What's On in Amsterdam December 2018
December sees the start of the festive holiday season in Amsterdam - with presents given out on Sinterklaas and then the run-up to Christmas and New Year. Let's take a look at what's on in the city for visitors, locals and expats...
Museums & Exhibitions in Amsterdam
Rijksmuseum – Reopened in April 2013 after 10 years of renovation, the Rijksmuseum's rich collection (including Rembrandt's Night Watch) is a must-see in Amsterdam. 80 Years’ War, exhibition showing how violence, rebellion and civil war, terror and oppression, religious persecutions and refugees led to the emergence of the present Netherlands and Belgium. Runs 12 Oct 2018 to 20 Jan 2019.
Van Gogh Museum – Popular museum with the world's largest collection of Vincent van Gogh paintings. Gaugin and Laval on Martinique, exhibition featuring paintings of Paul Gaugin and Charles Laval created on the island. Runs 5 Oct 2018 to 13 Jan 2019. Van Gogh Dreams is narrative installation that allows you to enter the mind and heart of Vincent van Gogh. Runs 27 Jul 2018 to 13 Jan 2019.
Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) – The life of Buddha, the Path to the Present is a major exhibition which recounts the life phases of Siddhartha Gautama, better known as the Buddha. Combining both ancient and modern art including pieces from Ai Weiwei and Yoko Ono. It runs 16 Sep 2018 to 3 Feb 2019.
Anne Frank House - The canal house on Amsterdam's Prinsengracht canal where Anne Frank wrote her famous teenage wartime diary whilst hiding from German occupation. The house and museum is open to visitors though pre-booking is essential.
Hermitage Amsterdam – Showcases an exhibition every 6 months from the vast collection of the grand State Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia. Exhibition Classic Beauties: Artists, Italy and the Aesthetic Ideals of the 18th Century featuring neo-classic art runs between 16 Jun 2018 and 13 Jan 2019. Also ongoing at the Hermitage: Panorama Amsterdam. City Time Lapse, a visual projection of Amsterdam through the ages as seen from the Amstel river; and Portrait Gallery of the Golden Age.
Outsider Art Museum – This museum at the Hermitage showcases extraordinary art by unconventional artists who have not been formally trained. ITE Art | Finnish collection Ammann, art from the backwoods of Finland. Runs 14 Jun 2018 to 13 Jan 2019.
Stedelijk – Amsterdam's main modern and contemporary art museum. STEDELIJK BASE is the permanent installation featuring around 700 pieces. Amsterdam, the Magic Center looks at art and counterculture movement in the city 1967-1970. Runs 7 Jul 2018 to 6 Jan 2019. Raquel van Haver, Spirits of the Soil major exhibition from the local artist including a series of monumental paintings. Runs 25 Nov 2018 to 7 Apr 2019.
Amsterdam Museum – 1001 Women in the Twentieth Century, exhibition of 120 remarkable women who played a key role in Dutch history in the last century. Expected 4 Oct 2018 to 10 Mar 2019.
MOCO Museum – This modern and contemporary art museum on Museumplein. Banksy: Laugh Now (includes Beanfield) is now a permanent exhibition. Icy & Sot, A Moment of Clarity exhibition runs 1 Jun 2018 to 15 Jan 2019.
Tropenmuseum – Ethnographic museum featuring fascinating exhibitions on non-Western cultures. Fashion Cities Africa explores the urban fashion scene in Casablanca, Johannesburg, Lagos, Nairobi as well as Africans in the Netherlands. Runs until 6 Jan 2019.
Het Schip (Amsterdam School Museum) – Gaudí and the Amsterdam School, exhibition will highlight the many similarities between the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí and the Amsterdam School. Runs 2 Oct 2018 to 1 Apr 2019.
Allard Pierson Museum – The World in Colour: Colour Photography before 1918 exhibition runs 21 Jun 2018 to 6 Jan 2019.
Huis Marseille – 4 exhibitions run 8 Sep to 2 Dec 2018 including Koos Breukel / Son, the Dutch portrait photographer presents photos of his son Casper since birth in 2000; Hellen van Meene / And everything goes on when you die, Dutch photographer looks at the grief and death in a world which keeps moving.
FOAM – Masahisa Fukase - Private Scenes, retrospective exhibition of the late Japanese photographer. Runs 7 Sep to 12 Dec 2018.
