Water Colors – Cruise Through The Amsterdam Light Festival

Amsterdam Light Festival Title


If you’re in Amsterdam in the winter, the Amsterdam Light Festival is a must-see. It’s definitely an event that boosts tourism–and for good reason. It’s an enjoyable experience when it’s so dark and chilly outside. So bundle up and join me for the Water Colors portion of this inspiring festival of light. And remember, it’s not the only thing to do in Amsterdam during the cold months!


Amsterdam Light Festival Paths Crossing

Amsterdam Light Festival Tulips

I love that there are two ways to experience this festival. The first is the Water Colors tour which opens at the end of November and is best seen by boat. The second part is called the Illuminade and opens in December and is a walking tour that is clustered around the Opera House and Plantage area. If you decide on the walking tour, it is free to do on your own if you follow their website. There are also guided tour options and packages with other businesses. It’s so nice how local business get involved in such an artist event!


Amsterdam Light Festival Run Beyond

Amsterdam Light Festival


Seeing Amsterdam from the canals is magical on its own, but when lights of all kinds and colors are dancing around you, it’s perfect.


Amsterdam Light Festival Rings


A deeper understanding of the installations can enrich the experience even more. Where the designer is from heavily influences the piece and will have you saying things like, “Of course the Dutch made that! It’s about water.” Or “Yep, I figured the one about love was from an Italian.” The jury chooses a wide range of international artists to participate in this illuminating festival.


Amsterdam Light Festival Kite

Amsterdam Light Festival Two Cities


Each year there is an overall theme. For 2015 it’s friendship — so each artist interprets what that means to them in their own way and finds a way to express it in light. The result is the Amsterdam Light Festival with over 30 installations that are ready to leave you thoughtful and in awe.


Amsterdam Light Festival Open Lounge

Amsterdam Light Festival etramping

Jessica with Agness

I’m lucky that I was able to experience this theme with my husband and my friend Agness from etramping.com! She even had a friend with her from home. It was obviously a night of friendship and new experiences.


Amsterdam Light Festival


How do you see the canal portion? The major canal cruise tours have special boats and hours for the festival, but we really enjoyed the small boat experience from Rederij Paping. Supporting small businesses is always a plus, and supporting one that uses solar power is even better. Plus, they have a canopy roof in case of rain (which we had) and have clear plastic windows if needed. An alternative for a similar feel can be had with Those Dam Boat Guys during the Amsterdam Light Festival.

My favorite part about being in a small boat was the interaction with the captain when there to tell us all about the installations and of course were available for other questions about the festival or Amsterdam. It didn’t hurt that they serve Oliebollen and hot chocolate on this cruise either. No headphones needed or having to listen to multiple languages over a loudspeaker!


Amsterdam Light Festival Rederij Paping

Owners of Rederij Paping — Paap and Carla

Tips for any canal cruise in Amsterdam in winter

  • Bundle up! I’m talking layers on layers. And a waterproof jacket is always a good idea in Amsterdam.
  • Use the toilet before you board. If you take a larger canal cruise boat, the bathroom is tiny and uncomfortable, and the small boats don’t have them.

Follow those two tips and you’re good to go!

Practical Information (2017)

Water Colors runs from 30 November  – 21 January

Land exhibition runs from 14 December – 7 January.

Most major canal cruises run routes from Centraal Station.

I was invited to experience Water Colors of the Amsterdam Light Festival by Rederij Paping and I choose to share this experience with you because you deserve to know the best things to do around the world. I would never share a positive experience if it was not something I would recommend to a friend. That is a promise.

Jessica Cutrufello wearing a green floral dress, glasses and pink lipstick

Hi! I’m Jessica, an American who made Amsterdam her home in 2014. I share European gems through food and memorable experiences. Want to know more? Head to my about page or check out my YouTube channel.

Travel with us - Tuscany October 2022