For those visiting Amsterdam over Christmas, and for those living in this fabulous city, you might wonder, “What is there to do for Christmas in Amsterdam?” It’s not known for its Christmas markets or good weather, but we do have something else, that gezellig (Dutch for super cozy) feeling around this time of year. To get into the holiday spirit, and hopefully reduce any stress for visitors curious about what’s open and how they’ll eat, I’ve created this holiday guide to Amsterdam for 2019.
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What to do for Christmas in Amsterdam
Amsterdam Light Festival canal cruise
This is a no-brainer. If you are here during the winter time and the Amsterdam Light Festival is running, you should see it. It’s a magical event, and my favorite event of the year! Each year, artists create art sculptures that line the already stunning canals of Amsterdam. Because there’s a new theme every year, there are new sculptures each year. For 2019, the theme is disrupt.
Find a canal cruise through Get Your Guide
Amsterdam Light Festival on foot while on a food tour
Us recommend a food tour? How shocking!! Lol! Not at all. We take a lot of these food tours from Eating Europe and this one is extra special. They are an official partner of the Amsterdam Light Festival and take you on a foodie journey through Amsterdam while showcasing the incredible light art around the canals.
Sadly, I don’t think we’ll have naturally frozen canals this year to ice skate on, but there is still an opportunity to get on the ice at Ice*Village Amsterdam by the famous Rijksmuseum and, new this year, in the old industrial-turn-hip-hang-out, there will also be an ice skating rink. You’ll probably find less people here since it’s a bit off the tourist path.
Walk along the streets
In the center of the city, the streets are lined with festive lights hanging above making a magical glow and a cozy feeling. You’ll find a lot of great gift ideas on these streets if you are looking for gifts for yourself or for loved ones. Since it gets dark fairly early, you have a lot of time to enjoy them.
Holiday-themed weekend markets
We don’t really have Christmas markets anymore. Though, if any do pop up, they’ll be on Rembrandtplein, Leidseplein, or Museumplein (the main squares in the city). It almost feels like the city can’t make up its mind about whether to have them or not. So, your best bets are the holiday themed regular weekend markets. Check out PureMarkt, Sunday Market, the most specialized Amsterdamsche Kerst Markt.
Amsterdam Winter Paradise
This is one of those things that can blow your mind. They actually build a winter paradise inside the convention center. Full-use of the outside cold comes in handy as well since they’ll have a ice-skating rink both inside and outside. They create actual snow for the ultimate feeling of authenticity. With lots of options on what to do inside, and what to eat, it can easily be an all day fun day!
Are shops open for Christmas in Amsterdam?
Yes, some shops are open for Christmas in Amsterdam. But, small businesses including boutique shops, bakeries, and such probably won’t be. I would say those are the days to do the touristy things. Take a canal cruise or head to a museum. Many are open for business on Christmas day. One big thing to note is that “Second Christmas” or “Boxing Day” (December 26) is also a holiday here in the Netherlands. So always check hours for December 24, 25, & 26 when visiting Amsterdam over Christmas.
Museums you can visit on Christmas Day and Second Christmas (Boxing Day) are the Van Gogh Museum, Hermitage Amsterdam, Rijksmusem, Stedelijk, Amsterdam Museum, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Madame Tussauds, and the Anne Frank House.
Where to eat on Christmas in Amsterdam
This is a common question, and for good reason! When we spent Christmas in Prague we had such a hard time finding somewhere to eat on Christmas Day. This list isn’t exhaustive, but it will give you some choices, and all of them seem to have availability when this was posted. In general, look for hotel restaurants since they need to cater to their guests or if you know of a place, check the website, or reach out on social media. But make reservations as early as possible!
There are a few Asian restaurants that are worth looking into for Christmas. Sea Palace was where we spent our first and second Christmas in Amsterdam. Their dim sum is my favorite and the place is HUGE and is a floating restaurant near Central Station. They’ll likely have a regular menu but everything is pretty delicious.
I have to put Oriental City after Sea Palace because it’s pretty much a local rivalry. You love one or the other. Obviously, we are bigger fans of Sea Palace, but this place serves really good food, too. It’s in the center of the center called De Wallen, near the Red Light District.
Everyone loves FuLu. EVERYONE. It’s a bit higher end of a Chinese restaurant in Amsterdam but the price is worth the quality. It’s a bit smaller than Oriental City and Sea Palace, but if you can snag a table that overlooks the street, it’s a people-watcher’s dream. These people know how to elevate food, and they do it well.
Attached to the Hotel Pulitzer Amsterdam (a beautiful, swanky hotel), is Jansz. I swear, some of the best restaurants are open on Christmas! This place oozes personality, creativity and delicious food. They have a 4-course menu available this year and it looks awesome.
€75 for set menu.
Get out of the center and head to Restaurant Zuid for a 5-course offering and an option wine pairing. That’s doing Christmas well! Again, this is a quality restaurant and is pretty much guaranteed to be an awesome experience.
€69.50 for set menu.
Situated on the beautiful Prinsengracht (a stunning canal) is Bluespoon. Here you can choose lunch or dinner and how many courses you want. Christmas is a time to eat and be merry, right? Lunch ranges from €55 for 3-course to €70 for 4-courses and dinner runs from 4-6 courses and from €70-€95.
We’re kicking it up a notch…or 19 floors with Moon. In the A’DAM tower in Amsterdam north, this dining experience awaits. It’s easy as can be to get to, just take the free ferry from behind Central Station in the direction of Buiksloterweg. Hop off and you can’t miss the tower! Their 5 course lunch is €77.50 and 7-course dinner is €97.50
Around the corner from the famous Vondelpark is Restaurant Moer. You’ll find organic local food in this former garage. Stop by for breakfast, lunch or dinner, but they are closed on December 26. I love that it’s significantly cheaper than the others and they offer a vegetarian menu. Click for more information.
Pressroom at INK Hotel
I’m not shy about sharing my love for Pressroom. I love everything about it, the idea, the food, the service…and the bar. They are making it Christmas-y and cozy for the holidays. There’s a 5-course meal for €65 with optional wine pairing for €30 and a bottomless brunch on the 25th and 26 for €37.
How about eating at a restaurant with a Michelin Star? Head to the Rijks Restaurant (in the Rijksmuseum) for their 5- or 7-course Christmas menu. Prices are €75 and €105 respectively. The chef uses products from the Netherlands and is inspired by the international influences on the Dutch culture.
For great seafood, head out of the Amsterdam center bubble and into Amsterdam north. Restaurant Stork has fresh and delicious seafood right on the IJ (the big body of water separating Amsterdam north to the rest of Amsterdam). The fruits de mer is always a winner!
What to eat and drink during the Christmas season in Amsterdam
Kruidnoten / pepernoten
These are different but are usually confused. Basically, there are tiny little spiced cookies or biscuits (however you would call them). They are super crunchy and very addicting 🙂
If you like gingerbread cookies or ginger snaps, then you’ll love these! Bigger than the previous cookies I mentioned, they are perfect with a tea or coffee. If you buy them in the store, they’ll probably come in some festival shapes.
I always get excited when I see the oliebollen stand! These are seasonal and trailers will pop up all over the city ready to sell you oliebollen. The name directly translates to oil ball, so the traditional ones look like a big puff ball. I prefer plain with powdered sugar. Simple and perfect.
You can also get these apple fritters at the Oliebollen stand. I usually get one of each 🙂 These are fried slices of apple that are seasoned with (my favorite) cinnamon and sugar. I like that it has fruit inside and isn’t just dough.
Mulled wine time!! Hopefully the restaurant or bar you go to will have some special glühwein for you. Otherwise, head to one of the Christmas-y markets and there should definitely be some around!
This is a favorite of the Dutch it seems. It’s everywhere. Chocomel is a chocolate-flavored milk and can be found in pretty much every cafe. Hot chocolate here is usually Chocomel warmed up with whipped cream on top. It’s a staple and definitely worth a try!
Eggnog isn’t a thing here (unless you’re in our house at Christmas time when Sean makes this recipe!) so the next best eggy drink is Advocaat. This is an smooth and creamy alcoholic drink made with brandy. Usually, it has 14%-20% ABV. Ask for it in a restaurant or head to Gall & Gall (alcohol store) and get yourself some for here, or to take home as a holiday souvenir.
Kerststol or Feeststol
This Christmas bread is filled with raisins, candied fruit peel, nuts, and has a center core of almond paste. You start seeing this everywhere in December in the grocery stores and bakeries. It’s kind of the fruitcake of the Netherlands but much better!
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Amsterdam
From our family to yours, Merry Christmas! We hope you truly hope you enjoy your time in Amsterdam for Christmas. If you did stay here over Christmas, we’d love to know which recommendations you took and how your trip went. Please leave us a comment below.
Wishing you joy and travels!