For those of you staying “at home” in Amsterdam this month, we bring you the Holiday Season Special – the ultimate December-January guide to Amsterdam and The Netherlands! Any ongoing activities are mentioned in this special edition, so you can start planning your outings. Enjoy!
It consists of Illuminade; a route between the Maritime Museum and the Amstel along 20 inspiring light objects, and the Boulevard of Light with breathtaking light sculptures and illuminated buildings and bridges along the Amstel.
At the Oude Kerk, 22-26 december. The winter version of the classic parade is full of live acts and performances. This year, you can join 500 other guests on a 120-metre long table for a festive menu and stacks of entertainment. Winterparade also runs in Nijmegen, Haarlem and Eindhoven.
The Dutch National Ballet returns with a truly festive family performance of Cinderella, set to the world-famous music by Prokofiev. Muziektheater, 13 December – 1 January.
World Christmas Circus
Royal Theatre Carre is hosting a modern circus featuring international artists. 21 December – 6 January.
Ice skating and gluhwein
Throughout the city. Get your skates and glide around the Jaap Edenbaan or head to the smaller rinks on Museumplein, Leidseplein or Gelderlandplein. Then warm up with a hot meal and have a drink at one of the nearby cafes.
Citywide – ‘Don we now, our gay apparel.’ Commonly known as the Winter Gay Pride, Pink Christmas comes to town from 19 to 31 December 2012, featuring theatre, shows, ice skating events, club nights and a whole lot more. Check the website for the latest programme, which includes a “naked bar”.
Palazzo Dinner Show
Celebrate Christmas in style at the world famous Palazzo. Set in a traditional 19th-century ‘mirror tent’, tuck into a mouth-watering four-course dinner and be dazzled by the show featuring theatre, acrobatics, comedy, magic and illusion. Until 3rd March.
Paradiso Boxing Day Concert
26 December – The all-star Paradiso Orchestra and guests pump a dose of musical life into Boxing Day to help blow way the turkey and wine-induced hangover.
Boxing Day Celebrations
The visitors centre at Amsterdamse Bos is welcoming families with hot chocolate and gluhwein. You can participate in wintery activities and warm yourself by the massive fire pit they have outside. Dec 26, from 12-5pm.
On Dec 23 a Vintage Tram runs a Christmas ride from Haarlemmermeerstation to Amstelveen and vice versa. The tram runs at 1pm and gluhwein and other snacks are served on board. The ride lasts 2 hours and reservations are required.
Classical Music Performances
Christmas comes alive in Amsterdam in a fantastic collection of classical and choral concerts at venues throughout the city. Some of the highlights: the Westerkerk joins in the Christmas celebrations with a concert to match its stature in the city.
The Amsterdam Grachtenfestival returns for a winter series of classical performances at churches across the city.
Performances are on Thursday, 20 December 2012 and Thursday, 10 & Thursday, 17 January 2013.
Discover Artis in the dark
From Saturday 22 December to Sunday 6 January, Artis Zoo will stay open until 8pm for the special Winteravonden (winter evenings) in Artis.
Lit paths will guide you to unique, exciting and secret spots inside Artis, revealing some of the zoo’s lesser-known treasures such as the beautiful 19th-century library, the oldest oak tree in Amsterdam and two buddhas from 1870. Of course, you can also admire the animals under the cover of night! After walking through the zoo, order a traditional Dutch meal like stamppot or treat yourself to a hot chocolate or glass of glühwein. On Christmas Eve, you can also enjoy performances by a special Christmas choir.
Between 26 – 30 December Amsterdam becomes the capital of Argentine tango for five fiery days and nights during the festive season. Keep out the winter chill with performances, workshops and dancing events throughout the city!