National Holocaust Museum – Opened in 2016, this museum is under development and currently presents Tangible Memories from the Jewish Monument, exhibition of objects, photos and documents of people affected by the Holocaust. Ongoing until end 2019. Exodus. Illegal Palestine travellers, 1945-1948 documents the journey taken by hundreds of Dutch-Jewish youths. Runs 5 Oct 2018 to 6 Jan 2019.
Jewish Historical Museum – The Institute of Ongoing Things, an exhibition by the multidisciplinary artist Uri Katzenstein. Runs 29 Sep 2018 to 24 Feb 2019.
Biblical Museum – Rebecca, That's Me, exhibition of works from the Jewish Museum in Berlin portraying biblical stories. Runs 6 Jul 2018 to 27 Jan 2019.
EYE Film – Ryoji Ikeda, key figure in electronic music and visual artist, curates a spectacular exhibition for Eye. Runs 15 Sep to 2 Dec 2018.
Body Worlds – Display of human body plastinate specimens at the permanent venue on Damrak. The exhibition focuses on happiness.
Check out our comprehensive Amsterdam museums section
Sport in Amsterdam and Netherlands
Ajax home matches at the Johan Cruyff ArenA in Amsterdam:
Ajax vs ADO Den Haag (Eredivisie) – 2 Dec 2018, 1215
Ajax vs De Graafschap (Eredivisie) – 16 Dec 2018, 1430
Friday Night Run – Free monthly 1 hour run organised by running group Phanos. Meet at Olympic Stadium Amsterdam at 1930 on Friday 14 Dec 2018.
A Touch of Gold – Gymnastics exhibition event featuring Dutch gymnast stars Sanne Wevers and Epke Zonderland. At Ziggo Dome Amsterdam, 29 Dec 2018.
Friday Night Skate – 20km organised skate around the streets of Amsterdam held every Friday night (2030, weather permitting) from Vondelpark Pavilion.
See the full annual sport calendar for Amsterdam
Festivals in Amsterdam
Amsterdam Light Festival – Heading into its 7th year, this event promises to light up the city during the festive season. Featuring a Water Colours boat route which can best be seen by taking an evening canal cruise; or check out the the new land exhibition around Amsterdam's Marineterrein. Runs 29 Nov 2018 to 20 Jan 2019.
Tangotrain – Tango festival cooperative event (5th edition) which runs the last week of December. At various locations around Amsterdam, dates to be confirmed.
See our complete festival calendar for Amsterdam
Fairs & Expos in Amsterdam
Meesterlijk – Event for beautifully designed and crafted products from furniture makers, fashion designers, glass artists, hat and shoe designers, food designers and leather crafters. Runs at Cultuurpark Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam, 30 Nov to 2 Dec 2018.
This Art Fair – Fair offering a platform for talented artists to show and sell their works to the public. At Beurs van Berlage, 27-30 Dec 2018.
Comedy & Shows in Amsterdam
Amsterdam Magic Show – At Boom Chicago's Rozentheater, Rozengracht in Amsterdam, Tuesday 4 Dec 2018 at 2000.
CATS – English version of the musical at Amsterdam RAI, 20 Dec 2018 to 13 Jan 2019.
Boom Chicago – Comedy and improv show held Wed - Sat and playing at Rozentheater on Rozengracht.
Classical Concerts & Theatre in Amsterdam
Toneelgroep Amsterdam – Amsterdam's renowned theatre company performs shows in Dutch which have live English surtitles above the stage - for Thursday night shows at the Stadsschouwburg theatre. Performances in December are: The Hidden Force (6 Dec 2018); Ibsen House (13/20 Dec 2018); Husbands and Wives (13/20 Dec 2018).
Dutch National Opera & Ballet – Perform opera The Barber of Seville (Rossini), 2 Dec 2018; opera Oedipe (Enescu), various between 6-25 Dec 2018; ballet Cinderella, various between 13-31 Dec 2018.
Portuguese Synagogue Candlelight Concert – Features Domenica Strijktrio, 20 Dec 2018 (1930).
Pathé Met Opera – The Tuschinski cinema hosts live streaming opera from the Metropolitan in New York. La Traviata (Verdi) 15 Dec 2018 (1900).
