The Netherlands is magical all year-round, however, December multiplies that feeling by 100%. Christmas lights everywhere, Christmas markets on every corner and Christmas trees that decorate many main squares in The Netherlands. But there are more things to do in The Netherlands in December than just discovering Christmas lights everywhere. I will tell you everything you have to do in The Netherlands during this winter month.
Explore The Netherlands in December, discover beautiful places and find why a real Dutch winter is so special. There are many places to visit in The Netherlands in winter and you will discover my local favourite activities during winter below. From free and cheap things to do in the provinces of Holland to must do’s in Amsterdam in December. And from winter festivals in The Netherlands to celebrating NYE in Rotterdam.
The best things to do in The Netherlands in December: Amazing places you have to visit in The Netherlands this winter
Here you will find some of the most beautiful and best places in The Netherlands that you must visit in winter, and every other season. You can add all these activities and things to do in The Netherlands in December to your The Netherlands winter itinerary.
Discover anything from the best day trips from Amsterdam in Winter to things to do in winter in Amsterdam. And a cool winter festival in The Netherlands to the best Dutch Christmas markets in The Netherlands. All these tips will show you what there’s to do during a Dutch winter and how you can enjoy The Netherlands during the winter holidays.
1. Visit the Amsterdam Light Festival
The Amsterdam Light Festival is one of the things you have to do in winter and December in Amsterdam. Every year there is a different theme and artists from all around the world create the most spectacular art installations in the canals of Amsterdam. While you can walk the route of the Amsterdam Light Festival I would recommend you to jump in a canal boat and see the lights from the water. You can find around 20 pieces of art in the canals.
It’s truly a spectacular sight and usually takes place from the from the end of November until the third week of January. The light will be lit daily from 17:00 – 23:00. So be sure to go on a canal tour at the right time. And it’s also one of the great things to do in Amsterdam at Christmas.
2. Celebrate New Year’s Eve in The Netherlands
There are many great cities in The Netherlands where you can celebrate New Year’s Eve, but there are a couple of destinations that are my favourite. Whether you’re looking for a big city to celebrate NYE in The Netherlands or a smaller city, I have the best recommendations for you.
- Rotterdam: Rotterdam is easily the best place to celebrate New Year’s Eve in The Netherlands. The National Fireworks in The Netherlands takes place here and there are many great parties throughout Rotterdam.
- Deventer: The city of Deventer has many great things to do and for the first time Deventer also has a firework show for its inhabitants. The city is located at the banks of the Ijssel river and from here you will see a beautiful firework show in The Netherlands.
- Amsterdam: Of course, the capital of The Netherlands cannot miss on this list. Amsterdam has many great things to do during NYE. If you want to party after the fireworks during NYE in Amsterdam, but have a small budget, visit the Nieuwmarkt and Rembrandtplein for street parties.
- Maastricht: If you’re visiting Maastricht during New Year’s Eve, then you can not miss the firework show that is held on the Maas (Meuse) river. Maastricht is such a cosy city that makes visiting it during NYE even better.
3. Dance your Christmas food away on second Christmas day
In The Netherlands, we celebrate three days of Christmas: Christmas Eve, First Christmas Day and Second Christmas Day. On the Second Christmas Day, many people go out and celebrate Christmas during one of the many parties in The Netherlands. The only problem is that many clubs sell a certain number of tickets and are often sold out. But, luckily there are cafes and bars in every Dutch city that you can enter without a ticket. So, in the end, there’s nothing to worry about.
4. Explore the best Dutch Christmas markets
The Netherlands is not very famous for having the best Christmas markets in Europe. But, we have many great Dutch Christmas markets that make your trip to The Netherlands extra special during December. From the Christmas markets in Amsterdam to the Dickens fest in the Hanseatic city of Deventer. And from a Christmas market in caves to a floating Dutch Christmas market. We truly have it all in The Netherlands and I’m sure that you will adore them.
