Christmas Markets, Festivals and all the other amazing Christmas Events in the Netherlands for 2017!
The amount of time and energy Dutch people spend on the feast of Sinterklaas might make you think that they don’t really celebrate Christmas in the Netherlands. And while for most Dutchies Sinterklaas is more of a big deal and that’s when most presents are given, they do still like Christmas. In fact, there are A LOT of Christmassy activities which happen in the Netherlands every year and they are just as exciting and magical as the ones in Germany! So instead of going to Germany this year to sip mulled wine and wander around traditional stalls in the snow, why not check out some of these amazing Christmas markets, festivals and events in the Netherlands?
Welcome to DutchReview’s epic guide to Christmas events in the Netherlands
Christmas Events in the Netherlands: Amsterdam
Photo by Rex Roof
If you’re spending Christmas in the capital don’t worry, there are tonnes of Christmas events happening in the city of Amsterdam, such as:
Christmas Events in Amsterdam: The Dam
Every year in December a huge Christmas tree is set up in the Dam Square (see the main image for this post) in front of the Royal Palace. Along with the pretty lights throughout the city, this is a great spot for some festive photos before you head to…
Christmas Events in Amsterdam: Museumplein
The area in front of the Rijksmuseum is transformed every winter with a big ice-rink (it’s there from 18th November – 4th January) and there is also an Ice Village ringing the rink which will be open from 12pm daily 20th – 30th December. There are booths for buying gifts as well as mulled wine and, of course, oliebollen!
Christmas Events in Amsterdam: Leidseplein
Another ice rink is set up on the Leidseplein, also surrounded by stalls selling food, drinks and gifts. There are also restaurants around the edges of the Leidseplein, so definitely a good spot to go ice-skating in order to work up an appetite!
Christmas Events in Amsterdam: Flower Market
Amsterdam’s famous floating flower market also gets into the festive spirit by selling lots of Christmas trees alongside the usual tulips. Make sure you also check out the gorgeous Christmas Palace; a shop selling beautiful Christmas decorations all year long!
Christmas Events in Amsterdam: Christmas Circus
Adding to all the festive craziness is the fact that Amsterdam hosts a special Christmas circus every year as well! The internationally renowned World Christmas Circus features only the best acts and runs in Amsterdam’s Royal Theatre Carré from December 21st – 7th January.
Christmas Events in Amsterdam: Light Festival
During the Christmas season the Amsterdam Light Festival is also held. Illuminated artworks and installations are dotted around the canals of the city from the 30th November – 21st January. You can go on self-guided walking tours through the city at night to spot them, or a very romantic Light Festival canal cruise!
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Christmas Events in the Netherlands: Archeon Midwinter Fair
For something a little less traditional, the Archeon archaeological living museum near Leiden holds a special Midwinter Fair which is a great place to find alternative Christmas presents for the people in your life who like steampunk, fantasy and medieval items. The Midwinter Fair features music and shows (such as sword-fighting!) as well as an indoor Fantasy Market. While not exactly a Christmas themed event there are definitely Christmassy aspects to the Midwinter Fair, and it might be a good event for you if you’re feeling a bit over all the Christmas events but still want to be entertained and have some yummy food and drink! It’s open on the 9th and 10th of December this year and you can find out more details here.
Castle Christmas Fair
For something even more magical than just Christmas why not head to a Christmas market at a castle! Slot Assumburg in Heemskerk (North Holland) hosts a Christmas market in and around the castle itself, with live music and fireworks shows taking place as well. The fair opens on Thursday evening 7th December and then runs until Sunday 10th December. You can check out the program of events and ticket prices on their website.
photo by Ronald Rugenbrink
Christmas Events in the Netherlands: Dickens Festival
This is one of the most loved Christmas events in the Netherlands!
Every year the historic Bergkwartier of Deventer is transformed for two days into a real-life scene from a Charles Dickens novel. Everywhere you can see traditional 19th century Christmas decorations and more than 950 characters from Dickens’ novels are brought to life around you. From wealthy lords and ladies to pickpockets, you will feel like you have stepped into the events of “A Christmas Carol” or “Oliver Twist”. Combine this with a market on the square, traditional carolers and the scents of roasted chestnuts and you can’t fail to feel festive! Taking place on the 16th and 17th December this year, you can find out more on the website.
Christmas Market in Dordrecht
If you’re in Dordrecht between the 15th and 17th December you can also visit one of the largest Christmas markets in the country. Dordrecht Christmas market features hundreds of stalls, multiple stages for live music performances, a Christmas circus on one street, Christmas theatre in the Grote Kerk garden and a living nativity scene in the garden as well! There are so many different things to see and do over the three days that you will definitely need to check out the program if you are thinking of going.
photo by Marco Derksen
The Netherland’s answer to Disneyland, Efteling is a magical place all year round; but during winter they like to kick it up a notch. There’s an indoor skating rink, a cross-country skiing track for children, bonfires, mulled wine and hot chocolate. They even do special accommodation packages if you’d like to stay in one of their fairy-tale themed rooms over Christmas with unlimited access to the park and a Christmas feast!
