Amsterdam, I love you every season, but there is something special about Amsterdam in winter. (Guide updated in December,2023)
We have visited this incredible city many times, and there is always something new to see and do, and each season brings a unique experience. So the first thing I can tell you is three days in Amsterdam will fly by, trust me!
Most of the places to visit in Amsterdam, Netherlands, are open all year round, so why should you choose to travel to Amsterdam in November, December, or any other winter months?
The answer is easy:
Amsterdam in winter is stunning! Plus, you can avoid the huge summer crowds, experience that lovely Christmas feeling, and be part of a beautiful festival.
There are many cool things to do in Amsterdam in winter, in fact, Amsterdam is one of our favorite cities in Europe! It’s open-minded and packed with art, culture, good food and incredible architecture.
How many days in Amsterdam?
On our many trips to Amsterdam, we spent different amounts of days, from a weekend getaway to over seven days there.
I can say that by spending 3 days in Amsterdam you can explore the city’s best attractions and some local spots. But of course, if you can stay longer the better.
Now let’s get down to business. Here is our 3-day Amsterdam Winter itinerary, a mix of tourist spots, personal recommendations, winter activities and travel trips.
Important Info: this is a long Amsterdam Winter Guide and we’ll answer:
- What are the top things to do in Amsterdam in winter?
- Where to stay in Amsterdam during the colder months?
- How cold does it get in Amsterdam? How to be prepared?
- How to get around Amsterdam?
- Why you should buy an I Amsterdam city card? How to use it?
- More travel tips to Amsterdam.
Things to do in Amsterdam Winter Season
As I said, there are tons of things to do and places to visit in Amsterdam, especially in the coldest months.
Our list is a selection of fun things to do in Amsterdam, unique experiences, and incredible museums we visited there and that we think are worth adding to your itinerary.
We’ll start with one of the most iconic winter activities in Amsterdam, and later we talk about museums, architecture and more.
Ice Skating in Amsterdam
During Amsterdam winter some of the canals become an ice skating rink and it’s an incredible experience. But keep in mind that not every frozen canal is an ice rink, you need to be sure it’s safe and that you can do it, better to follow the locals and keep an eye on the news.
On the other hand, the ICE* Amsterdam opens every winter and it’s fun for all ages. The beautiful ice rink is located at the Museumplein (Museum Square) in front of the Rijksmuseum Museum.
You can go there for ice skating, to have some drinks with friends and Dutch winter food. Even if you don’t like (or don’t know how to ) ice skating it’s still great fun.
Amsterdam Light Festival
During our winter trip to Amsterdam, we experienced the Amsterdam Light Festival which happens from December to January. And I would recommend you to visit it as many nights as possible.
Big and colorful light installations brighten up the canals at night, the bridges and some buildings. You can follow the illuminated walking route and discover some of the light sculptures on foot or do a boat tour to see the installations.
There are many installations all over the city, it’s quite hard to see all of them in one night unless you are brave enough to spend many hours walking in the cold nights.
What we did was have dinner and a few drinks, then go to see the lights from the Festival and also the Christmas festive lights. We spent all our nights doing this, and it was amazing.
Another option is to join one of the Amsterdam Light Festival Cruise with Unlimited Drinks, click on the name to check out the tour.
Walk around the city and explore the unique architecture
Amsterdam has a distinctive architecture, narrow buildings with big windows and leaning facades. The city is a perfect example of architectural pornography, with pretty buildings, cute bridges, floating houses and beautiful people everywhere.
I know we are talking about traveling to Amsterdam in wintertime, but one of the things you must do is to walk around and contemplate the unique beauty of the city.
My suggestion is to stroll around the city and have some strategic stops at the museums we are mentioning below. This way you can have a break from the cold temperatures and experience Amsterdam as a whole.
Don’t forget to wander around Jordaan, Pijp neighborhoods, and Dam Square, which are close to the Amsterdam city center.
Our fave museums in Amsterdam
Below is a list of the best museums in Amsterdam, you can choose the ones that you like the most and add to your trip. The list starts with famous museums and then we add our faves.
Some of them are included on the I Amsterdam Card which is a money-saving option. I’ll explain more about the card later on.
Talking about saving money, don’t forget to read our Amsterdam Travel Costs Guide here. Now back to the museums.