5. Eat Dutch oliebollen until you can’t eat them anymore
Oliebollen are one of my favourite things about winter in The Netherlands. You will see food stalls with tasty, warm oliebollen at many street corners, on markets and inside cities. You can only find oliebollen at this time of the year in The Netherlands, except for funfairs as these oliebollen stalls are there during the entire year. They are crunchy, warm and very tasty.
I know, you must wonder: ‘Manon, this all sounds great and I’m ready to eat. But what the hell are oliebollen?! I’m getting there. Oliebollen are some short of dumpling that is made by using an ice cream scoop with dough into a deep fryer filled with vegetable oil. When the dough falls in the deep fryer a sphere-shaped oliebol forms.
The oliebollen dough is made from flour, eggs, yeast, salt, milk and baking powder. Currants or raisins are often added as well. The earliest discovered recipe came out a Dutch cookbook from the year 1667.
6. Find some of the most beautiful nature reserves and national parks in The Netherlands
Nature in The Netherlands might not be as grand or spectacular as in countries such as Indonesia, Brazil or Rwanda, but you will find some of Europe’s most special nature reserves and national parks in The Netherlands. The Netherlands currently has 21 National Parks and hundreds of nature reserves.
There are endless of beautiful regions I would urge you to visit in The Netherlands, but the National Park of the island Schiermonnikoog is where you can see some of the majestic beauty that The Netherlands has to offer. Almost the entire Dutch West Frisian island of Schiermonnikoog is a national park and there’s a good reason for it. It is one of the wildest areas in The Netherlands and the Wadden Island Schiermonnikoog is formed by current, wind and sand.
7. Drink a hot chocolate, with whipped cream
After exploring parts of The Netherlands in December, you will be a bit chilly. It’s time to enter a cosy, and warm, Dutch cafe to warm your body. What I mainly love about the December month, and other chilly months in The Netherlands, is that the cafes get cosier every time you enter a new one. So sit down, hang your coat on your chair, order some hot chocolate and stare out of the window at the people passing by and admire the beautiful town from inside a warm place.
8. Get your ice skates on and skate to your dreams
Ice skating is something that most Dutch people know how to do, it has simply become a Dutch tradition during winter. And as a visitor to my awesome country, you have to experience ice skating as well. Whether it’s at a small ice rink in The Netherlands or a big one, you will have a blast. Even if you’re Bambi.
Don’t worry about falling, there are chairs or other objects that you can borrow if you’re not confident on ice skates. Bring a few coins of 50 cents and 1 euro with you if you are not a confident skater, as they often have to be placed in the objects, but you get that back after you return it.
And you can rent ice skates at every icerink, so your excuse of not having them is thrown out of the window. When you want to rent skates, be sure to bring your id or passport. You often need to give them an id and you will always get it back after you give the skates back. If you want to ice skate always bring gloves as you aren’t allowed to enter the ice on most icerinks in The Netherlands without them.
Some of the best ice rinks in The Netherlands are:
- Amsterdam: Jaap Eden Baan
- Hoorn: De Westfries
- Alkmaar: De Meent
- Heerenveen: Thialf
9. Eat the best typical Dutch winter food: Stamppot
Now I know, the Dutch cuisine is not in everyone’s best book. But there are some amazing and tasty comfort foods to be found in the traditional Dutch kitchen. Stamppot is one of those hearty and tasty things. It is mashed potatoes with any sort of vegetable. It could be mashed potato with, for instance, kale or carrots and onion. This is usually combined with sausage or any other kind of meat.
There are great traditional Dutch restaurants in Amsterdam where you can enjoy a fresh and tasty meal from the Dutch kitchen. I would recommend you to visit the Dutch restaurants of Restaurant ‘t Zwaantje or Haesje Claes in Amsterdam.
10. Go on a husky tour through the hills in Limburg
The first thing that springs to mind when you ask anyone about things to do in The Netherlands in December is certainly not this. But it’s very real. You can go on a husky tour through the forests and hills in Koningslust, Limburg. This tour in Limburg only takes place during winter in The Netherlands. In the morning you will get to know the husky’s and will get to know information about the husky’s, the husky tour and the sport. Then you will get a tasty lunch. And after lunch it’s showtime.
