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 in December 2020…
The Dutch Government continues bringing in ‘precautionary’ measures to contain the ‘coronavirus’. Some events are cancelled [X] or may be cancelled/rescheduled at short notice with limits on capacity.
Museums & Exhibitions in Amsterdam
Museums in the Netherlands are closed until at least 19 January 2021. Once open again visitors need to buy a ticket (and time-slot) online in advance, masks are mandatory.
For a comprehensive selection of museums, activities and tours in Amsterdam book here
Rijksmuseum – The Rijksmuseum’s rich collection (including Rembrandt’s Night Watch) is a must-see in Amsterdam. Ed van der Elsken: Crazy World, images from the Dutch photographer’s personal work archive. Runs 30 Oct 2020 to 10 Jan 2021. Book Rijksmuseum tickets here
Rijksmuseum Schiphol – Amsterdam airport hosts 10 paintings of the Dutch Golden Age from the Rijksmuseum collection. The Rijksmuseum Schiphol is located on Holland Boulevard (between Lounges 2 and 3 in non-Schengen departures) and is open 24 hours a day to passengers free of charge.
Van Gogh Museum – Popular museum with the world’s largest collection of Vincent van Gogh paintings. Your Loving Vincent: Van Gogh’s Greatest Letters, exhibition featuring a selection of his best letters, displayed alongside world-famous paintings. Runs 9 Oct 2020 to 10 Jan 2021. Book Van Gogh Museum tickets here
Anne Frank House – Visit the canal house on Amsterdam’s Prinsengracht canal where Anne Frank wrote her famous teenage wartime diary whilst hiding from German occupation.
Hermitage Amsterdam – Showcases an exhibition every 6 months from the vast collection of the grand State Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia. Exhibition Tsars & Knights, a unique collection of suits of armour and antique weapons. 17 Oct 2020 to 31 Jul 2021.
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 17th Century.
Museum of the Mind (Outsider Art) – This museum at the Hermitage showcases extraordinary art by unconventional artists who have not been formally trained.
Stedelijk – Amsterdam’s main modern and contemporary art museum. STEDELIJK BASE is the permanent installation featuring around 700 pieces. Surinamese School, Painting from Paramaribo to Amsterdam, exhibition presenting 100 artworks by 35 artists on Surinamese history, spirituality and everyday life. Expected 12 Dec 2020 to 31 May 2021. Book Stedelijk tickets here
Amsterdam Museum – Refresh Amsterdam, collaborative exhibition on urban culture (theme: ‘Sense of Place’) featuring 25 participating artists. Runs 11 Dec 2020 to 28 Mar 2021.
MOCO Museum – This modern and contemporary art museum on Museumplein. THE KID: The Future Is Old, an exhibition by the contemporary American artist on social issues runs 19 Nov 2020 to 31 Jul 2021. Banksy: Laugh Now (includes Beanfield) is now a permanent exhibition. Reflecting Forward by Studio Irma, a digital immersive art exhibition also has an extended run. Book MOCO Museum tickets here
Tropenmuseum – Ethnographic museum featuring fascinating exhibitions on non-Western cultures. BALI – Behind the scenes, an exhibition about the island on the Indonesian archipelago which looks at the environmental impact of tourism and the island traditions and culture. Runs 14 Feb 2020 to 10 Jan 2021. What a Genderful World, an exhibition which looks at cultural influences on gender around the world. Extended run to 3 Jan 2021.
Rembrandt House – Hello Rembrandt! – an interactive exhibition for young explorers from 7 to 12 years old. Runs 19 Dec 2020 to 11 Apr 2021.
Scheepvaartmusuem – The clipper Stad Amsterdam will be moored at the National Maritime Museum and open to visits on Wednesdays and Sundays from 12 Sep 2020 to 31 Mar 2021.
Stadsarchief – 100 Years of School Gardens, a free exhibition about the city’s tradition of garden allotments for primary school children. Runs 26 Aug 2020 to 3 Jan 2021.
Nieuwe Kerk – History & Royalty. 600 Years of History, exhibition on the history of the church which includes the new Panorama Nieuwe Kerk, a large film installation. Runs 5 Dec 2020 to 11 Apr 2021.
FOAM Photography Museum – Alec Soth – I Know How Furiously Your Heart is Beating, exhibition from the American photographer. Expected 11 Sep to 6 Dec 2020. FOAM Talent presents work from a new generation of visual artists, running 18 Dec 2020 to 10 Mar 2021. Book FOAM tickets here
FOAM Gallery Mercatorplein – Afropean Express: Travels in Black Europe, free outdoor photo exhibition runs 10 Oct to 10 Dec 2020.
Huis Marseille – Infinite Identities. Photography in the Age of Sharing, exhibition of 8 photographers and artists who use Instagram to show their work. Runs 28 Nov 2020 to 28 Feb 2021.
Allard Pierson Museum – Letters of Art Nouveau, graphic exhibition about the flamboyant letter shapes used in signs from the early 20th century and revived in the 1960s. Runs 23 Oct 2020 to 21 Mar 2021.
