Festive family fun: things to do in the Christmas holidays

Ice sculpture zwolleThe school winter holidays are starting and with them a fantastic array of festive fun kicks off up and down the country. Esther O’Toole looks at some of this year’s highlights.

Ice Sculpture Festival – Zwolle
The world’s best ice sculptors, representing 16 countries, are descending on Zwolle and 500,000 kilos of ice and snow to build a magical playground for visitors. Enjoy the towering masterpieces and light show before retiring to the café for hot chocolate, apple pie and live music.


World’s Biggest Swan Lake – RAI, Amsterdam
Tchaikovsky’s most famous ballet comes to Amsterdam this year, with a flock of not 16 but 48 dancers in the corps. This enormous production from renowned British director Derek Deane and the National Ballet of Shanghai played to great acclaim earlier in the year before starting out on tour. A guaranteed spectacular! Tickets start at €39.


Mini & Maxi – Rotterdam
Something to entertain the littlest to the biggest: Mini & Maxi are a prize winning Dutch clowning duo who combine music, acrobatics and mime in a unique interactive variety show. They’re legends in the Netherlands and are well known for training many of today’s best Dutch variety talents. For the first time in ten years they are going back on tour themselves and the press are unanimous in saying they’ve still got it! Well, worth a look.

December 25 – 27, then on tour, website

Open Air Street-Theatre Festival – Oud Kampen

Christmas in Old Kampen

If you’re looking for something unusual for this time of year, you could head to Oud Kampen for the annual open air theatre festival, Kerst in Oud Kampen. The beautiful old city centre is decorated to perfection and small events enliven the atmosphere from street artists, music, dance, and acrobatics to a traditional funfair. You can even cram in a little last minute Christmas shopping. Events are free and take place between 4pm – 9pm.

December 19 and 20, website

A Celtic Christmas Concert – Muiderslot, Muiden
Something a little different? Magic comes to the Castle at Muiden on the 23rd of December where musical trio Merain will be performing a special programme of traditional Christmas pieces from the British Isles. Settle in at the Knight’s Hall and let the candlelight, bodhrán, celtic harp and song whisk you away to Arthurian Christmasses of olde. Refreshments available in the Taverne.

December 23, website

Tomte 4+ – Hasselt, Maastricht, Alkmaar, Tilburg, Leeuwarden, Amsterdam & Tiel
An unusual musical theatre event from Utrecht’s Het Filial theatre makers and musicians from Insomnia, Tomte sees live music and puppetry teamed up with digital projection. Taking the audience on a wintery walk through a fantastical land the show is inspired by Tomte Tummetot from legendary Swedish writer Astrid Lindgren (best known for Pippi Longstocking). The production aims to provide an engaging and exciting introduction to modern classical music and innovative theatre practice. Additional performances at other locations throughout January, see full agenda for details.


Charles Dickens Festival – Deventer
Is there anything as synonymous with Christmas as Scrooge? In Deventer they don’t think so. In the weekend before Christmas a large part of the town is magically transformed into a Dickensian winter wonderland, full of little ragged orphans, top hatted carol singers and famous characters from Dickens’ best loved books. Lots of lovely Victorian things to see, do and eat!

December 19 and 20, website

Christmas Circuses

carre christmas circus
Christmas circuses are a particular tradition in the Netherlands. If you’re after one that effortlessly combines the best of tradition and the most exciting new ideas, then head to Carre in Amsterdam. This year’s 100 performers include the world’s fastest juggler, Korean acrobats and a flying trapeze. If you’re at the other end of the country and don’t want to travel, then you can try one of the other seasonal circuses in Utrecht, Rotterdam (at the Ahoy) and Maastricht. Enschede is also hosting an international circus festival.

Amsterdam Utrecht  Rotterdam  Maastricht Enschede

Christmas Gala – Arnhem & Apeldoorn
The innovative company Introdans this year brings you four shows in one at its annual Christmas Gala. International, diverse and stirring this company is building a strong international reputation for working with both up and coming as well as master choreographers. Pieces this year include the moving and melancholy Kleine Requiem to the music of Góreki and Swingle Sisters from Swedish choreographer Alexander Ekman, who is known for his wonderful way of bringing humour to dance.

December 26-29, website

Tango Train – Amsterdam
If you’d like to do some fancy footwork yourself then have a look at Tango Train. After a great launch last year, Tango Train is once again organising Milonga (Argentinian Tango) events at locations throughout Amsterdam in the last week of the year. Dance, take a workshop or see a tango themed movie or exhibition. There are options for young and old, novice and advanced, and at various times of day. Food options also available, check with the specific location.

December 25 – January 3, website

For more Christmas shows, check out our What’s On section.

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