The Huskies will be placed in front of the sledge, and you can also help with doing this. After that, the husky safari in The Netherlands can start. A quad will drive in front of the sledges. The price for a day of husky activities in The Netherlands is 89,50 euros per person. You can also learn everything about the huskies and the sport without going on a husky tour in The Netherlands yourself. This will cost you 50 euros per person.
Huskies are very active dogs and need to have enough activity to thrive. They love running and doing this. The people at the company take good care of these dogs. After the husky tour, you will head back to the headquarters for a drink and a bite, and the dogs will be rewarded with some tasty bites. The entire day lasts around 6 hours.
Don’t forget to wear, or bring, comfortable clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty or wet. Gloves, a thick sweater and a pair of thick socks are also recommended. You can wash and change yourself at the location of the husky tour in Limburg.
11. Discover why kruidnoten are everyone’s favourite small cookie
Kruidnoten, spice nuts is its literal translation, are small round, crispy cookies that are part of the Sinterklaas festivities in The Netherlands. They are made of flour, butter, brown sugar, pepper, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom and nutmeg. And since Sinterklaas leaves The Netherlands after the 5th of December, these kruidnoten are on sale at every supermarket after the 5th of December. Buy the ones from the brand ‘Bolletje’, they are the best kruidnoten in The Netherlands. Very similar are speculaas cookies, which can be found in The Netherlands throughout the year, but are traditionally eaten during December. The best speculaas can be found in bakeries and they only sell them during the winter festivity period.
12. Drink the best seasonal Dutch craft beers
The beer industry in The Netherlands offers more than Heineken, Amstel and Bavaria. There are hundreds of small breweries across The Netherlands and together they all produce something special. During the winter season in The Netherlands dark beers are the seasonal beers to try, or bockbier as we call them in Dutch. These beers have a higher percentage of alcohol and are quite heavy. But since you’re in The Netherlands in December anyway, you can try them.
Some of the best Dutch bock beer can be found at breweries such as Brouwerij Maximus in Utrecht. Bierbrouwerij De Roos in Hilvarenbeek. But any Dutch brewery that you can visit has an amazing beer.
13. Get chilly and explore ice sculptures in Zwolle
The best ice sculpting artists from all over the world make their way to Zwolle. They will work their magic with 275.000 kilograms of ice and 275.000 kilograms of snow. Their creations will be part of the theme ‘travel through time’ and you can discover sculptures of 6 meters high.
There are timeslots for everyone who wants to buy tickets. You can enter the venue at a certain date and time, but you decide for how long you’re staying in the venue as there is no specific time for that.
The Dutch Ice Sculpture Festival usually takes place from the middle of December until the end of February/ first few days of March.
14, Warm up in one of the botanical gardens in The Netherlands
There are dozens of botanical gardens in The Netherlands that you can visit. And visiting a botanical garden is one of my favourite things to do in The Netherlands in December, mainly because it’s nice and warm inside parts of the gardens. Discover and learn about different plants and trees that were brought to The Netherlands recently or centuries ago.
The oldest botanical garden in The Netherlands can be found in Leiden. The Hortus Botanicus in Leiden dates back to 1590 and visiting this garden is one of the top and best things you can do in Leiden.
15. Visit the best Dutch theme park: Winter Efteling
Efteling is my favourite Dutch theme park. I have great memories of when I went as both a kid and a teenager. But honestly, no matter what age you are, the Efteling will also be your favourite Dutch theme park in The Netherlands. This theme park is located in the province of Noord- (North) Brabant.
The Efteling is a magical theme park that is focused on storytelling and fairy tales. Every attraction has a story behind it. During the winter season, the Efteling turns wintery and becomes the Winter Efteling where there’s hot chocolate galore, an ice rink, tons of decorations and plenty of other festive activities.