Holiday Season in Amsterdam and Netherlands
Sinterklaas (St Nicholas, patron saint of Amsterdam) is celebrated in Netherlands on December 5th. In mid-November, Dutch TV shows him "arriving" by steamboat from Spain dressed in a red bishop's robe and carrying a pastoral staff. Sinterklaas then parades through town on a white horse accompanied by his helpers, the Zwarte Pieten (black Petes).
In the last few years there has been a growing controversy and debate about the depiction of the black Petes due to perceived racial/colonial overtones. Although the majority of Dutch support the character, subtle changes in appearance are being made such as painting Pete's face in other colours.
Dutch children put out a shoe next to the fireplace and receive small presents such as pepernoten spiced biscuits or chocolate letters (with the initial of their first name). If you are invited to a Dutch Sinterklaas party you will probably have to buy a present for at least one of the guests and perhaps write a personal poem to accompany the gift!
New Year's Eve 2018/19 – See in the new year in Amsterdam. For general mayhem, fireworks and parties all over town. Head over to the Maritime Museum for the free municipal firework display over the river IJ which starts at 2300 on 31 Dec 2018.
Bijenkorf lights – Check out the lights and window displays at the Bijenkorf department store on Dam Square.
World Christams Circus – 34th edition of the international circus extravaganza. At Theater Carré in Amsterdam, 20 Dec 2018 to 6 Jan 2019.
Christams Circus Ahoy – Rotterdam's Ahoy hosts a Christmas circus with a host of spectacular acts. Runs 22-30 Dec 2018.
Other Events in Amsterdam and Netherlands
Ice*Amsterdam – Get your skates on and hit the spectacular ice rink on Museumplein in the shadow of the Rijksmuseum. Open 17 Nov 2018 until 3 Feb 2019.
De Balie – The multimedia venue near Leidseplein in Amsterdam hosts regular events about current affairs, politics and culture.
Free Concerts in Amsterdam
Bimhuis – Jazz venue has free Workshop & Session every Tuesday at 2000.
Concertgebouw – Free lunchtime concerts held on occasional Wednesdays at 1230 in either the small hall (kleine zaal) or large hall (grote zaal). 5/12/19 Dec 2018 in the small hall. For concerts in the small hall, free tickets must be collected from the ticket desk.
Dutch Opera & Ballet – These lunchtime concerts in the Opera & Ballet foyer present music by small groups of musicians, including members of the Chorus of Dutch National Opera, the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and Netherlands Chamber Orchestra. Almost every Tuesday 1230-1300, doors open 1215.
Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ – Free monthly concert showcasing young classical talent - Thursday 6 Dec 2018 (1230).
Market Events in Amsterdam
Pure Markt – Regular market event with high quality local and seasonal produce, music, food stalls and other activities. At Amstelpark on 16 Dec 2018 (1100-1700) and at Park Frankendael on 23 Dec 2018 (1100-1700).
Sunday Market – Sunday market at Westergasfabriek with a mix of fashion, design, arts, food and kids stuff. Sinterklaas edition will be held on 2 Dec 2018 (1200-1800); funky Xmas market edition on 16 Dec 2018 (1200-1800); New Market (Deli & Lifestyle) at Nieuwmarkt on 28 Dec 2018 (1100-1800).
Museum Market – Museumplein hosts this Sunday market with arts and crafts, food and music, 9 Dec 2018 (1200-1800).
IJ-Hallen – Huge weekend flea market event held at NDSM-wharf in north Amsterdam with 500 indoor stands. 8-9 Dec 2018 (0900-1630).
Rock & Pop Concerts in Amsterdam and Netherlands
Delgado Brothers – 2 Dec, Q-Factory
Jessy J – 3 Dec, AFAS Live
Lauren Hill – 6 Dec, AFAS Live
Shame – 7 Dec, Paradiso
Chilly Gonzalez – 8 Dec, Carré
A Perfect Circle – 9 Dec, AFAS Live
Mariah Carey – 13 Dec, Ziggo Dome
Cypress Hill – 21 Dec, AFAS Live
Hotels in Amsterdam
You should book your Amsterdam accommodation in advance if possible. During popular events rooms can be difficult to find and prices can rise significantly! Book your Amsterdam hotel here via Booking.com, which usefully offers free cancellation if your plans change.
Some specific Amsterdam hotel recommendations: