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

Which light festivals in the Netherlands are happening, 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?

Amsterdam Light Festival

When: November 30, 2023 β€” January 21, 2024

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.

Tip: Remember to book in advance because this event gets super popular!

You can opt to have a guide or an audio tour as you cruise along if you like.

If you live here and have paddled down 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 β€” museums, theatres, restaurants and shops β€” that love to get involved).

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.

Gouda bij Kaarslicht

When: December 15, 2023

Every year, the heart of Gouda switches off its electric lights and illuminates itself with hundreds of thousands of candles.

The programme will feature live music, community singing, and a Christmas story β€” so if you’re trying to get into the holiday spirit, you definitely want to give this a go!

De Lumineuze Nachten

When: December 7, 2023 β€” January 7, 2024

Set in the largest, most luxurious castle in the Netherlands β€” Kasteel de Haar β€” this promises to be an event full of magic and wonder!

The Lumineuze Nachten, or Luminous Nights, is a series of evening walks through the grounds and castle, featuring enchanting illuminations and historical stories.

Magical Maastricht

When: November 30 β€” December 31, 2023

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 β€” 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!

Trajectum Lumen Utrecht

When: October 21, 2023 β€” March 30, 2024

From sunset until midnight every Saturday, you can follow a trail of light art through Utrecht’s historical city centre.

Since 2010, the Trajectum Lumen route has featured 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 β€” a basic brick wall or a dingy alleyway, for example.

Can you 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 en route, then it’ll obviously take longer.

Fjoertoer Egmond

When: November 24 and 25, 2023

The Fjoertoer Egmond is a night walk featuring a display of light and fire.

There are routes of differing distances (14 kilometres, 19 kilometres north and south, and a whopping 26 kilometres) to ensure that the whole family can keep up!

Translation: “Show up well prepared at the start? Come and enjoy the Fjoertoer Meal in Hotel Zuiderduin before your walk 🍽 From 14.00 to 19.00 you can enjoy a fjoertastic meal! Everything you need to get through this magical journey! ⭐ Book your meal now πŸ‘€πŸ‘‰”

You’ll wander through entrancing sights till you’ve looped back around to the beach entrance at Egmond aan Zee.

And to top all of that off, there’ll be a Lighthouse Party open to all participants afterwards! πŸ₯³

GLOW Eindhoven

When: November 11 β€” 18, 2023

GLOW Eindhoven festival is a completely free event in the Dutch city of light, Eindhoven.

It allows you to witness innovative, unique works of art from artists who play with this year’s theme, “Urban Skin.”

There’s a route you can follow, so why not check it out for yourself?

Eindhoven is known as the City of Light since the match industry was established in 1870, and Philips’ incandescent bulb factory was opened in 1891.

In fact, GLOW Eindhoven is in the top five 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.

Scheveningen Light Walk

When: December 9, 2023

This December, Scheveningen will come alive for thousands of walkers to follow a magical route through the city and beach.

Participants will be treated to captivating light displays, various musical acts, and seasonal refreshments.

You can register for routes of differing lengths (7.5 kilometres, 12 kilometres, or 18 kilometres), so there’s one for everyone! The 7.5 kilometres route even has two start times so that families with children can enjoy this entrancing light show and get their little ones in bed on time! πŸ˜‰

After the walk, all participants will be invited to have a celebratory drink at De Pier. This also includes Pier Tasting, where a number of restaurants have their delicacies on offer!

Nederlands Ijsbeelden Festival

When: December 16, 2023 β€” February 25, 2024

This entrancing festival in Zwolle features ice sculptures crafted by the best artists in the world!

These talented artists will translate the theme of “What a Wonderful World” into ice sculptures over six metres high.

If you’re in the mood for a fabulous display of lights and artistry, you don’t want to miss out on this festival!

De Grote Schijn

When: October 12, 2023 β€” October 29, 2024

It’s Halloween season, and you want to intentionally give yourself the heebie-jeebies because, well, it’s fun!

Translation: “Now that the trees are decorating the forest with colourful leaves there are also fewer and fewer tickets for De Grote Schijn! Whoever wants to be amazed this fall, don’t wait too long. Do you have your tickets yet? 🎟✨ For more information and tickets visit www.degroteschijn.nl.”

In order to get into that cosy autumnal spirit, how about embarking on a two-kilometre-long trek through the dark woods?

Come along for this joy ride of nature-meets-music-meets-technology. The bright light projections will titillate, and the audiovisual guide will mesmerize, and the trees will seem like they’re talking to you. πŸŒ¬πŸŽ„

Tip: The festival uses tickets to assign visitors to time slots, which also determine how long they can stay in the hall β€” so be sure to buy tickets in advance for the time slot you want!

We hope you enjoy 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!

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published November 2018, but was fully updated in October 2023 with all the latest information and dates. 

Abigail Claire
Abigail Claire
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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