16. Travel through The Netherlands with a winter road trip
If you’re a fan of Christmas markets, this one is for you! There is so much more to The Netherlands than Amsterdam, which you know if you’re familiar with my website. And during this 10-day winter road trip itinerary in The Netherlands, we will be making our way to some of the best Dutch Christmas markets, destinations and hidden gems in The Netherlands.
From magical Dutch castles to discovering the best Dutch Christmas markets. And from walking through the most idyllic Dutch streets to shop ’till you drop in the most beautiful places in The Netherlands.
17. Buy the best Dutch chocolate letters
Another thing that is part of the Sinterklaas festivities is a chocolate letter. We used to put our shoe, with a carrot or anything else for the horse of Sinterklaas, in front of the fireplace or anywhere else in the house. At night Sinterklaas and his helpers (I always preferred the helpers as Sinterklaas was scary to me) would give you a little present and/ or a chocolate letter.
Also, after the celebration ends on the 5th of December they are in the sale. So, get yourself a tasty and cheap chocolate letter and I can guarantee you that your trip to The Netherlands in December will be even better.
18. Discover the best indoor museums in The Netherlands
The Netherlands is home to hundreds of museums. From small regional Dutch museums to internationally renowned museums. Whether you’re looking to discover history or art, there is a great Dutch museum in The Netherlands waiting for you to explore it. Some of my favourite museums in The Netherlands can be found below.
- WestFries Museum in the city of Hoorn
- Museum Volkenkunde in the city of Leiden
- Gronings Museum in the city of Groningen
- Portuguese Synagogue in the city of Amsterdam
- Kunsthal in the city of Rotterdam
19. Visit the only vegan Christmas market in The Netherlands
The only vegan Christmas market in The Netherlands can be found in the city of Groningen. Here you can discover a cosy Christmas market with vegan glühwein, great food trucks, hot chocolate, live music and plenty of more. Shop the best sustainable and fairtrade Christmas gifts at this market in Groningen, The Netherlands.
The vegan Christmas market usually takes place in Groningen around the week of the 20th of December from 12:00 – 18:00. There’s no admission fee.
20. Explore Archeon during winter
Archeon is an open-air museum in The Netherlands. This museum shows The Netherlands in prehistoric, Roman and medieval times. So if you’re a fan of history and historic towns, then the Archeon is a perfect museum to visit. There are 43 buildings, farms and cabins to discover. You will see the first farmers, Hunebed builders and hunters. A blacksmith, baker and weaver. And plenty of more people. They are all working and doing their usual activities as they used to do in a certain era.
21. Head back into time with a visit to one of the best Dutch castles
Something very interesting to me is that we have quite a few beautiful Dutch castles that you can visit in The Netherlands, but not many people are aware of them. The Muiderslot and the De Haar castle are the two most popular and known Dutch castles in The Netherlands, but there are more castles to explore.
The history of The Netherlands goes back to centuries ago and it was an area where a lot of battles were fought. The region was often under a lot of pressure of other tribes, lords and emperors. Thus fortifications of cities and the construction of castles happened quite early on. Unfortunately, many of the Dutch castles have been destroyed, but, luckily for us, there are still dozens left to explore!
22. Visit one of the best open-air museums in The Netherlands
Just as indoor museums, there are also many open-air and outdoor museums to visit in The Netherlands. Now, you might think ‘It’s December Manon, what the hell are you thinking?!’ But one of the best open-air museums in The Netherlands creates a special winter festival and activities in the museum. Think of making fruit syrup, winter concerts, a small funfair and plenty of other things.
The Netherlands open-air museum is home to over 153.000 objects and will show you the history of The Netherlands. As you walk through the museum you will travel back in time. Fun fact: This museum is the most popular in The Netherlands outside Amsterdam. This special winter period takes place from around the beginning of December until the middle of January.