Rijksmuseum is the largest collection and most famous of all museums in the Netherlands. Its collections and exhibitions will surpass your expectations. The museum is crowded even during winter, so buy your ticket online to save time.
The best times to visit the museum are before 10 AM and after 3 PM. There is also an online booking that allows you to skip the line.
- Van Gogh Museum
Another place that you need to visit during your 3 days in Amsterdam. The Van Gogh Museum treasures a stunning collection of over 200 paintings, sketches, drawings and notes left by one of Netherlands’ favorite painters. Divided into 7 different periods, the collection presents the progress of the artist, as well as his mental collapse.
- Anne Frank Museum
Visiting the Anne Frank Museum is a very special and touching experience. This famous writer described in her personal diary the horrors three Jewish families went through during the Holocaust, hiding from Nazis in a house in Amsterdam.
A visit to the Anne Frank Museum is one of the top things to do in Amsterdam and the queue to buy the tickets and enter the museum are huge and last for hours. The smartest option is to book the ticket online and arrive early, if you miss your visit slot you will need to queue to enter.
The tickets are sold out one month in advance, so as soon as you buy your flights to Amsterdam go online and make your booking for the Anne Frank Museum. In addition to the museum, consider joining this tour to learn more about Anne Frank.
If you like history and different museums, the next ones are really interesting and not so famous among tourists. Even better, they have free entrance with the I Amsterdam Card and you can reach them by tram or a few minutes walking through the old town.
- Foam – Photography Museum
Foam is a photography museum in Amsterdam where you can find all kinds of photography and different genres by local and international artists. The museum is inside a traditional Dutch canal house, perfect to get to know a bit more of Amsterdam’s iconic architecture.
- Amsterdam Museum
Amsterdam Museum (click here to get your skip the line ticket) gives you a unique experience of discovering the city through time, getting to know its past, present and future. The different exhibitions, tours and presentations will help you understand why Amsterdam is such a unique city.
- Stadsarchief Museum
Stadsarchief Museum or the Amsterdam City Archives is a place where you can dig into the history of the city, relevant documents and important historical papers that shaped Dutch culture and life. You can also find temporary exhibitions and different activities.
- NEMO Science Museum
NEMO Science Museum is an experience that will bring fun and joy to the cold Amsterdam winter. No matter if you are an adult or a kid, you can take part in the exhibitions and experiments that will make you feel like a child again.
Got more time in the Netherlands? Go for a day trip to Rotterdam – here is your guide
More things to do in Amsterdam in Winter
We are done with museums, let’s talk about other fun things to do in Amsterdam during winter.
Amsterdam Boat Tour and Canal Cruise
Another must-do in Amsterdam in winter is to go on a boat tour through the canals. I would suggest doing the boat cruise around 4 pm so you can see the sunset from the boat.
The boat tour itself is a delightful experience, but it becomes even more special when the soft light of the sun makes the big windows of the beautiful canal houses shine like gold.
The boat rides are a good break from Amsterdam’s chilly weather, as the covered boats are heated and cozy.
Many companies offer boat cruises in Amsterdam canals and many of them will give you an hour cruise for free with I Amsterdam Card. It’s a quick tour that will take you to the famous canals and it’s worth doing.
However, if you fancy something truly special, you can do an evening Pizza Boat Cruise or a Cheese Boat Tour. Another possibility is The Bulldog Boat Smoke-Friendly Winter Cruise. In Amsterdam the possibilities are endless.
Heineken Experience is a true national monument in Amsterdam and a part of the European industrial heritage. When the brewery moved from here to Zoeterwoude, the building was completely renovated and turned into the Heineken Experience.
You can book your tickets in advance here, or if you have the I Amsterdam Card the simple visit is free. Keep in mind that Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays are the busiest days so you might need to queue for a bit.
For an extraordinary experience check out this Amsterdam: City Canal Cruise and Heineken Experience Ticket or this Exclusive Heineken Experience VIP Tour Ticket.
Visit the Dam Square
A trip to Amsterdam is not complete without one (or more) stop at the iconic Dam Square. You will find at this central square many places to visit, and a meeting point for locals and tourists.
Here are the landmarks and activities that happen at Dam Square and you can’t. miss:
- Royal Palace: it’a a 17th century palace that once was Amsterdam Town Hall. Today you can visit its interior and have a glimpse of the opulent past of the city.
