Dutch winter culture: time to get your skates on!

Skate to me, baby! ⛸️❄️

Dutch culture is known for fields of tulips, windmills, and cheese, of course! But Dutchies permanently have ice skating fever.

As the days draw cold, everybody hopes for sub-zero temperatures. The whole country wishes the cold snap lasts long enough for the canals and lakes to freeze over.

Natural skating rinks

To have true outdoor skating success, the ice has to become thick enough to allow a skating race or two.

For many giddy people, the wait is too much, and they jump fearlessly onto the water and try their luck.

On more than one occasion, this impatience has led to hilarious and rather wet consequences. Our advice is to skate safely and in style like these guys: 👇

Elfstedentocht — the elusive Dutch tradition

When or if the big freeze happens, the next question on everybody’s minds is, “Will the ice be thick enough for the Elfstedentocht?!

The Elfstedentocht, or “The Eleven City Tour”, is a 200-kilometre skating route that weaves its way through 11 Frisian cities, crossing lakes, rivers and canals.

The last Elfstedentocht took place in 1997, although preparations were made again in 2012.

However, the event literally melted away before skaters had a chance to take on the challenge. Whilst, some believe the Elfstedentocht will never happen again due to global warming, others remain hopeful.

READ MORE l Ice-skating rinks in the Netherlands: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht, and beyond

Think you are up to the challenge? Well, besides wishing for some arctic conditions, you also have to be a member of De Vereniging De Friesche Elf Steden and have your name chosen out of the thousands of members in a lottery style. Otherwise, enjoy some koek en zopie and soak up the atmosphere!

The atmosphere of the event is something else! Image: Rob Bogaerts/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Don’t waste an opportunity

While the Elfstedentocht is an extremely rare occurrence, sometimes, it still gets cold enough for people to enjoy a frozen canal or two where you can safely (depending on your skill level!), so step on the ice and show off some tricks normally restricted to the indoor rink!

giethoorn, ice skating, winter
Canals will sometimes be safe to skate on. Image: Pixabay

Although safety is very important, it is very common in Dutch culture to risk the ice, even if they’re not sure it’s thick enough.

Got no skates? No problem! The kringloop — or any second-hand shop — is filled with cheap skates you can pick up for your frosty adventure!

You never know; you may be right next to one of the Netherlands’ naturally occurring ice rinks! Head out sooner rather than later, though. Your chance to try out this Dutch winter pastime might just melt away!

Will you be trying out the ice skates this year? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below! 

Image: IngevGelder/Wikimedia Commons/CC3.0

Samantha Tinsdeall
Samantha Tinsdeall
Originally from the UK, Samantha has pursued her love of travelling. A graduate of English Literature, she is now focusing on 'what she wants to be when she grows up', whilst finding her feet in the Netherlands after being side-tracked by a Dutch man she met in Budapest.

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