Amsterdam’s romantic tangle of canals and squares are alight with colour during the festive season. Christmas in Amsterdam is a time for ice skating and dumpling-eating, for festivals of light and Christmas markets. As soon as the air gets crisp, Amsterdam gets ready for the holiday season.

Christmas in Amsterdam is filled with light. When the Bijenkorf luxury department store illuminates its yearly Christmas lights, it’s a signal that the festive season has truly begun, along with the official Amsterdam Christmas tree nearby, in front of the royal palace on Dam Square. The city continues to get into the holiday season with the annual Amsterdam Light Festival, a widespread display of art and light installations by both local and international artists that graces the canals of Amsterdam.

If you’re looking for ideas for Christmas parties in Amsterdam, renting a private open-top canal cruise to admire these captivating and sometimes surreal installations from the water is a festive experience unique to the city. The light installations go up one month before Christmas, washing the whole city in a colourful glow.

The area around Museumplein gets lively during the Christmas season, with an ice-skating rink set up in front of the Rijksmuseum that’s open to all, and another not far away at Leidseplein. Nearby is Musemplein’s Ice Village, which features a Christmas market. While music weaves out of speakers, make your way from stand to stand to see what this year’s vendors are selling. Wooden stands line the ice rink, where you can feast on fluffy oliebollen (doughnut-like dumplings), nibble on Dutch waffles, or sample hot sausages, washing it all down with mulled wine.

In keeping with the holiday spirit, special performances occur in Amsterdam during the Christmas season. The sparkling World Christmas Circus performs at Royal Theatre CarrĂ© from December 21st, where top international circus artists perform acts on trapeze and horseback and fly through hoops. You can enjoy a dizzying array of concerts, operas, and ballets throughout the month leading up to Christmas, including performances of The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Rachmaninoff’s All-Night Vigil, and more.

Amsterdam has many excellent restaurants offering traditional Dutch cuisine. Step inside De Kas, a restaurant nestled into a greenhouse, to warm yourself from the cold winter air. Serving a daily vegetable-focused fixed menu based on what they grow themselves in the greenhouse, De Kas offers plenty of space for large groups, plus a separate Garden Room for private parties.

There’s also the atmospheric Restaurant d’Vijff Vlieghen (‘The Five Flies’), a labyrinth of charming dining rooms arranged across five interconnected 17th century canalside houses, where you can experience modern Dutch cuisine. If you’re keen to sample the local beer, head to the Delerium Cafe near Central Station, an airy venue with over 750 choices in a vast collection. The venue also has two private cafes, Kootje and Loesje, ideal locations for Christmas parties in Amsterdam.

With festive lights dancing off its glittering canals, sweet strains of Tchaikovsky drifting from its concert halls, and the aromatic steam of fried dumplings drifting on the air, Amsterdam offers a true feast for the senses during the Christmas season.

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