- Nieuwe Kerk: it dates back to the 15th century, it was a regular church where coronations and royal weddings happened, but today is a place for exhibitions, concerts and events. We saw amazing photo exhibitions there including the World Press Photo Exhibition. This place is incredible.
- National Monument: It’s an obelisk commemorates the Dutch victims of World War II. You will see that it is a meeting point for younger people with many street food carts around.
- A place to shop: there are many shops around Dam Square selling everything you can imagine, from souvenirs to local brands and boutique shops. The De Bijenkorf is a famous department store and a must-visit for shopaholics. Take a stroll down Kalverstraat, Amsterdam’s main shopping street, or explore the luxury boutiques in the nearby Magna Plaza shopping center.
- Don’t miss the winter events: as we are talking about winter in Amsterdam, Dam Square is a must-visit. There you can find one of the many Christmas Markets in Amsterdam in December. It’s also one of the places to see the Light Festival and in other seasons it’s a meeting point for the Pride Amsterdam and other events.
Stroll around Vondelpark
Vondelpark is a natural oasis of the city and its largest park. Less crowded in the winter, it’s nice to walk around or sip a cup of warm coffee in some of the nearby cafes. You will see many couples strolling around the park, Amsterdam is a romantic city after all.
The park becomes a winter wonderland when it’s snowing. Saturdays and Sundays are perfect for watching artists performing, so keep an eye on the Vondelpark event calendar because there is always something happening at the park.
IJ-Hallen Flea Market
IJ-Hallen Flea Market is a place where you can find countless second-hand items at affordable prices. If you like treasure hunting and love to bargain, this is the place for you.
It is one of the biggest flea markets in Europe and it happens once or twice a month. When planning your itinerary for 3 days in Amsterdam, check on their website when it will be the next market and book a ticket. There is a small entrance fee.
Red Light District, Coffee Shops and Cannabis
We can’t plan a trip to Amsterdam without talking about the Red Light District and the Coffeeshops.
Amsterdam is a melting pot of cultures, beliefs and behavior. Doesn’t matter if you like it or not, you should look at it with open eyes and no prejudice.
The iconic Red Light district has shining windows and ladies offering a warm welcome to the city. During your days in Amsterdam, take one evening and go explore the streets of the district, drink a beer at one of the bars, visit the local design shops and appreciate some of the oldest buildings in town.
The Red Light District is not only about sex and prostitution, there are many more interesting things in this area. Just be aware of pickpockets, respect the girls and have fun!
Wanna get high in one of the coffee shops? Go for it!
Remember, buying weed inside the coffee shops is legal, smoking weed within the premises of the coffee shops is legal too.
Buying truffles at the head shops is also legal, but be careful of what you buy and how you use them. There are many weed and truffles specialist shops, before buying ask all the questions, and have all the info you need to have a fantastic time in Amsterdam.
Look after yourself, respect your limits, and follow the rules. Amsterdam is great fun, but don’t ruin your trip to this amazing city because you get wasted or break the law.
If you have any doubt about coffee shops, soft drugs and cannabis in Amsterdam read this easy guide: Amsterdam Rules and Regulation.
Amsterdam Clubs and Bars
Amsterdam has bars and clubs for all styles of travelers, check Resident Advisor and this page from I Amsterdam events for the best night out. If you are looking for techno clubs in Amsterdam, De School is a great option. Just be careful to not miss your flight the next morning. (not that happened to us. lol)
Where to eat and drink in Amsterdam Winter
In Amsterdam the options for food, drinks and bars are endless.
The city is very democratic and you can find places from high-end restaurants, to hipster cafes and unpretentious bars. Choose your style and go for it.
We discovered in our last 3 days in Amsterdam a few nice places, and I believe you might like them too. Check them out:
TEDS: good food and a local vibe
If it’s Sunday you must go to TEDS for brunch, if it’s another day of the week you should go there too. Delicious food, reasonable prices, and a great local atmosphere.
It’s a small cafe, so you might need to wait for a table, don’t give up, you will be rewarded with yummy food, and lovely drinks.
Café de Jaren: a great place for breakfast, lunch, and a quick bite
Located in the center of Amsterdam with canal views, Café de Jaren is a great place for a meal or a quick bite.
Apart from the beautiful location, the menu has something for everyone, from snacks to lunch and dinner, international cuisine and Dutch food, like the famous Bitterballen (crip meatballs) that goes really well with local beers.
