Amsterdam houses in winter

The Ultimate Guide To Winter in the Netherlands

It’s getting colder and colder in the Netherlands right now. Winter is coming. So how should you spend winter in the Netherlands?

After living in the Netherlands for more than 20 years, I’ve experienced lots of Dutch winters. They can be cold and it’s important to know how to still have a great time during this chilly weather.

In this guide, I’ll walk you through what winter is like over here, what cities are best to visit and what some of the best winter activities are. Read on to find out all you need to know for an amazing Dutch winter experience.

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links below may contain affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase.

winter in netherlands: person on a bike in the snow

Key takeaways

  • Winter in the Netherlands runs from December to February, with chilly temperatures and sometimes snowfall.
  • You can do lots of fun winter activities like ice skating on frozen canals, marveling at light festivals and visiting lit up cities.
  • Cities host magical Christmas markets filled with food, gifts and holiday cheer.
  • Some special places to visit are the Winter Efteling theme park or Tuschinscki Cinema.
  • For a truly unique experience, take part in the New Year’s Dive.

Weather in the Netherlands during winter

So what is the weather actually like during winter in Holland?

Cold temperatures

Prepare for the frosty winter temperatures in the Netherlands. It can get pretty chilly over here!

With an average temperature of about 3.4°C during winter months and daily averages just above freezing point, stepping outside might feel like a going into a giant freezer at times.

It’s not uncommon for mercury to plunge even deeper sometimes, historically dropping as low as -10°C.

But don’t let this put off your plans! Just dress up warmly and look forward to those crisp blue skies that are characteristic of cold climate in the Netherlands.

Possibility of snow

The possibility of snow in the Netherlands can bring a magical layer of white to the landscape, especially during winter. Cities like Amsterdam get transformed into charming winter wonderlands, sprinkled with frosty flakes here and there.

Snowfall is usually seen from December through February but it’s not always predictable.

You might wake up one day to find your surroundings draped in a blanket of fresh snow. You never really know when it’s going to happen. In February 2021, for instance, Amsterdam experienced an exciting cold that resulted in some snowfall.

Snowy days can really add an extra winter sparkle to your visit. Please be extra careful with cycling though! Each time it snows here, the roads get extra slippy and I always fall from my bike, even as a local.

Occasional freezing

In the heart of winter, you might experience occasional freezing in the Netherlands. The temperatures can drop overnight.

This unpredictable weather shift is mainly due to chilling Siberian winds and lengthy periods of snowfall that often take locals by surprise.

So when packing your bags for a Dutch winter adventure, definitely make sure to bring enough layers for the cold weather. More on that later.

When is winter in the Netherlands?

Winter in the Netherlands officially kicks off in December. This season brings with it chilly climate, frosty conditions, and occasional snowfall, transforming Dutch landscapes into a winter wonderland.

To be more precise, on December 21st, winter officially begins, at least according to the astronomical calendar. However, for meteorologists and climatologists, winter starts on December 1st, and the season lasts exactly three calendar months.

As you plan your trip around this time, expect icy roads and low temperatures. The colder weather continues on through January and ends in February.

This period is the ideal time to enjoy winter activities across the country from ice skating on frozen canals to visiting iconic Christmas markets.

However, bear in mind that each year’s weather patterns can vary slightly due to global climatic changes.

The best things to do during winter in the Netherlands

From sipping hot chocolate in cozy cafes to ice skating on frozen canals, winter in the Netherlands is home to many worthwhile activities.

Whether you’re exploring charming Christmas markets, or stepping into the magical world of Winter Efteling, there’s no shortage of winter fun here.

Want to uncover more of what to do during winter in Holland? Just keep on reading!

Visit a Christmas Market

Step into the magical world of Dutch Christmas markets during your winter visit to the Netherlands. These traditional markets, filled with stalls of unique gifts and delicious food and drinks, are a signature element of Dutch winter events. They’re also a great place to buy some souvenirs to take home with you.

In cities across the country, not just Amsterdam, these festive gatherings create an unforgettable experience for both locals and tourists.

Whether it’s trying local holiday delicacies or shopping for handmade crafts, visiting a Christmas market should undoubtedly be at the top of your winter itinerary in the Netherlands.

