Amsterdam in winter
The sights and sounds of the Dutch capital seem all the more sharper in the winter months. The lights lining the curved arch bridges are reflected off the dark water, while Christmas markets fill the city’s squares with the tempting scents of fresh stroopwaffels and sausages roasting over open coals. In this festive, toytown setting, Amsterdam’s cultural side revs up for the season. Light shows, parades, special exhibitions and concerts crop up at the city’s world-class museums, theatres and venues. There’s a Dutch word that sums up Amsterdam’s winters perfectly – gezellig, meaning a warm and jolly atmosphere.
A rather snowy Vondelpark
What about the weather?
Thanks to its low-lying position, Amsterdam can get pretty chilly from November onwards and it’s quite likely you’ll see rain. But as with the rest of the year, the weather in Amsterdam can be highly changeable. So even if you have to scurry from a downpour one day, you’ll probably enjoy a day of glowing winter sun as you stroll through Vondelpark the next. If you’re lucky, you might even get a bit of snow. All those canals mean it generally doesn’t last long, but while it’s there the city’s iconic architecture takes on a whole new dimension in its winter finery.
Don't forget the brolly
What should I pack?
Winter clothes are a must, so make sure you pack a heavy coat, gloves and a scarf. You’ll also be grateful for a pair of sturdy shoes – the city is best experienced when explored by foot or by bike so you’ll want a pair that’s outdoors-friendly. And an umbrella to keep you safe from that unpredictable Dutch rain.
Stamppot, the perfect winter warmer
What should I eat?
The Netherlands cuisine is suited to cold weather. When that chilly wind starts whipping in off the canals, treat yourself to a bowl of snert – a thick pea soup fortified with smoked sausage that isn’t truly authentic unless your spoon stands up in it. Equally filling is stamppot, a mixture of mashed potato and other vegetables served with meatballs, rookworst or other side dishes. December is also pepernoot season, and these slightly chewy spiced biscuits are well worth hunting down for a true taste of the season.
It's true – the canals really are romantic
What should I do?
You won’t be able to miss one of the most eye-catching winter events in Amsterdam, as the entire city is transformed into a vivid and dramatic canvas thanks to the Amsterdam Light festival, which illuminates the city with installations and displays. Christmas markets and funfairs will be in full swing, with events like art fairs and ice sculpture competitions too.