Keep in mind that if you are traveling in a group, or if you want to have lunch or dinner during the weekend, reservation is advised. Also, they only accept cards.
FoodHallen: for lunch, happy hour and dinner
The first indoor food market in The Netherlands, the FoodHallen is a hip complex of gourmet street food (international and Dutch cuisine) served in a historical building. Go for lunch, afternoon snacks or happy hour.
You will find locals, expats, and a few tourists there.
Now that you know what to do in Amsterdam, places to add to your itinerary, and delicious places to eat, let’s talk about traveling to this incredible city in winter.
Where to stay in Amsterdam in Winter
If you travel to Amsterdam in winter you need to choose your hotel location wisely. On cold days you don’t want to spend a lot of time walking back to your hotel after a long day visiting Amsterdam tourist spots.
Also, you don’t want to spend a lot of time taking taxis or public transport, especially if you only have a weekend or 3 days in Amsterdam.
Even if you are traveling to Amsterdam any other season, a well-located hotel/accommodation can save you time and money (apart from public transportation, taxis and Uber in Amsterdam can be expensive).
The best bet is to choose a hotel in Amsterdam Centrum district. This is the central part of Amsterdam and comprises small neighborhoods like:
- Dam Square: dating from 1270 it’s packed with historic buildings and attractions.
- Jordaan: a picturesque and trendy area.
- Grachtengordel or Canal Belt: the famous houses lined up in front of the canal ring. Anne Frank House is located in this area.
- Spui: it offers a good mix of restaurants, cafes, and trendy shops and it’s close to the Amsterdam Museum, Flower Market, and Beginjhof, the historic wooden house.
- Rembrandtplein: it’s a lively place famous for its nightlife. Here you can find many bars, theaters and cafes. We stayed here on our last trip.
Of course, there are other areas to stay in Amsterdam that are unique and interesting. Also, as far as you go from the city center the cheaper hotels, apartments and hostels will be.
We travel in an affordable luxury style and love boutique hotels that don’t cost a fortune, so we choose to stay at Albus Hotel and love it.
Our hotel in Amsterdam
First I will give you my impressions about the Albus Hotel and why I think it’s one of the best places to stay in Amsterdam. Then I will give other options, hotel/hostels we also stayed in and others we visited.
Albus Hotel Amsterdam City Center – 4 star hotel (Very Good on Booking.com)
Located in the heart of Amsterdam, Albus Hotel is close to many museums, a walk distance to the central train station and Red Light District. What I liked was the sexy and intimate décor, so Amsterdam!
The service is great and you can have your own Heineken Torp machine in the room, perfect to get in the mood for your tour at Heineken Brewery.
Seriously, it can’t get better than this: comfy room, coffee machine, beer tap, and delicious breakfast. We stayed at the Large Family Suite and had a great time, the 2 PM check-out was a bonus too.
The Best hotels in Amsterdam
Pulitzer Amsterdam – 5 star hotel (Fabulous on Booking.com)
Treating yourself with a nice trip to Amsterdam, or maybe traveling as a couple? Then check out Pulitzer Hotel. The property consists of 25 interlinked canal houses from the 17th and 18th centuries.
It was newly restored and you can feel the 5 star touch and comfort everywhere.
A great mix of traditional and modern Dutch design, that you can see from the room decor to the restaurant menu.
Location is perfect, only 15 minutes walking to Anne Frank House, Dam Square and the Jordaan neighborhood.
Hotel Aalders – 3-star hotel (Fabulous on Booking.com)
The Aalders Hotel is a great option for those who want a strategic location for a good price. Rooms are on the small side, but the hotel is only 3 minutes walking to Van Gogh Museum and 6 minutes to Vondelpark.
You can book your room with or without breakfast, and the hotel offers a bar and free wifi.
Van Gogh Hotel – 3 star hotel (Very Good on Booking.com)
If you are traveling to Amsterdam on a budget, this might be a good option. On our first trip to Amsterdam, we stayed at the Van Gogh Hotel and liked it a lot, and the central location is great.
Clean, spacious, safe and close to 3 of the most visited museums in town (Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam). Plus you will be close to the outdoor rink for ice skating.
That time we were traveling with friends, so we got a 4-bed room and had it just for us. They also have private rooms.