Christmas market in Holland
Christmas market in Valkenburg

Go to the Winter Efteling

Looking for a special place to visit? Or visiting with your children? Then you should really visit the Winter Efteling during your winter trip to the Netherlands. This theme park, open year-round, transforms into a winter wonderland filled when the chilly weather hits.

Check the information at the Efteling website ahead of time to plan your visit perfectly – making it one highlight of your Dutch winter adventure you won’t soon forget.

Watch a documentary at IDFA

Although not technically in winter, it’s already cold outside during this part of the year. The International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) usually takes place around November each year.

It’s a really unique cinematic experience and documentary makers from all over the world come here to showcase their artistic film works.

It’s more than just a movie viewing; it’s an opportunity to learn and draw inspiration from real-life stories across the globe. Some of these documentaries get screened in Kriterion, which is a cinema set up in 1945 by Anti-Nazi students.

IDFA is one of the top cultural experiences in the Netherlands and I highly recommend visiting it if you’re in Holland during this time of the year. There are loads of different stories being told here.

Drink hot chocolate milk

Winter in the Netherlands isn’t complete without sipping on a deliciously warm cup of hot chocolate milk. It’s one of the favorite winter activities among locals and tourists.

Personally, I drink hot chocolate milk regardless of the season, but drinking it during winter season feels like a warm hug inside a cup.

Various cafes across Dutch cities offer hot chocolate milk, some topping it off with whipped cream (in Dutch: slagroom) or melted marshmallows!

You can also make your own hot chocolate milk by warming up the Dutch ”chocomel”.

Hot chocolate milk in Holland

Admire Amsterdam Light Festival

Another special event to witness during winter over here is definitely the Amsterdam Light Festival. Watch in awe as the city transforms into an outdoor art gallery. This annual event, held every December and January, is a highlight of winter in the Netherlands.

As you stroll through the streets of Amsterdam on those dark winter nights, you’ll discover public art installations created by talented artists from around the world.

For an unforgettable festival experience, book yourself onto an Amsterdam Light Festival boat tour. You get to see these artworks from a unique perspective – right from Amsterdam’s iconic canals. Plus, sometimes there’s an open bar on board making your evening cruise even more enjoyable.

With each installation lit up against the backdrop of Amsterdam’s historic architecture, it’s no wonder that locals and tourists admire this light festival year after year.

This year’s ALF will be extra interesting, as the artists have gotten the assignment to include in their work the (futuristic) influence of AI on our everyday lives.

romantic things to do in amsterdam for couples

Visit the Concertgebouw

Perhaps you think it’s a bit too cold to be walking around outside. In the heart of Amsterdam, you’ll find the Concertgebouw.

One of the world’s best concert halls, it presents an impressive 700 concerts annually. It’s a great place to visit during winter in the Netherlands.

Tip: on Wednesday’s there are free lunch concerts here. It’s best to reserve your spot in advance. You only have to pay 2.50 euros as an administration fee. Hardly anyone knows about this.

Watch a movie at Tuschinscki Theatre

Another amazing indoor activity is to watch a movie at Tuschinscki Theatre. This cinema is located in Amsterdam and is regarded as one of the most beautiful cinemas in the country.

More than just a movie viewing venue, its unique design and historical significance make it a cultural attraction worth adding to your itinerary. The rich history and architectural masterpiece of this theater add an extra touch to your film experience.

Tuschinski theatre Amsterdam

Go ice skating on a canal or at Museumplein

Transform your winter visit into a fairytale experience. Go ice skating over frozen canals in Utrecht or Amsterdam. The Dutch have a love affair with ice skating and when the temperatures dip far below zero, their picturesque canals turn into widespread natural rinks.

Not only locals but tourists also lace up their skates to enjoy this unique ice experience in the heart of these cities!

And if nature doesn’t allow for canal-skating, don’t be too disappointed: Ice rinks pop up at many places during winter months. One such place is at the iconic Museumplein. This famous spot transforms into a winter wonderland every year.

Regardless of your skills on skates, ice skating in the Netherlands is all about having fun while enjoying incredible views. So gear up and get ready to skate through Dutch winter charm either on iconic canals or at Museumplein’s outdoor ice rink.

people ice skating at Museumplein
Ice skating at Museumplein

Go winter camping

Looking for an outdoor experience? Go out into the great outdoors and try winter camping in the Netherlands. This experience goes beyond your average tent and campfire setup. Amidst icy landscapes, you immerse yourself fully in nature’s beauty during its coldest months.

