Visiting The Netherlands in winter is a great idea. You will experience the country in low season and will discover many areas without too many people visiting. There are many more things to do in The Netherlands and Holland in January than hoping for snow all day long.
Here you will discover what to do in January in The Netherlands and Holland. It includes typical Dutch things to do, things to do in Rotterdam in winter, things to do in The Netherlands outside of Amsterdam, places to visit in The Netherlands in January and nature in The Netherlands. Find the best and top things to do in The Netherlands in January in this winter travel guide for The Netherlands.
Best things to do and see in The Netherlands in January: Things to do in The Netherlands in winter in and outside of Amsterdam
If you’re wondering ‘does it get cold in The Netherlands?’ etc. then I would recommend you to read this article about the best winter coats and jackets for Amsterdam, Holland and The Netherlands in winter. You will see the average temperatures for January as well as other useful information.
The Netherlands is a beautiful country to visit, no matter what time of year you’re travelling here. Discover what to see in The Netherlands in January, best places to visit in The Netherlands in winter, things to do in January in Amsterdam and other things to do in the rest of The Netherlands in winter. Enjoy the article on things to do in January in The Netherlands below.
1. Amsterdam Light Festival
One of the things you have to do in Amsterdam during the winter is to visit the Amsterdam Light Festival. Every year from November until January, one of Amsterdam best things to do is to discover this winter festival in The Netherlands. There are light sculptures placed on a specific route in or above the canals. These sculptures are not only magical to see when they light up when the evening comes along, and this art is meaningful. Every year there is another theme where countless national and international artists work together to create something unique.
In 2019/2020 the festival takes place from the 26 Nov. 2020 – 17 Jan. 2021.
While visiting the festival itself is free, the best way to truly experience the Amsterdam Light Festival is by a canal cruise. And trust me when I say that it’s completely worth the payment.
Book your Amsterdam canal cruise – that involves gluhwein- here or, just go on a regular canal cruise in Amsterdam and discover the Amsterdam Light Festival by boat here
2. A canal tour through Den Bosch with hot chocolate
Den Bosch, or ‘s-Hertogenbosch, is a beautiful city in the province of Noord (North) Brabant. One of the things you have to do when you are spending one day in Den Bosch is to go on a canal tour. And if you’re planning on visiting ‘s-Hertogenbosch in winter, then you must go on a winter canal tour.
You will discover a nature reserve that is located near Den Bosch, as well as enjoy the beautiful city skyline of Den Bosch and plenty of other things. While you’re enjoying a hot chocolate or a traditional drink from the city of Den Bosch.
You can go on this tour every Thursday, Friday and Saturday until the end of March at 14:30. This canal cruise in ‘s-Hertogenbosch last one hour and costs 12,50 euros.
3. Eat the best Oliebollen
The best typical and traditional Dutch winter snack is the ‘oliebol’. When we translate that to English is becomes an oil dumpling. An oliebol is a piece of dough that is fried in vegetable oil until it has a crispy outer layer. The oliebollen are made from flour, yeast, milk, eggs and sometimes raisins. You can find oliebollen in The Netherlands at funfairs during the entire year, but you they’re a typical winter snack in The Netherlands. During the winter months, starting in December, oliebollen stalls will be everywhere in the country.
4. Watch a speedskating competition in Thialf
The Netherlands is one of the best countries to visit if you’re interested in speedskating. I could say it’s one of our national sports because we have been ice skating for centuries in The Netherlands. And when you watch any of the speedskating competitions, you will notice that these men and women are even faster than you thought they were.
Seeing a speedskating competition in The Netherlands can only be done during the winter, for obvious reasons. If it’s not obvious to you, just think about the differences in temperatures during summer and winter. The best location to visit for a Dutch speedskating competition has to be Thialf. This speedskating stadium is The Netherlands most famous indoor icerink and hosts National, European and World cups. You will see the creme de la creme of the ice skating world during one of the many events.
Visiting Thialf is one of the things you have to do in the province of Friesland during winter. When you’re looking at the website of Thialf you’d have to look out for the following events: NK, EK and World. These championships are the most interesting for you to watch.
5. Visit the Winter Efteling Dutch theme park
Some of my most favourite memories took place in the best Dutch theme park in The Netherlands, the Efteling. During winter, or actually from the middle of November until the first few days of February, the Efteling changes to a spectacular winter wonderland. From a fun ice rink, where you can fall as often on your butt as you please, to hot chocolate and snow. There are even bonfires where you can warm up your hands. You can also go cross-country skiing. Now if you still didn’t know what to do in The Netherlands in winter, then I hope that the Winter Efteling is at least somewhere on your mind.