Stayokay Hostel Amsterdam Vondelpark (Very Good on Booking.com)
For those who really want to save on accommodation, hostels are your best bet. But do your research because private rooms in hostels cost almost the same as in a hotel where you can have better amenities.
However, if you prefer to stay at a hostel in Amsterdam not only because of costs but also to interact with other travelers, then Stayokay Hostel Amsterdam Vondelpark is worth checking out.
It’s located in the city’s main park and only 8 minutes on foot to the Van Gogh Museum. It offers private rooms for singles and groups of people, and also mixed dorms. Don’t forget your padlock for the lockers.
If on your last day, you want to stay close to the airport to catch an early flight, there are a few hotels near Amsterdam Schiphol Airport that you can book.
If none of the Amsterdam hotels above shook your boat, my suggestion is to keep searching at Booking.com or Agoda, they have many options for accommodation in Amsterdam, and you can find some winter or mid-season deals.
Amsterdam in winter, how cold does it get?
In winter the temperatures in Amsterdam are between 0º to 5º C but the real feel can be as cold as -10ºC. When it snows, Amsterdam looks magical, like a fairytale city.
You will need a good winter coat, thermals, wool socks, and good gloves. But don’t fear the cold, if we – two Brazilians who were living in Thailand – survived the Amsterdam winter, you can do it too.
Here are the average temperatures in Amsterdam during the winter months and the average of rainy days per month:
November: 10° / 4° – 13 rainy days
December: 7° / 2° – 13 rainy days
January: 6° / 1° – 12 rainy days
February: 6° / 0° – 9 rainy days
As you saw above in the guide, there are plenty of things to do in Amsterdam in winter, the secret is to plan an itinerary mixing outdoor and indoor activities, some strategic stops to warm up, and have a coffee or beer.
How to get around Amsterdam during wintertime
Amsterdam is world-famous for bicycles and they are everywhere. Locals ride their bikes throughout the winter, facing the cold and snow, on the other hand, tourists tend to avoid them during the freezing months.
If you get a bit of sunshine during your 3 days in Amsterdam go for a bike ride, it’s a must. But don’t rely on it as a transportation mode, during the Amsterdam winter public transport is the best option.
Trams, buses, metro, trains, and ferries connect the whole city and Amsterdam attractions. It’s super easy to get around the city.
Before boarding a tram or bus you need to buy the ticket at the machines. To avoid the hassle and to travel freely across the city the best option is to purchase the I Amsterdam City Card, it saves time and money.
How to get and use the I Amsterdam Card
For our 3 days in Amsterdam, we got the I Amsterdam Card 72 hours,enjoyed free public transportation, free entrance to many of Amsterdam’s attractions (most of the places we mentioned above), and discounts on others.
If you are planning to visit more than 3 attractions in Amsterdam and use public transportation within the city, the investment on the card is worth it.
They have city cards from 24 hours up to 5 days.
It’s easy to get the card, you order it from the GetYourGuide website (where you can read the reviews) or from the I Amsterdam website, and choose which one you want [24h, 48h, 72h, 96h or 120. hours] and pay via credit card.
How to use the Amsterdam City Card:
- The I Amsterdam City Card is digital and after the purchase, to use it you need to download the I Amsterdam City Card App.
- You only activate your card when you are in Amsterdam and ready to use it, so you won’t lose any time.
- Some attractions, especially museums, require a timeslot to visit. Timeslots can be booked in advance (before activating your city card). Book your visits well in advance.
Don’t forget your Travel Insurance! You don’t want anything to ruin your trip, right? So don’t take the risk! Reliable travel insurance can help you in case of travel issues, from accidents to health problems, travel delays, and lost luggage.
Getting to Amsterdam, Netherlands
The last thing you need to know is how to travel to Amsterdam.
International and budget airlines fly to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. To search for the best flights use Skyscanner.
From the airport, there is a train that runs directly to the Amsterdam Central Station, and from there you can get a bus, tram or taxi to your hotel.
For those who are already in Europe and like to travel by train or bus, keep in mind that Amsterdam is very well connected.
Now you know what to do in Amsterdam in winter, the best hotels, and how to get around, it’s time to pack your bags and enjoy winter, the festive season and Amsterdam Christmas!
FYI, if you are traveling around the Netherlands, read all our Netherlands Guides and Travel Tips here.
Leave your thoughts and doubts in the comments below, and happy travels!
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