Participate in the New Year’s Dive

Perhaps the most Dutch thing to do ever is to participate in the New Year’s Dive. Personally, I always do it, wherever I am in the world. It’s a great adrenaline kick! So what is it?

In short: on New Year’s Day, the 1st of January, people in Holland go and jump in the sea together. That’s basically it, but believe me, it’s very enjoyable!

You’re standing there with all these other people and you’re absolutely freezing, as it’s always cold outside during this time of the year. You’re thinking to yourself: am I really going to do this?

And then you jump in the sea and afterwards you feel proud and ready for the new year all at the same time.

For a truly Dutch experience, I highly recommend doing this. Don’t forget to bring a towel and warm clothing for afterwards. Sometimes people even wear orange Unox hats.

Some of the beaches where this takes place are Scheveningen Beach and Castricum. The first beach is very famous and the second one is in a small, yet beautiful Dutch village.

Visit a museum

If you’re looking for a place to shelter from the cold, make sure to visit a museum. Museums in the Netherlands burst with rich history, remarkable art collections and fascinating exhibits.

I recommend making a trip to the Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam or the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem, both perfect places for cold winter days.

You can admire stunning works of art while staying warm indoors. If history is more your thing, The Anne Frank House provides a unique experience, shedding light on one of World War II’s most famous stories.

These are just some examples; there’s no shortage of incredible museums here offering indoor activities that turn any sightseeing adventure into an educational journey.

Museums in Haarlem
Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem

What to wear during winter in the Netherlands

When planning your winter trip to the Netherlands, keep in mind that it’s essential to stay warm during the chilly season. Dressing appropriately ensures that you stay comfy throughout your Dutch winter adventures. So what should you pack for your winter trip?

Warm and waterproof clothing

Wearing warm clothing and a shawl is very important during winter in the Netherlands. Going into the Dutch winters without warm and waterproof clothing is not an option.

Layering your outfits helps against the cold while giving you flexibility to adjust to changing temperatures throughout the day. Thermal underlayers provide extra warmth on frosty days, helping keep icy winds at bay.

Keeping heads covered is crucial too – a stylish hat or ”muts” isn’t just about looks; it’s a barrier against heat loss! And let’s not forget warm scarves keeping us cozy in the harsh weather conditions during winter!

Another important but often overlooked accessory are gloves – they protect your hands from freezing plus some of them let you use your phone without risking chilly fingers.

Always prioritize comfort alongside being weather-ready so you can enjoy Dutch winter in all its glory.

So while packing your travel suitcase for Amsterdam or any other Dutch city this winter don’t forget these items: a warm hat, snugly fitting gloves, and a thick scarf for comfort against the cold weather!

people during winter in the netherlands

Comfortable shoes

Strolling through the (sometimes snow-filled) streets of Dutch cities requires proper footwear. Opt for wool-lined shoes or ankle boots that offer insulation against the cold temperatures typical during a Netherlands winter.

In addition to warmth, traction is another consideration while selecting suitable winter walking shoes. No one wants an unexpected slip on a frosty sidewalk! Snow boots with non-slip soles are ideal as they help you retain your footing even on slick surfaces.

For hiking enthusiasts planning to explore the countryside, insulated winter hiking boots will keep feet warm while offering stability. Another alternative is ice cleats or ice grippers which provide excellent grip.

In general, make sure to wear comfortable shoes that keep you warm enough and have some traction!

people in cold weather in Holland

Cities to visit during winter in the Netherlands

So where should you wander during winter in Holland? Explore the beauty of Dutch cities during winter, from Amsterdam’s fronzen canals and Utrecht’s medieval charm to Haarlem’s cozy cafés and Maastricht’s festive spirit. Here are some great places to explore during winter:

Amsterdam

Amsterdam transforms into a winter wonderland during the colder months. Although summer in Amsterdam is lively, the sights of frozen canals have its own unique charm.

It’s also very romantic to visit Amsterdam during this time of the year, so if you’re looking for things to do as a couple, it’s ideal.