6. Discover Midwinterhoornblazen
One of the typical Dutch winter traditions is midwinterhoorn blazen, or midwinter horn blowing. This is traditionally done in the Eastern part of The Netherlands. However, some other regions have also started to participate in the activity. Midwinterhoornblazen is when people blow handmade curved horns from birch or elder saplings that are at least one meter long. The horns produce a sort of low tone that can be heard for kilometres away.
Some people say that midwinterhoorn blazen started to help God Odin or Wodan with the hunt on the wolf Fenrir, who will eat the sun, or it will stay dark forever. Others think that midwinterhoornblazen was used to create fear for the dark spirits. And some people say that it refers to a Catholic tradition of when Christus was born.
It starts at the beginning of Advent and the final day is the 6th of January every year. One of the best places to discover one of the traditional Dutch winter activities and to experience Dutch Eastern culture at its best is in the Dutch region of Twente, more specific in Denekamp. It’s one of the things you have to see in The Netherlands in winter. You can find the dates, location and times in Dutch below.
7. Nijmeegse winterweken
Nijmegen is the oldest city in The Netherlands and is always beautiful to visit. But when you visit Nijmegen from the middle of December until the first few days in January, you will arrive in a stunning winter wonderland with many activities to do in Nijmegen. All these activities take place in the Stevenskerk.
The events differ daily but are all worth a visit. Think of doing a beer tasting in the basement of the Stevenskerk to concerts. The Stevenskerk in Nijmegen is opened during these weeks from Monday- Saturday 11:00-17:00 and Sunday 12:00-17:00.
8. Visit the Dutch Royal palace Het Loo during winter
One of the best Dutch Royal palaces to visit in The Netherlands is Het Loo. And during winter you can discover the gardens, interiors and estate of this Dutch palace. But that’s not all, because they decorate the Stables Square, along with other areas into a winter wonderland.
Go ice skating, do workshops or participate in plenty of other activities in the Palace Het Loo until the first few days in January. You can even learn about what a Royal festively laid table looks like, which includes enormous pies, skillfully folded serviettes, spun sugar pieces and royal desserts to flower arrangements, menus and dinner services.
9. Flea markets galore in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is home to many markets that you should visit. And if you’re a conscious traveller visiting Amsterdam, then you’re going to love this activity in Amsterdam in winter. At the Ij-Hallen, or Ij halls, in Amsterdam, you can find the biggest flea market in Europe several times a month. You will be able to find anything that you want here. From furniture to second hand clothing. And from paintings to vintage items. There’s truly something for everyone here.
The Archeon is an outdoor museum in The Netherlands that showcases the country during prehistoric, Roman and medieval times. And while that might sound not so appealing to visit in a Dutch winter, you’re wrong about that sentiment. A winter in The Netherlands can be anything from mild to freezing. So when it’s at least dry, the outdoor museum of the Archeon is great to visit.
And from around the 20th December until the the second week of January, the Archeon will give you the nice winter wonderland vibes that you’re craving. There are 43 buildings, farms and cabins that are decorated for the winter and occupied by the residents, that you can all visit. So while it’s an outdoor museum, most of the things will take place inside.
11. Find the best art at ArtArnhem
For my artsy visitors, I can recommend you to visit the city of Arnhem in January. In the middle of January, Art Arnhem takes place. Here you will see the works of around 75 selected artists in one of the most beautiful buildings in Arnhem. These artists have brought over 600 works of art for you to admire.
You do have to buy a ticket to gain entry, which includes witnessing the incredible pieces of art, some drinks and entrance to the biggest gallery in The Netherlands: the Eusebius church in Arnhem. A ticket for Art Arnhem costs 7 euros, and this event in Arnhem usually takes place on the second weekend in January.
Get your ice skates on! Or rent them, because I don’t assume you’ve brought skates on your winter trip in January to The Netherlands. Winter in The Netherlands means that ice-skating streams through most Dutchies blood. Ice skating is something that most Dutch people know how to do, and it has become a Dutch tradition during winter.
Don’t worry about falling on your butt; there are chairs or other objects that you can borrow if you’re not confident on ice skates. And even if you fall, who cares? As long as you’re having fun, that’s all that matters. 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
13. Visit the best music festival in Groningen
One of the best festivals in both Groningen and The Netherlands is Eurosonic Noorderslag. Every January Eurosonic and Noorderslag festival take place in the city. Eurosonic Noorderslag is the best event to discover new European artists. It is a showcase festival and music conference and sells out each year.
During the day there are music conferences, but during the evening is when everything comes to life and you can discover your new favourite artists from Europe. And trust me when I say that you don’t want to miss this. The event has kickstarted international careers of artists such as Dua Lipa, Her and many more.