23. Get pampered in a wellness
I am a big fan of lounging in a spa and relax every muscle in my body. Especially when the weather is chilly it’s very nice to get completely warm and simply do nothing. Everyone deserves those days sometimes. Dutch wellness resorts are pretty nice, in my opinion. But I have to warn you if you’re not comfortable with being naked (yes completely naked), then there are in general only one or two days in the week that you can visit a spa as there are special swimwear days. But honestly, everybody has a body. And they are all perfectly fine.
One of my favourite Dutch wellness resorts and spas is Spa Zuiver in Amsterdam.
24. Enjoy the offseason in The Netherlands at the Dutch West Frisian Islands
I’ve talked briefly about the National Park on the Wadden Island of Schiermonnikoog, but there are more Dutch islands to visit in the North of The Netherlands. And especially during December as it’s low season, even though it is stunning.
And I can tell you something. Visiting one of the Wadden Islands during the low season is beyond amazing. Barely any people on the beaches, villages and nature reserves. Although there are quite some companies that close their doors, there are still plenty of things to do on the Dutch islands during winter. And if you just prefer to clear your head and get outdoors, then visiting the islands in The Netherlands during winter is a great idea as well. Breath fresh air and feel the Dutch winter sun on your chilly face.
25. Be blown away by the beauty of unknown destinations within The Netherlands
The Netherlands is home to hundreds of beautiful villages, small towns and cities. And while December is a chilly month in The Netherlands I’m sure that you won’t mind walking through picturesque Dutch cities without many tourists.
There are endless destinations you have to visit in the province of Friesland, but also Limburg. Incredible places are waiting for you to visit in Overijssel, Utrecht and the rest of The Netherlands.
I have created an article with 30 incredible places you must visit in The Netherlands, especially during low season. You can thank me later.
26. Time travel and visit the historical spectacle in Den Ham
I’m a huge sucker for these kinds of historical spectacles. In Den Ham, you can go back in time and discover a certain event that took place between the 17th and 19th century. Every year this historical spectacle in The Netherlands has a different theme and a different year. Around 150-200 actors will take you back into time.
Here you can find the themes of the historical play Den Ham and explanations in Dutch. This way you can understand most of what is happening (So use Google Translate to understand the theme).
You are not allowed to bring alcoholic drinks into the village of Den Ham during the historic spectacle and there is an entry fee of 7,50 euros for anyone older than 16.
Parking is free at the following addresses: Ommerweg 27, Marleseweg 15.
During the historical play, there is also a winter market that takes place from 13:00 – 20:00. Here you can buy the best seasonal and regional products, as well as beautiful Christmas and winter decorations. So don’t forget to explore the stalls of the market in Den Ham when you’re there!
In Den Ham the historical spectacle usually takes place in the first or second weekend of December from 13:00- 20:00.
27. Eat our traditional Dutch pea soup
We are headed back to another staple of the Dutch winter cuisine: Snert or erwtensoep in Dutch translates to pea soup. Pea soup is a filling soup that people in The Netherlands usually eat as the main course during dinner. It is made from green split peas, different cuts of pork, celery, onions, carrots, leeks, potato and some slices of rookworst (smoked sausage) that are added just before serving.
Dutch pea soup is traditionally eaten during winter as it is a very filling, hearty and warm meal with ingredients that were easy to find in The Netherlands during winter. It is often served with Fries roggebrood or Frisian rye bread. On top of the rye bread, there is either katenspek (a variety of bacon that has been cooked and smoked), cheese or butter.
If you’re interested in trying out this winter dish from the Dutch kitchen, then I can recommend you to visit Restaurant Moeders in Amsterdam. You won’t be disappointed.
28. See seals during a safari
Seals are one of my favourite animals. I mean, have you seen them? Cute faces, playful creatures and they swim all day. And when they don’t swim, they relax or sleep. That sounds like my kind of life. I can imagine that you’re very interested in seeing seals in The Netherlands as well and one of the best options is to go on a seal safari.