Jewish Historical Museum – A Grave in the Clouds, an exhibition about Paul Celan’s poem Todesfuge. Runs 11 Dec 2020 to 16 May 2021. Book Jewish Cultural Quarter tickets here
EYE Film – Trembling Landscapes, Between Reality and Fiction, group exhibition featuring Arab artists. Runs 19 Sep 2020 to 3 Jan 2021.
Framer Framed – From what will we reassemble ourselves, exhibition around the theme of the genocide in Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995. Runs 6 Sep 2020 to 3 Jan 2021.
Body Worlds – Display of human body plastinate specimens at the permanent venue on Damrak. The exhibition focuses on happiness.
COBRA (Amstelveen) – Under the Skin – Claude Cahun, retrospective exhibition of of the progressive French artist, activist and writer Claude Cahun (1894–1954). Runs 15 Oct 2020 to 9 May 2021.
|The Iamsterdam City Card (1-5 days) offers free entry and discounts to numerous Amsterdam attractions and also includes a free transport pass as well. It costs €65 to €130.
You can order the Iamsterdam City Card online here
Sport in Amsterdam and Netherlands
Ajax home fixtures at Johan Cruyff Arena Amsterdam:
Ajax vs FC Twente 5 Dec 2020 (2100) – Eredivisie
Ajax vs Atalanta BC 9 Dec 2020 (1855) – Champions League
Ajax vs PEC Zwolle 12 Dec 2020 (2000) – Eredivisie
Ajax vs FC Utrecht 16 Dec 2020 (2100) – KNVB Beker
Women’s International at Rat Verlegh Stadion Breda:
Netherlands (W) vs Kosovo (W) 1 Dec 2020 (1830) – Euro21 qualifier
[X] Friday Night Run – Free monthly 1 hour run organised by running group Phanos. Meet at Olympic Stadium Amsterdam at 1930 on Friday 11 Dec 2020.
[X] Friday Night Skate – 20km organised skate around the streets of Amsterdam held every Friday night (2030, weather permitting) from Vondelpark Pavilion. Cancelled until further notice.
See the full annual sport calendar for Amsterdam
Festivals in Amsterdam
[X] Amsterdam Light Festival – Heading into its 9th year, this year’s event had been scaled back but has now been cancelled. It planned a 2km ‘Light Walk’ route running through Plantage and Weesperbuurt in the east of Amsterdam. Expected to return in winter 2021/22.
See our complete festival calendar for Amsterdam
Fairs & Expos in Amsterdam
All events cancelled.
Comedy & Shows in Amsterdam
Amsterdam Magic Show – At Boom Chicago’s Rozentheater, Rozengracht in Amsterdam, Tuesday 1 Dec 2020 at 2000.
[X] Boom Chicago – Comedy and improv shows in English playing at Rozentheater on Rozengracht. Remaining December shows are cancelled.
Classical Concerts & Theatre in Amsterdam
[X] Internationaal Theater Amsterdam (ITA) – 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. Note, many shows have been cancelled in December.
[X] Dutch National Opera & Ballet – Productions in December 2020 have been scaled back to the following online streams: Back to Ballet and a special Christmas Gala show.
Holiday Season in Amsterdam and Netherlands
Sinterklaas (St Nicholas, patron saint of Amsterdam) is celebrated in the 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 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 many Dutch support the character, subtle changes in appearance are being made such as creating the chimney-soot Petes (Schoorsteenpieten).
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 2020/21 – This year looks to be a more subdued affair with ‘coronavirus’ restrictions in place and a likely ban on fireworks.
[X] World Christmas Circus – 36th edition of the international circus extravaganza at Theater Carré in Amsterdam, has been postponed until December 2021.
Other Events in Amsterdam and Netherlands
[X] Ice*Amsterdam – Get your skates on and hit the spectacular ice rink on Museumplein in the shadow of the Rijksmuseum. Unfortunately this year’s event has been cancelled, expected to return for winter season 2021/22.
De Balie – The multimedia venue near Leidseplein in Amsterdam hosts regular events about current affairs, politics and culture. Currently has online livestreams only.
Free Concerts in Amsterdam
Most of the free concerts offered by various venues in Amsterdam have been temporarily suspended.
Market Events in Amsterdam
At this point, it is unclear whether the following events can go ahead.
[?] Pure Markt – Regular market event with high quality local and seasonal produce, music, food stalls and other activities. 20 Dec 2020 (1100-1700) at Park Frankendael.
[X] Sunday Market – Sunday market at Westergas with a mix of fashion, design, arts, food and kids stuff. Funky Xmas Market due on 20 Dec 2020 (1200-1800) is cancelled.
Museum Market – Museumplein hosts this Sunday market with arts and crafts, food and music on 13 Dec 2020 (1000-1800).
[X] IJ-Hallen – Huge weekend flea market event held at NDSM-wharf in north Amsterdam. Cancelled until further notice.
Rock & Pop Concerts in Amsterdam and Netherlands
[X] Candy Dulfer – 30 Dec, Paradiso
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:
Disclaimer: While we make every effort to keep this listing up-to-date, events can always be cancelled or re-scheduled at short notice. Please double-check with the event organisers.