Planning a trip to Amsterdam in December means contending with less-than-ideal weather–but also fewer crowds and plenty of festive holiday cheer!
We loved our winter trip to Amsterdam, and would happily recommend a visit to anyone willing to trade tolerating cold, gray, and wet weather for a chance to experience one of the most iconic cities in Europe in one of its least-crowded seasons.
If you’re considering a December trip to Amsterdam, here’s everything you need to know, from what kind of weather to expect to the best things to do in Amsterdam in winter.
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Typical December Weather in Amsterdam
Visiting Amsterdam in December means contending with the coldest, darkest weather of the year–and while that definitely has its benefits, you need to come prepared for the weather!
In December, highs in Amsterdam reach an average of 43°F/6°C, and at night, lows plunge to an average of 36°F/2°C.
December is also the most humid and rainy month of the year in Amsterdam, meaning that the cold can cut right to the bone if you’re not dressed warmly enough and that you’ll need to prepare for the possibility of rain.
In Amsterdam, it rains an average of 15 days in December.
Occasionally, it snows in Amsterdam in December, but don’t count on it during your trip!
The sun rises around 8:45 AM and sets by 4:30 PM, so you’ll have very little daylight to work with, and you can expect most of that daylight to be spent covered in clouds.
Don’t expect to see a lot of blue skies or sunshine during a December trip to Amsterdam!
All of that being said, visiting Amsterdam in December definitely comes with enough rewards to be worth the cold and dark–but you’ll need to pack well (more on that below).
11 Fun Things to Do in Amsterdam in December
Marvel at the Amsterdam Light Festival.
When visiting Amsterdam in December (or in January, for that matter), you’ll notice that the city’s famous canals have a bit of extra sparkle!
Each winter, they are decorated with some of the most innovative and stunning light displays that you can imagine.
While the Amsterdam Light Festival installations are striking from any angle, they’re best experienced from the water!
Go ice skating!
Without a doubt, enjoying some ice skating is one of the best things to do in Amsterdam in December.
If you get extremely lucky, you might even get to experience ice skating on the canals–but unfortunately, that’s not common in recent years, as they don’t have a tendency to freeze hard enough these days.
However, the picturesque ice skating rinks around Amsterdam offer a fun alternative!
This rink in front of the Rijksmuseum is one of the most iconic spots to go ice skating in Amsterdam:
Take a canal cruise.
Sound like a good way to freeze?
Don’t worry–many of Amsterdam’s canal cruises are heated and covered!
While that may be a downside during some parts of the year, you’ll be very glad to have a covered boat to enjoy a canal cruise in Amsterdam in December.
During my most recent trip to Amsterdam, my friends and I opted to enjoy this cozy canal cruise featuring cheese, wine, and a covered boat, and we had a fantastic time!
Pay a visit to the Christmas markets.
While Amsterdam’s Christmas markets aren’t the most overwhelming in Europe (and the fact that we traveled from Germany to Amsterdam on our trip probably didn’t help that impression), they are fun, cheery places.
If you happen to be visiting Amstedam in December and are looking to do a little holiday shopping and indulge in some sugary Dutch treats (stroopwafels, anyone?), then head right to the Christmas markets.
If you’d like to add even more Christmas market fun to your trip, consider taking a day trip to another town near Amsterdam, too.
Leiden, for example, puts on a unique floating Christmas market each year.
Warm up in Amsterdam’s best museums.
Not only are the crowds generally lighter in Amsterdam in December than during the summer months, but exploring the museums will also give you the perfect chance to escape the cold weather for a bit!
If you’re looking for a quick but interesting museum to visit, I also loved visiting the Our Lord in the Attic Museum, which features a formerly hidden Catholic Church.
Bundle up and wander the canals.
No visit to Amsterdam is complete without aimlessly wandering through the Old Town to enjoy beautiful canal views, and there’s no reason to let cold weather keep you away!
In fact, there’s something even more special about the canals in December (aside from the Amsterdam Light Festival, it’s probably the fact that there are far, far fewer people around!).
