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The perfect itinerary for Christmas in Amsterdam

With its signature canals and elegant townhouses, Amsterdam is a special place to visit any time of year. Add a touch of festive magic and the city takes on a whole new vibe.

Visit Amsterdam in December and you won’t be guaranteed snow or be able to gaze out on Alpine vistas. However, the scene is well and truly set for seasonal celebrations. The streets are alive with shining lights and colourful decorations, and there are lots of Christmas events and attractions to enjoy. It’s also a great time of year to be there if you want to avoid the crowds, with the city less busy than it is in the spring and early summer.

If you’re planning to stay in Amsterdam at Christmas, it’s important to have a wish list of things to see and do, so that you don’t miss out on any of the festive fun. Here are some ideas to make your Christmas in Amsterdam just perfect…

Experience a Christmas market

No itinerary for Christmas in Amsterdam would be complete without a visit to a Christmas market. The Ice Village in the central Museumplein public space may not be as famous as those in other European cities. However, it’s just as authentic and features all the classic Yuletide attractions, including an array of festive food outlets and craft stalls. Take your time to browse around for tasty treats, artisan gifts for your loved ones or handmade souvenirs for the home. To warm up, order a glühwein or a cup of hot chocolate and a spicy speculaas cookie, a Dutch Christmas favorite.

Go ice skating

You don’t have to wait for Amsterdam’s canals to freeze over to go ice skating. As well as the Ice Village Christmas market, every winter Museumplein is home to Ice Amsterdam, a pop-up skating rink, surrounded by lush, green fir trees. Open every day between early November and early February, the rink is family-friendly and welcomes all abilities, from beginners to experienced skaters.

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Do some Christmas shopping

Are you looking to tick off some names on your present buying list? Or maybe you feel like treating yourself to a Christmas gift, such as a new outfit or the latest piece of tech? Amsterdam is a great place for Christmas shopping, with big chains and independent shops selling everything from designer fashions to handmade chocolates. Don’t miss the festive window displays at the famous De Bijenkorf department store and the world-renowned fashions houses, such as Dior, Prada and Gucci.

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See the lights

It’s not just the decorations along the canals and the huge tree in Dam Square that create a spectacular light show in Amsterdam at Christmas. For the whole of December and much of January, the Amsterdam Light Festival brings to the city an exhibition of illuminated artworks by Dutch and international artists. Why not take a special Light Festival cruise and view the installations from the comfort of a heated, covered canal boat?

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Escape to a winter wonderland

Amsterdam’s exhibition and conference center, the RAI, is home to Amsterdam Winter Paradise, where you can enjoy all sorts of activities, entertainment and dining options. There’s cross-country skiing, ice racing, skating, tubeslides, traditional fairground rides and more, including regular showtimes at the Winter Cinema and the new Grand Ice Theatre.

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Go to church

Spending Christmas in Amsterdam doesn’t mean you’ll have to miss out on a visit to a carol service or midnight mass. Just as in the UK, seasonal events are part of the calendar in many of Amsterdam’s churches. The grandest church in the city is St Nicholas Basilica, situated opposite the Centraal station.

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Don’t forget the museums

Amsterdam is world-famous for its museums and art galleries. Therefore, it’s worth taking time to visit at least one or two of them during your stay, even though there are other, more specifically Christmas-orientated attractions to fill your itinerary. It will also be an opportunity to warm up if the winter weather’s particularly cold outside.

If you only have a chance to visit one venue and you’re an art lover, make it the Rijksmuseum. It’s packed with masterpieces, including works by all the famous Dutch masters, including Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Gogh. The collection includes a good selection of Christmas and winter-themed paintings, some of which are often displayed in special seasonal exhibitions.

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From time-honored traditions to fun activities for all the family, there’s a wide range of things to see and do when you spend Christmas in Amsterdam. Start planning your itinerary now and look forward to a festive break that’s full of the joys of the season.

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