During a seal safari, you will be on a boat sailing in a seal rich area. You won’t go too close to the boat, so no animals will be disturbed or hurt. One of the best cities to get on a seal safari in The Netherlands is Zierikzee. This beautiful city in the province of Zeeland has a great tour operator that will take you on a two-hour tour to spot seals.
29. Be mesmerized by the winter fireworks in The Hague/ Den Haag
One of the top things to do in The Hague in winter and December is to watch the winter fireworks at the beach of Scheveningen. It usually takes place on the first four Sundays in December at 18:00 in front of the Amrâth Kurhaus, you will be able to watch a beautiful firework show. The show is free the watch, but remember that if the weather is very bad it doesn’t take place.
I would recommend you to visit the beach of Scheveningen either with public transport or by bike. Find the best route at 9292ov.nl/en
30. Find the lights and candles at night in cities across The Netherlands
During the December month, there are many things to do in The Netherlands. And if you’re looking for cosy things to do in The Netherlands during winter, then I would recommend you to visit one of the cities I’m recommending you below. During one or a few days in the year, several cities have an event where they light up candles or other lights throughout the city. Admire the cosy Dutch cities during December and discover the cities in the evening.
If you visit any of these cities and want to go for dinner in the evening, make a reservation in advance. Otherwise, there’s a big chance that you won’t be able to go out for dinner.
The dates for this year aren’t known just yet
- Lichtjesavond Delft: 8th of December 2020, 16:00 – 22:00. De Markt in Delft is the centre of the event, from here several walking routes make their way through the city of Delft. Have a look at the walking routes in Delft here.
- Kaarsjesavond Nieuwpoort: 9th of December 2020, 16:00 – 21:00. The entire historic and fortified Dutch city of Nieuwpoort is where the event takes place. At 19:00 the candles are lit.
- Gouda bij Kaarslicht: 11th of December 2020, events take place during the entire day, but between 18:30 and 20:00 the Christmas tree will be illuminated at the Markt. Find the full information, including walking route in Gouda here.
- Kaarsjesavond Schiedam: 12th of December 2019, 17:00 – 21:00. At 19:30 the opening show takes place on the Grote Markt in Schiedam and the Christmas tree will be illuminated. Don’t forget to visit the Lange Kerkstraat for great food.
- Enkhuizen bij Kaarslicht: 21st of December 2019, 17:00 – 21:00. From 19:00- 21:00 the street lights in Enkhuizen won’t shine their lights. Instead, candles will be shining throughout Enkhuizen. It doesn’t get any more magical than this. The starting point is the Westerkerk.
31. Get your knowledge out and shine bright like a diamond in a pub quiz
There is seriously nothing better to do than entering a Dutch cafe, ordering a beer and participate in a quiz. And, of course, winning is key as well. You might just enjoy a quiz as it’s fun, unfortunately, while I like the fun, I also get very competitive and hate losing. So there’s that. Maybe don’t join a pub quiz if you’re a sore loser like me. But I would seriously recommend you to join in with the fun if you can handle it.
A cosy and warm bar, fun questions, Dutch snacks and prizes are a perfect combination for a chilly December day in The Netherlands. Visiting a pub quiz is one of the things you have to do in Amsterdam in December. So if you don’t know where to go in Amsterdam in December, visit Cafe Thijssen. Every Monday from 20:00- 23:00 there’s a pub quiz and the questions are asked in both Dutch and English. It cost around 2,50 euros per person to participate in this pub quiz in Amsterdam. And it’s more than worth it.
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Other amazing places and destinations to visit in The Netherlands and Holland
The best day trips from Utrecht
The best day trips from Amsterdam
The best day trips from Rotterdam
The best day trips from Groningen
I hope that you have discovered many great things to do in The Netherlands in December and that this has helped you with creating your The Netherlands December itinerary. This things to do in December has taken you anywhere from Amsterdam to Groningen. And from Maastricht to Hoorn. I hope you will enjoy the winter holidays in The Netherlands and that you have a trip of a lifetime. Share this post!!
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