Christmas is coming, and here’s some special events to get you in the mood

Photo: Kris van Veen
Photo: Janus van den Eijnden

The festive season is almost upon us, and whether you’re looking for cosy, cultural or culinary, we have Christmas holiday highlights to suit one and all.


Amsterdam Light Festival
If you’re in the capital during the holidays, make sure to give yourself time to tour the canals and take in the many exhibits of this year’s Amsterdam Light Festival. Special highlights include light artworks inspired by Van Gogh’s Starry Night and, for the first time, a specially commissioned theatre piece during a canal cruise of the festival sites – The Light Code by Chris Bajema. The festival runs all the way through December and into January. Website 

Eye Film museum
Too cold outside? Then head over to the EYE in Noord. Escape the wind, and the general state of the world, with the joy of the upbeat 50’s classic White Christmas, or a screening of the Royal Opera House’s (UK) spectacular version of The Nutcracker (2015), complete with sparkling prosecco.  Website


Nijntje museum

For the littlest in the family you could head to the Nijntje Museum in Utrecht, where the country’s favourite bunny is exploring everything wintry throughout December. There are light-games to play and life size snowman puzzles to be built, strap on skis or go on a sleigh-ride with Nijntje herself. Website

The Kerstival event is very hands on. Photo: Kris van Veen

While you’re in Utrecht you could also head to Kerstival at The St Catherine Convent, between 22 Dec and 6th January, if you’re after a nice hands-on way to explore a more traditional side of Christmas. The museum will be transformed both inside and out and offers an all-inclusive ticket for arts & crafts, magic lantern shows, cookie making, magic swings that produce ‘snow’ and much more! Website (Dutch only)


Concerts and dancing
If you’re looking for music and/or romance, Rotterdam may be the place for you. There are a wealth of Christmas concerts on throughout the city in December whether you’re looking for classical or organ, party favourites or 50s hits (see the uitagenda for a full list, Dutch only).

A personal favourite is V11 – a bright red ship in the centre of town, with a great bar on the upper deck and dancing downstairs in the belly of the boat. Various live acts are on all through December. Website

For classical music lovers, the Laurenskerk has an interesting programme of classical and Christmassy favourites, like Handel’s Messiah, alongside a specially composed Rotterdamse Passion on Dec 14th. Website (Dutch only).

Photo: Annemieke van der Togt

IJsvrij Festival
Going all out for a romantic weekend away over the festive holidays? Then why not take your loved one icy skating at the Ijsvrij Park Festival next to the Euromast? Often compared to NYC’s central park ice rink, the festival boasts not only a romantic atmosphere but a great cafe/bar, sports, theatre and music. Then head up the Euromast itself to warm up, get a great view over the city at night, and enjoy one of their special holiday menus in the restaurant or a stay in one of their quirky hotel rooms. Website


Groningen: the Winterwelvaart
If you want to visit the cold north this year, then our best bet would be head to Groningen! During the Winterwelvaart (21st – 23rd December) all the traditional ships in the city centre harbour are lit up like Christmas trees, and there is a full-on programme of mini concerts, theatre performances and dining on board, plus boat tours, an art route and a winter market. You can even arrange to stay overnight on one of the boats. Website (Dutch only)

The Hague: Royal Christmas Market
Christmas markets are popular up and down the country at this time of year. Like their German counterparts you can anticipate plenty of mulled wine, hot chocolate and gingerbread, plus artisanal crafts, trinkets, toys and jewellery for under the tree.

One of the most extravagant is the Royal Christmas Market in The Hague (14th – 23rd December). Located on the Lange Voorhout in the city centre, it boasts hundreds of stalls, plus storytelling, theatre and caroling to balance out any frenzied shopping. You´ll find other markets in Lelystad, Amstelveen, the pretty little village of Vreeland and a funky one in the Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam to name but a few. Website

Breda: The Avenue, Christmas Dinner Circus
Circuses are a big tradition in The Netherlands at this time of year, and Amsterdam, Den Haag and Rotterdam always have large, spectacular and often international circus on.

Putting a twist on that traditional Christmas show though is The Avenue in Breda. A small theatre and events location, they specialise in cabaret, circus and various other sorts of dinner shows. Throughout December, starting on the 14th, they have a series of special festively themed dinner shows, suitable for anyone hungry for a truly alternative Christmas dinner. 8+ Website (Dutch only. Note: limited accessibility to some parts of the venue).

For more December events, see our regular Whats On listing: 11 great things to do in December.

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