5 awesome light festivals in the Netherlands: what’s lit, where, and when?

Light Festivals in the Netherlands: which light events are happening in the Netherlands and where and when? (let us enLIGHTEN you).

More often than not, when it gets to wintertime, we tend to stay indoors. In the mornings we cling to our beds, desperately grappling for a few extra minutes. In the evenings we might stay out late in a cosy bar or a cinema somewhere (or curl up in the foetal position next to the fire), but did you know you could be spending some of the country’s darkest months wandering the streets of a brilliantly illuminated city?

* Heads up! The dates below are for 2019. Here are the 5 upcoming light festivals in the Netherlands that you don’t want to miss…

Light Festivals in the Netherlands: Amsterdam Light Festival

When: November 28 – January 19

Every December, the capital city comes alive in an eruption of light and colour. As if Dutch canals weren’t already beautiful enough, there are loads of light sculptures and installations to see. You’ll always find some along the River Amstel and at the central Canal Ring, so a great way to experience the festival is by boat (remember to book in advance because this is super popular). You can opt to have a guide or an audio tour as you cruise along if you like.

 

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“The jumping man” one of the artworks at the Amsterdam light festival of 2016

A post shared by Joop .ClicK. (@joop.click) on

If you live here and have ‘boated’ the canals plenty of times, then it’s probably best just to go for an evening cycle or a relaxed stroll. You can get nice and close to all the artworks and at the same time be on the lookout for any events going on (there are some places – museums, theatres, restaurants and shops – that love to get involved).

Amsterdam Light Festival returns this year for its eighth birthday! It’s the perfect atmosphere for the festive season, but if you want to come after Christmas or New Year, the light party continues well into January. It’ll certainly cheer you up if you’re one for post-holiday blues.

Light Festivals in the Netherlands: Magical Maastricht

When: November 29 – December 31

Funfairs, festive food and fairy lights: what more could you want? Magical Maastricht is a lovely light route which runs every December for the Christmas season, perfect timing for buying cute presents for someone you love. Even if the ice rink, Ferris wheel and Santa’s Grotto in Vrijthof square aren’t for you, you’ll certainly be lured in by a variety of bars and cafes.

Don’t forget to pass the market stalls on the way, though; you might see something you’d like to try (just imagine cradling that comforting hot chocolate or nibbling on a pastry as you gaze up at the surrounding luminescent trees). Whatever you do, be prepared to leave positively enchanted!

Magical Maastricht
Maastricht’s Christmas Lights. Image: Kleon3/Wikimedia Commons

Light Festivals in the Netherlands: RIJN GLOED

When: December 20-30

From 5pm until 9pm every day, Oude Rijn and Nieuwe Rijn in Leiden will be lit up with a stunning array of light beacons!

Leiden sure is beautiful during the winter nights…

Light Festivals in the Netherlands: Trajectum Lumen Utrecht

When: Available all year round!

So it’s not quite a ‘festival’, in the sense that it’s not limited to a particular time of year, but we had to include this in the list! From sunset until midnight, you can follow a trail of light art through Utrecht’s historical city centre.

Since 2010, the Trajectum Lumen route features wicked light installations by distinguished national and international light artists. If you follow the drop trail light on the ground, you’ll eventually see buildings and bridges lit up in cool and creative ways. It might make you think differently about what you’d normally overlook – a basic brick wall or a dingy alleyway, for example.

Light festivals in the Netherlands
The reflection of the bridge makes this archway look almost like an eye! (cc Aygor / Wiki)

Can I see it all in one night?

Of course. The entire walk can be done in about 1.5 hours, but if you want to take your time and maybe pop in a few bars on route then it’ll obviously take longer.

Light Festivals in the Netherlands: GLOW Eindhoven

When: This one already happened in November this year, so keep an eye open for next year’s dates!

GLOW Eindhoven festival is coming up real soon and is completely free. It allows you to witness innovative, unique works of art from over 30 artists that play with this year’s theme, ‘Living Colours’. There’s a route you can follow and visitors so far have indeed ‘felt the spark’. Why not check it out for yourself?

Light Festivals in the Netherlands
Look how pretty!!! Image: IMMERSIVE DECELERATOR/PANI

The City of Light

Eindhoven is actually known as the City of Light, since it was here that the match industry was established in 1870 and Philips’ incandescent bulb factory was opened in 1891. GLOW Eindhoven is in the top 5 of the most visited light festivals in the world. Along with established light artists from across the globe, GLOW makes room for local light projects and young developing talent.

Dazzling! Image: WINDOWS – DANIEL MARGRAF/BART VAN OVERBEEKE

We hope you enjoy one/some/any/all!? of these light festivals on offer here in the Netherlands. They really are a joy to behold. Have you been to any before? What did you think? Let us know in the comments section below!

Feature Image: DANIEL MARGRAF/BART VAN OVERBEEKE
Editor’s Note: this article was originally published November 11 2018, but was fully updated in October 2019 with all the latest information and dates. 

Abbie Neale
Abbie, a writer from the UK, fell in love with the Netherlands when she was three years old. When she’s not spending her free time painting canals or playing the guitar, she’ll be off travelling somewhere (and probably getting lost).

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