Things to do in the Netherlands with the kids this Christmas

Christmas tree lights The weather outside may be frightful but, if you’re keen to escape the cabin fever of festivities and take the kids out to run off some energy then Esther O’Toole has ideas for you. She’s dug though Holland’s best seasonal activities for families to dig up some unusual and inspiring places to go this year.

Amsterdam: Concertgebouw – sing along , Christmas concert and more
December 20 sees the National Youth Choir arrive at the Concertgebouw for a special sing along performance Middle in de Winternacht. Starting at 13.30 ages 6+ can come to watch and, if you have Dutch speakers in the household, sing along. There are further shows later in the day. On Christmas Eve there is a free concert for all nationalities in the magnificent 19thC hall of the Concertgebouw; a festive selection suited for all ages.

As it’s the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the other days round Christmas are not just Christmas classics but a great selection of classical greats including Beethoven and Mahler. Prices start at €20 and on Boxing Day there is a recital by renowned pianist Regina Albrink. For all prices and times visit the website.

tutu magic lanternAmsterdam: The Eye film museum – Tutu, Magic Lantern show and workshop
Just after New Year the Eye Film museum is hosting a Magic Lantern workshop for children ages 5-12 and it’s open to native and non-native speakers alike. It’s a great location with a fantastic café – complete with amphitheatre! Participants can make their own shadow puppets, learn about the origins of cinema and, with a combiticket, stay on for a fantastic Magic Lantern show Tutu. Places are limited so get in there quick. January 2,3. €8.50 for the workshop or €15 for the combi. Find out more via the website

Utrecht: Cascade Circus – Equilibrium
Cascade is the annual circus spectacle from Utrecht’s Stadschouwberg. This is the 23rd edition of this highly successful circus event and this year it’s based around the theme of Equilibrium – balance; well that’s one thing circus performers are particularly skilled in! The wondrous contortions and stunts of the artists are accompanied by music, mime and poetry from all corners of the world promising an impressive and poetic night. December 21 to 24

Utrecht: Skating and Christmas delights at the Transport Museum
If you want to feel like you’ve walked into a Christmas movie perhaps the best place to be is the Utrecht’s Transport Museum (SpoorMuseum). There is ice skating between the locomotives, Christmas trees and fairy lights. Plus, there’s a traditional carousel, a full programme of bands and street theatre; helping to keep everyone busy from the littlest to the biggest. Skates are free to hire and discounted ticket prices are available on their website. December 24 to January 4

skating the hagueThe Hague: King Winter Festival
The best of Old and New collide in The Hague’s King Winter Festival. It has lots of traditional fare and activities – Santa’s house is open daily for little visitors and the beer festival events keep their parents happy. There is skating and firework shows as well, weather permitting. Lots of great family shows are on in the theatres such as Billy Elliot the Musical (AFAS Circus Theater) and a new take on Peter Pan from Rabarbar Theater (5+). However, there are also more innovative events such as on the Spui plein where, from December 20, you can take part in and marvel at the Bright Nights 3D Video Mapping event.

Haarlem: Serious Request; Glass House and Creative Confetti Club
If you listen to Radio 3fm then you’ll already know of their annual charity fundraiser for the Dutch Red Cross. If you don’t then in brief: each year 3 DJs spend a week sleeping and playing music in a glass house on one of the main squares of a different Dutch town. With nothing to eat but vegetable smoothies they trying to raise as much money as possible for charity.

This year it is Haarlem’s turn. You can visit the house and make a donation to get a track of your choice played and watch guest singers and bands play live in the house. For the smallest who aren’t able to spend too long outside soaking up the social atmosphere you can take them into the warm and welcoming Creative Confetti Club. During the second half of Serious Request week they are organising kids’ activities such as face painting, dressing up, arts & crafts, music & dancing and it’s complete with readily available festive snacks. Teach the tinies about the real meaning of the holidays and have fun to boot. December 20-24

Zwolle ice sculpturesZwolle: Ice Sculpture Festival
You no longer have to head to Lapland or Northern China for an ice sculpting festival, there’s one in Zwolle! And it’s a biggie. Every year by the station in Zwolle you can see 250,000 kilos of ice turned into the ultimate form of ephemeral art; this year’s theme is World in Motion. Last year the event enjoyed 145,000 visitors. Wander round and wonder and, when you and the wee ones get chilly, head to the Event Plaza for bouncy castles, carousel and Lego games. To January 25

Eindhoven: Fine Feast Days Festival
Yep, there’s the ubiquitous Christmas market, skating and shopping in central Eindhoven this year but there’s more. Curling, sledging, stars and kids dancing on ice, a talent show and, wait for it, a Santa run! For more on the events happening throughout the festival – that’s just a selection – check the website for a full schedule. To January 4

Valkenburg: Underground Christmas Market
At this time of year Valkenburg’s famous caves are turned into a Winter Wonderland – without the wind. A massive underground Christmas Market is waiting to be discovered for non-claustrophobics everywhere. With hundreds of stalls it promises a popular and magical take on the traditional. If you want to shop for curiosities and sip mulled wine without your fingers freezing off this could be the way to go. To December 23

Esther O’Toole is a freelance writer and founder of

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