Christmas Events in the Netherlands: Gouda by Candlelight
In the medieval town of Gouda a special day is held every year when the historic city center is closed to traffic and music is played, walks are set out, a living nativity scene is present and there is street theatre and dance. There are free concerts in the churches and when it gets dark, instead of the city lights being turned on only candles are lit. The mayor reads a Christmas story, the lights on the huge Christmas tree in front of the town hall are lit and then everyone sings along to Christmas songs. This year this event takes place on the 15th December.
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Christmas Market in Haarlem
With over 300 stands the traditional Christmas market in Haarlem is another magical place for you to find special handmade gifts or simply enjoy the sights, sounds, food and drinks! There is a Dickens orchestra in the centre, multiple free choirs in the local churches and even a Christmas ballet in the Bavokerk. For something a bit different you can also take part in the Haarlem Winter Beer Festival and taste different specialty beers from the Netherlands and abroad!
Het Loo Palace
Christmas in Palace Het Loo
If you want to feel a bit more royal while you celebrate the season make sure you visit Het Loo Palace during its Christmas event; where the beautiful rooms are decked out with Victorian Christmas trees and decorations formerly belonging to the previous Queen Wilhelmina and Prince Hendrick. The palace is also decorated with plants from the palace’s orangerie greenhouses and the tables are bedecked with damask, crystal, silver candelabras and fruit. In the palace grounds there is also an ice rink for skating and in the Coach Houses you can see carriages, sleds and cars used by the Oranjes. Running between the 16th December – 7th January this is also the last chance you will get to see the main indoor parts of the palace for the next three years as it is about to undergo renovations.
Christmas Events in Leiden
Floating Christmas Market
Another Christmas market but the one in Leiden has the distinction of being the country’s only floating Christmas market. Featuring cozy chalets with gifts to be bought and of course tasty treats to be eaten, this is definitely a unique experience. There’s also a floating ice rink, a special children’s Christmas area on the square in front of the Hooglandse Kerk (where they can meet Santa), a nostalgic funfair and a light parade on the 15th December. Most of the attractions are open from the 15th December until the 27th although the ice rink and funfair will also be around until the 7th January.
Christmas Market in the Nature Park
I might be biased because I live here, but I was pretty excited to find out that there will also be a small Christmas market in Lelystad inside the nature park that I love to visit! The market is open from 2 – 8pm on the 16th December, which means you can also see the otters being fed at 3pm! There will be around 100 stalls selling things for gifts, as well as Christmas music, fire pits and a Christmas trail through the park. It definitely looks gezellig!
The whole town of Maastricht goes into Christmas overload between the 1st December and the 1st of January; whith skating rinks, a market, decorations, a ferris wheel, a ‘House of Santas Claus’, and a culture festival featuring music, dancing and theatre. There’s also a light route you can follow to see the best of the Christmas lights and the culture festival features many different performances throughout the month all over the city. Check out the website for all the details on this very magical event!
Royal Christmas Fair
If you’re in The Hague then you’re in for a treat with the Royal Christmas Fair to add a touch of extra class to Christmas. From the 15th to the 24th of December the center of The Hague is transformed into a beautiful Christmas fair featuring a market, gorgeous decorations, cultural events and, of course, Santa. According to the Facebook page there will also be some kind of magical light show, and you can also find out more visiting info on the website.
The pretty city of Utrecht will also be transforming itself for Christmas, in the form of the Knüss Winter Festival. Utrecht’s city centre is bedecked with festive garb and there will be four Christmas markets, a skating rink to enjoy, street theatre and choirs. There are also going to be ‘living rooms’ which I think mean places to get cosy inside but you might need to see for yourself! Knüss will take place on the 16th and 17th December and you can read more about it here.
Christmas Events in the Netherlands – there’s even a Christmas Town!
The Netherlands’ very own ‘Christmas Town’, Valkenburg near Maastricht is host to many Christmas events between the 17th November and 7th January. There are three different Christmas caves, underground Christmas markets surrounded by murals, sculptures, and an 18th Century Chapel. The town also has a Christmas parade on Wednesday and Saturday nights and there is also a fairytale forest, Santa’s village and Santa’s gift factory for kids. Definitely a little town packed with Christmas fun! Find out more about all these events here.
Zwolle: Dutch Ice Sculpture Festival
And finally for Christmas events in the Netherlands, if you want to feast your eyes on some amazing ice sculptures then the Dutch Ice Sculpture Festival is the largest in Europe and will be taking place in Zwolle between the 23rd December and 4th March 2018. This year’s theme is ‘World Famous Stories’ which means you will get to see incredible ice sculptures inspired by Game of Thrones, Alice in Wonderland, Robin Hood, The Hobbit, Peter Pan and so many more! Check out the website for more information!
Any other Christmas events in the Netherlands?
There you have it, more Christmas festivals and events than any one person could ever hope to see in a month and all within the little country of the Netherlands! If you visit any of these Christmas markets, events or festivals make sure you tag us on Instagram with @DutchReview and if you use Pinterest make sure you pin this for later – and follow us! 😉
*main image and pin image by Floris Looijestijn