Funky Xmas & New Year’s Market
The Funky Xmas Market at the Westergasfabriek is packed with cheerful decorations, delicious aromas and numerous craft stalls, creating a special holiday atmosphere. The Funky Xmas Market falls on the weekend of 22 and 23 December, taking place from 12pm to 6pm. Entrance is free. Spreading the seasonal joy a little bit further in 2012, there’s also a special New Year’s Market on 6 January 2013!
Forget about your waistline this holiday season and tuck into a proper Dutch treat; the oliebol, literally oil balls, which are traditionally enjoyed on New Year’s Eve and during fun fairs. Buy a couple from the numerous mobile stands throughout the city, and make sure you get some appelflappen too.
Out of town:
Meet Father Christmas and his reindeer!
From 23-29 December a real black engine steam train runs from Hoorn to Wognum. Father Christmas is present at Wognum and he’s brought his sled and some reindeer too! Warm chocolate milk and gluhwein are served on board. Adults EUR 13,80, children EUR 12,30, toddlers up to 3yrs EUR 6,10.
Trains depart 10:30, 12:30 and 14:30 and a ride lasts 90 minutes. Reservations required: tel 0229-214862 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Direct trains from Amsterdam Central Station to Hoorn run 4 times an hour, taking 40 minutes.
Previously held at Rembrandtsplein, Amsterdam, Winterland has moved to Hoofddorp. Until January 6, Dik Tromplein in Hoofddorp is a Winter Wonderland complete with icerink, Christmas Market and market stalls selling food and drinks.
For those seeking an authentic Weihnachtsmarkt atmosphere without having to cross over into Germany, Limburg is home to a number of large Christmas markets, most notably in Maastricht (30 November – 31 December) and Valkenburg (16 November – 23 December). Although a long day trip from Amsterdam, here you can get your fill of Christmas stalls, Glühwein, roasted chestnuts and seasonal music and dance entertainment, all with an equal serving of Dutch charm. Read more about Our Favourite Christmas Markets.
The Railway Museum Utrech has been transformed to a Winterstation, complete with icerink! Skates are free to rent and you can actually skate past the trains! There is face painting, an old fashioned merry-go-round and dads can enjoy a proper barber’s shave and cut. There is live music and lots of arts and crafts. Running until January 6.
Warm Hands Cold Feet
Dutch children’s entertainer Dirk Scheele is touring the country from 9 December and 4 January, from Heemstede to Eindhoven.
In both Groningen and The Hague, Carnivale consists of 25 magical acts to entertain the whole family. Think “The Parade” meets “Circus” meets “madness for the family”. The Hague 28-30 December, Groningen 21-23, 25 & 26 December and 2-6 January.
In Deventer, Dec 15 & 16 from 11am-5pm, the city centre is transformed back into the time of Dickens. Lots of actors will make you believe you have stepped back into time and as added bonus, the shops are open on Sunday and there is a Christmas Market. Entry is free but they are expecting a long cue at the entrance. Direct trains run from Amsterdam to Deventer.
From 22 December to 20 January a big icerink is located in front of famous hotel Kurhaus. Walk off some of the oliebollen on the beach and then skate a round on the rink.
On January 1 at 12pm tens of thousands of people will dive into the North Sea for the annual New Year’s Dive. Entry is EUR 2 and you get a goodie bag plus a much-needed bowl of green pea soup afterwards. Changing facilities on the beach, live entertainment and overall madness but it captures the essence of “gezellig” to be on that beach, even as an onlooker.
Open Air theatre with Anton Pieck & Dickens
Kampen, a quaint little town close to Zwolle, is transformed into a two day open air theater festival. Last year it drew 90.000 visitors. 21-22 December from 5pm-10pm.
Olga Grant / Amsterdam Mamas / Expatica
Photo credit: Stuck in Customs
Amsterdam Mamas is a not-for-profit organisation providing support and information for English speaking parents in the Amsterdam region and across the Netherlands. From small beginnings on Facebook the organisation has grown into a lively community of over 1,800 members with its own website, multiple events per month and regular newsletters circulating to hundreds of families each week.
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