For A Vrijdagmiddagborrel: (If you can pronounce it!). The Dutch “borrel”, accompanied by mustard-laced bitterballen and vlammetjes and kaasstengels is the very epitome of gezelligheid! Still confused? Here’s a good explanation!
Catch A Biscuit From Sinterklaas: If you are in Amsterdam in mid-November, don’t miss the arrival by boat of Sinterklaas into the capital. Accompanied by a kilometre of carnival floats and hundreds of Zwarte Pieten (his controversially black-faced assistants) all loaded down with spiced pepernoten biscuits to throw to the crowds, it is quite an incredible spectacle. After making his way down the Amstel, Sinterklaas swaps his boat for a white horse and rides through Amsterdam, opening a children’s musical programme at Dam Square, and ending the day with a children’s speech, explaining to them exactly why it is in their best interests to be good in the run up to Sinterklaasavond on the 5th December, when Dutch children receive the majority of their presents! Full details of the route and programme can be found on the Sinterklaas in Amsterdam website.
Get Out On Two Wheels or Two Feet: Amsterdam offers a massive range of tours, to fit any interest, from beer and coffee shops to longer tours by bike exploring the local countryside. Some are even free, so it’s a great way to wrap up warm and explore the city whatever your budget.
Stay Somewhere Interesting: An impersonal chain hotel is pretty much the most un-gezellig thing possible, so make sure you choose your accommodation with care. Companies like Wimdu offer a range of charming apartments for holiday lets… or you could even stay on a houseboat. If a hotel is your thing, then view some of the more interesting hotels in Amsterdam
Get To Know Your Neighbours: What could be more gezellig than sitting down to dinner with 500 strangers and enjoying loads of food, drink, dancing and singing? If that sounds up your street, then consider shelling out €37.50 for a ticket to Amsterdam’s Winterparade. Seated at one enormous table, you’re bound to get into conversation with the locals – and around half of the performances can be enjoyed without any knowledge of Dutch! Buy tickets at the Winterparade website.
Enjoy Some Stress-Free Christmas Shopping: Forget the chain stores and nightmarish crowds of Amsterdam’s main shopping drags – for a much more gezellig experience, head for the Negen Straatjes (“9 Streets”). The area is packed with beautiful boutiques and cosy cafes, perfect for hunting down the perfect Christmas gifts and then examining them over a warming glass of gluhwein. The street of Gasthuismolensteeg also boasts the Nationaal Brilmuseum en Brillenwinkel or Museum of Eyeglasses, which is definitely an unusual way of avoiding the cold for an hour!
Soak Up Some Culture: Het Muziektheater and Het Concertgebouw both put on marvellous Christmas seasons of ballet and opera, in beautiful buildings. The perfect treat for a wintry evening.
And Even If It’s Not Christmas… if you happen to be visiting Amsterdam in the spring or summer, but this list has made you pine after wintry walks and mulled wine, then just head to Amsterdam’s very own Christmas Palace. Yes, it’s cheesier than a toasted gouda sandwich, but sometimes even August needs a little injection of Christmas spirit!