Wear as many layers as you need to, and enjoy some time during your trip wandering through town.
These Dutch doughnuts are round, deep-fried, sometimes stuffed with raisins, and are absolutely delicious.
They’re a typical cold-weather snack and a must-try Dutch food during your winter trip to Amsterdam!
… and plenty of other warm Dutch dishes.
Oliebollen isn’t the only traditional Dutch winter food you need to be sure to add to your list of what to eat in Amsterdam in December!
Also considering trying snert (split-pea soup), stamppot (potatoes and vegetables), fondue (what better use for all that delicious Dutch cheese?), and Chocomel (Dutch-branded hot chocolate).
Plus, the usual year-round treats like Dutch pancakes, poffertjes, and stroopwafels are also extra-tasty when using them to warm up on a cold day!
In general, Dutch food lends itself to cold winter weather, so enjoy the chance to soak up coziness through cuisine!
Visit a brown cafe.
Named for their dark, cozy interiors that are typically surrounded by wood-paneled walls, Dutch brown cafes are to Amsterdam what British pubs are to London: casual, comfortable spaces serving unpretentious food, good beer, and good company.
A casual meal in a brown cafe is a must when visiting Amsterdam in winter!
Peruse the cheese shops.
No one does cheese quite like the Dutch, and what better way to warm up in Amsterdam in December than to peruse several, sampling cheese along the way and picking out at least a few to bring home?
Not enough cheese for you?
The Amsterdam Cheese Museum can be a fun stop, too!
Enjoy all the usual best things to do in Amsterdam… with fewer crowds!
One of the best things about December in Amsterdam is simply that there are few people there!
As a fairly small city that is also one of the most visited cities in Europe, the tourist crowds in Amsterdam can be oppressive much of the year.
But in December, when people more commonly head to Germany for Christmas markets or to the Canary Islands for some sun, Amsterdam has some more breathing room, which makes it even more fun to visit.
Whether you have time for a weekend in Amsterdam or a full week, you’re bound to cover more ground in Amsterdam during a winter trip than a summer one.
Where to Stay in Amsterdam
There’s no way around it: hotels in the Netherlands, and in Amsterdam in particular, are far from the most affordable places that you’ll find in Europe.
The good news, though, is that while Amsterdam is expensive, December is one of the most affordable months to visit.
Expect to pay more for lodging in Amsterdam than for comparable stays in many other cities in Europe during winter, but much less than you would if you were visiting Amsterdam in, say, April.
If you have mobility limitations, be sure to read the description of your hotel carefully: very steep staircases are far from unheard of in Amsterdam!
These options all get great reviews and should give you an idea of what you can expect to spend on lodging in Amsterdam in December.
Hotel Abba — For travelers looking for something a bit nicer than a hostel dorm but still hoping to stick to a budget, the popular Hotel Abba is a reliable and excellent option!
Located within walking distance of Museum Square and much of central Amsterdam, Hotel Abba features great reviews and an included breakfast each day.
XO Hotels Van Gogh — A comfortable, affordable hotel with a fun design twist: that’s what you’ll find at XO Hotels Van Gogh, where rooms are decorated with creations inspired by the famous artist’s work.
With great reviews and a fantastic location practically next door to the famous Van Gogh Museum, mid-range travelers can’t go wrong with a stay here.
Maison ELLE Amsterdam Hotel — This stunning 30-room property near Vondelpark is the perfect blend of 19th-century charm and modern amenities.
Fully updated a few years back, luxury service and luxury amenities are the norm at this charming boutique property!
Travel Tips for Visiting Amsterdam in December
Plan your daylight hours well.
With limited daylight to work with, plan wisely when visiting Amsterdam in December.
If you can, try to structure some of your indoor activities for after 4:30 PM–after all, it’s not “night”, but it sure will feel like it if you’re hanging out outside!
Break up your day with a variety of both indoor and outdoor plans.