As mentioned earlier, you can go ice skating at Museum Plein or you can admire the art works at Amsterdam Light Festival. Also don’t forget to visit its Christmas markets.

Even in winter, exploring this magical destination doesn’t cease to amaze; strolling down its streets (sometimes dusted with snow) offer an experience that seems straight out of a postcard.

The Dutch capital is packed with activities and attractions worth experiencing during this season, making it one of the must-visit cities in winter in the Netherlands.

Amsterdam houses in winter

Utrecht

Located just a quick 30-minute train ride away from Amsterdam Central Station, Utrecht is a perfect day trip from Amsterdam.

It’s a gem waiting to be discovered in the chilly winter months. Home to pretty canals and stunning architecture, this city is definitely worth visiting.

The liveliness of Utrecht’s parks and cafés provides a stark contrast against the frozen landscape. Here you can visit fascinating museums or simply walk along the canals.

And don’t forget about Utrecht’s Christmas markets, such as the Snug market, the Country & Christmas Fair and the market at Molen de Ster.

Haarlem

Don’t miss out on Haarlem, a hidden gem in North Holland. There are many great things to do in Haarlem. It feels a bit like a smaller version of Amsterdam. There are many amazing museums to visit over here as well.

Here you’ll find charming streets filled with unique shops alongside beautiful canals. The hidden courtyards in Haarlem will look extra special during this time of the year.

A trip to Haarlem truly adds another beautiful layer to your Netherlands winter adventure.

Don’t forget to visit its Christmas market this year, from 8th to 10th of December 2023.

Verwey Museum Haarlem
Verwey Museum in Haarlem

Maastricht

For a really festive atmosphere you should visit the city of Maastricht. It has a certain fairytale kind of charm to it. As you wander through Maastricht’s historical paths, you get transported back in time.

The famous Christmas market here is the largest in the Netherlands; hence if you’re looking for lots of festive things to do, this is the place to be.

Also thanks to its location near the Belgian and German borders, Maastricht offers an appealing cross border opportunity if you’re looking for more winter getaways in other European countries.

Perfectly doable over a weekend trip, this charming city is the perfect place for an unforgettable Dutch winter experience.

Rotterdam

Home to a vibrant and multicultural atmosphere, Rotterdam promises an unforgettable winter adventure. Here you’ll discover a lively cultural life filled with several fantastic museums and many things to do.

If you’re looking for an off the beaten tourist path destination during winter in the Netherlands, then head over to Rotterdam. You’ll not only find that it has different architecture, but also a special kind of atmosphere.

Rotterdam hallen

Groningen

Groningen is a captivating city in the Northern Netherlands. It serves as the capital of its province and houses about 203,000 inhabitants. It’s definitely one of the most underrated city in the Netherlands.

Known for its vibrant student life and cultural scene, it’s a hub of creativity that never sleeps. The city has plentiful cafes, restaurants and bars where you can appreciate the local cuisine or enjoy a warm drink on cold winter days.

But there’s more to Groningen than just food and drinks! The museums sprinkled all over offer an escape while allowing you to stay indoors when it gets too chilly. Besides, the Martinikerk and Martini Tower are must-see attractions that add charm to this lively city.

So wrap yourself up in your warmest clothes and go and explore this northern gem.

bikes and houses in Groningen

Alkmaar

Alkmaar feels a bit like the combination of a village and a city in one. There are many things to do over here.

You can visit its Cheese Museum or walk along its frosty canals in the city’s historic centre. There’s a windmill here that will look truly iconic during snowy days. Also don’t miss out on their lively cheese market and wander through its shopping streets.

After exploring its sights, warm up in one of their many cafes or have dinner at some of the great restaurants in this city.

street next to restaurant bistro 13

In conclusion

Winter in the Netherlands can be very cold, yet also very exciting if you know where to wander. So, get ready for an unforgettable winter adventure in the Netherlands.

Pack your warmest clothes and explore a festive wonderland filled with twinkling lights, ice-skating rinks and frozen canals.

Don’t miss out on iconic Dutch winter events such as the Amsterdam Light Festival and the Christmas markets scattered throughout the whole country.

All in all, winter in Holland offers countless magical experiences that you shouldn’t miss!

Away with Danae

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