14. Find tulips during National tulip day in Amsterdam
Now, if you’re expecting to see substantial Dutch tulip fields in Amsterdam, then you will be disappointed. Simply because there are no tulip fields in Amsterdam, thus no locations to discover them. Tulip season in The Netherlands takes place from mid-April until the first few days in May, whereas the last weekend of April is the best time to see flowers and tulip fields in both Holland and The Netherlands.
You might ask yourself ‘But why include something in an article about January in The Netherlands when it’s not even tulip season yet?’ Good question. The simple fact is that National Tulipday, or Nationale Tulpendag in Dutch, takes place on the 16th of January.
So if you’re visiting Amsterdam in January and are looking for things to do: then you have to visit the Dam square on the 16th of January. There will be a tulip picking garden on the Dam square in Amsterdam with over 200.000 tulips. You are welcome in this tulip field in Amsterdam after 13:00.
But do you want to see real tulip fields in The Netherlands? With row after row? Then I would recommend you to read the article I’ve linked below. Here you will discover all the locations of the Dutch tulip and flower fields in The Netherlands and Holland.
15. Leidse Jazzweek
Every third week of January you will find the city of Leiden filled with Jazz and Blues music. In 2020, you can witness many performances and events in Leiden. Leidse Jazzweek takes place from around the 20th of January until the end of that week. There are more than seventy performances throughout the city centre of Leiden during this week, and the opening will be in the Hooglandsekerk.
On the Wednesday of the Jazzweek in Leiden, there’s a pub crawl with more than 30 cafes that are participating. But honestly, it doesn’t matter which day of the week you’re visiting Leiden, because during this event there will be movies, workshops and performances throughout the entire town.
16. Holland Dance Festival in The Hague
If you’re a dancer or interested in dance, then the Holland Dance Festival is one of the events you must visit in The Hague in winter. It takes place from around the 20th of January until the 8th of February. During this period there will be around fifty performances throughout The Hague by artists from all over the world.
17. International Film Festival Rotterdam
The biggest film festival in The Netherlands takes place every year in Rotterdam. This event in Rotterdam lasts approximately from the 22nd of January until the 2nd of February. The International Film Festival Rotterdam focuses on recent work by talented new filmmakers. They also offer a high-quality line-up of fiction and documentary feature films, short films and media art.
18. Explore the winter wonderland on the Wadden Islands
The Dutch West Frisian islands are very popular to visit during summer, especially with Dutch and German tourists. And I can’t blame anyone who wants to visit the islands in The Netherlands as they’re stunning. However, if you’re not a big fan of people (I don’t blame you, sometimes I don’t want anyone around me), then you must visit the Dutch islands during winter. And January is a great month to do so, but after the school holidays are finished which is usually around the second week of January.
While fewer shops and places are opened on the Dutch Wadden Islands during winter, there are still plenty of things to do. The ferries do run a little less often, so that’s something to think about.
19. Visit Dutch national parks and nature reserves
The Netherlands isn’t that famous for its beautiful nature. But I’m here to tell you that this is slowly changing, which is a good thing. While my country isn’t home to many enormous nature reserves, we do have very special Dutch National Parks and smaller nature reserves that are worth a visit.
Enjoy the Dutch winter air and get some movement in that lazy butt of yours. Experience some of the best things that The Netherlands has to offer and be mesmerized by the beauty.
20. Breathe in the fresh air at the best Dutch beaches
Sometimes all you want to do is breathe some fresh air. And one of the best locations to do so are Dutch beaches that you can find all over Holland and The Netherlands. While the wind will freeze your face on some January days, other days aren’t so bad. And you will forget your frozen face quick when you enter a cafe and grab a warm drink in any of the towns nearby.
21. Participate in the New Year’s Dive in The Netherlands
One of the typical Dutch New Year’s Day traditions is the New Year’s Dive. Decades ago, people of a swimming club in the beach town of Zandvoort aan Zee decided to jump in the ice-cold North Seawater as a way to start the new year fresh. This eventually spread throughout the country and now, it’s a tradition.
There are plenty of locations in The Netherlands where you can go for a New Year’s Dive. From lakes to rivers to the sea. But the most popular New Year’s Dive is found in Scheveningen. Join tens of thousands of other people in the North Sea on the 1st of January.
22. Make a traditional Dutch ‘vlaai’
A ‘vlaai’ is a typical regional food in the province of Limburg. Essentially it’s a flan, but better than anyone you’ve tried before. One of the best locations to make a vlaai is the beautiful city of Maastricht. Whether you’re visiting this Dutch Burgundian town in winter, or summer, making a vlaai isn’t connected to the seasons as the entire country eats them year-round. And you should too!
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I hope that this article on what things to do in Holland and The Netherlands in January was useful for you. And that you’ve discovered the best things to do in The Netherlands in January. I think that these activities will show you that there are plenty of fun things to do in Amsterdam and Holland in January and winter, but especially in the rest of The Netherlands. Share this post!!
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