Amsterdam is not only cold in December, but it also tends to be damp, making the cold weather even more uncomfortable.
Make the most of your trip to the city by mixing up indoor and outdoor activities, balancing your need to stay warm with your desire to make the most of the limited daylight hours.
Don’t expect German-level Christmas markets.
Amsterdam’s Christmas markets are lots of fun and full of tasty treats–but they aren’t the immersive, gigantic fantasylands featuring seemingly endless wood chalet stalls and mug rentals that you’ll find in places like Germany and Austria.
Luckily, Amsterdam is extremely well-connected to Central Europe by train, so if you do want to visit both Amsterdam and the best Christmas markets in the world in December, you can consider combining your trip!
Plan ahead if you want to visit the Anne Frank House.
Visiting the Anne Frank House is an incredibly moving experience and one of the best things to do in Amsterdam in December (or any other month, for that matter), but it does require planning ahead.
The tickets for the house are limited and sell out extremely quickly.
80% of them are released 2 months before the visit date, but if you don’t plan that far ahead, don’t worry: the remaining 20% are released at 9:00 AM local time the day of the visit.
By visiting Amsterdam in December, you’ll have a better chance of scoring one of these last-minute tickets than if you visited during the more crowded months, and it’s how we managed to visit the Anne Frank House during our own December trip to Amsterdam.
Definitely plan to log on and try to snag some at exactly 9:00 AM, though!
Amsterdam doesn’t completely close on Christmas Day.
While in many European cities you’ll find all restaurants, pubs, museums, and other attractions closed on Christmas Day, Amsterdam stays a bit more open, with attractions like the Rijksmuseum remaining open on December 25.
Many places will be closed, of course, but with some museums open and a decent number of restaurants open as well, Amsterdam can be a great place to spend December 25 if you’re planning a trip to Europe over Christmas Day.
What to Pack for Winter in Amsterdam
We recommend checking out our complete winter packing list for Europe before you go–but here are a few essentials to consider as you plan your trip to Amsterdam in December!
Travel Insurance — We don’t ever suggest traveling without travel insurance–anything can happen, and this is definitely a case of better safe than sorry.
Check prices and inclusions with Safety Wing for your December trip to Amsterdam!
Pacsafe — We can’t recommend our Pacsafe enough: this travel safe is affordable, sturdy, easy to pack, and will help keep your valuables safe in your hotel room (not that you should need to worry much about theft from your hotel room during your Amsterdam trip, but it’s better to be safe than sorry!).
Travel Adapters for the Netherlands — If you’re coming from outside of Europe, you’ll definitely want to make sure you can plug in your electronics once you arrive!
Just aim for something comfortable to wear, not flashy, and medium-sized–we used a Northface Jester backpack for years and loved it as well.
Umbrella — With rain falling on almost half the days during December in Amsterdam, it’s best to come prepared with a travel umbrella!
Lotion — Winter in Amsterdam can be rough on the skin–be sure to pack a moisturizing lotion.
Lip Balm — You know what’s not fun? Eating Dutch food with chapped lips.
Portable USB Charger — Avoid having your phone die when you’re out exploring, and throw a portable USD charger in your day bag! They also come in particularly handy on long flights.
Hand Sanitizer — Christmas markets, in particular, tend to mean lots of finger foods, eaten outside, often not near a bathroom where you can wash your hands.
Bringing along hand sanitizer for your Amsterdam winter trip will make your life much easier.
Read More About Visiting Europe at Christmas
Planning a trip to Europe this December and eager to keep reading?
You can browse all our blog posts about visiting Europe in winter here, or check out these guides:
- How to Celebrate Christmas in Europe: Itinerary Ideas, Tips + FAQ!
- Salzburg in Winter: A Massively Detailed Guide
- What to Buy at Europe’s Christmas Markets (Gift + Souvenir Ideas!)
- Bruges in Winter: Festive Travel Guide + Christmas Market FAQ
- 17 Spectacular Places to Visit in Switzerland (+ Map!)