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…
Museums & Exhibitions in Amsterdam
For a comprehensive selection of museums, activities and tours in Amsterdam book here
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. Slavery, a major exhibition which focuses on slavery in the Dutch colonial period, spanning from the 17th to the 19th century. Runs 25 Sep 2020 to 17 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. Book Van Gogh Museum tickets here
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 you must pre-book online for a date/time slot.
Hermitage Amsterdam – Showcases an exhibition every 6 months from the vast collection of the grand State Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia.
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.
Outsider Art Museum – 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.
MOCO Museum – This modern and contemporary art museum on Museumplein. Banksy: Laugh Now (includes Beanfield) is now a permanent exhibition. Book MOCO Museum tickets here
Tropenmuseum – Ethnographic museum featuring fascinating exhibitions on non-Western cultures.
Huis Marseille Photography Museum – Vincent Delbrouck: Champú, exhibition of contemporary photos of Cuba. Runs 5 Sep to 6 Dec 2020.
Body Worlds – Display of human body plastinate specimens at the permanent venue on Damrak. The exhibition focuses on happiness.
|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:
2020/21 season fixtures to be announced
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.
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 9th 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. Expected Nov 2020 to Jan 2021.
Tangotrain – Tango festival cooperative event (7th edition) which is expected in the last week of December 2020. At various locations around Amsterdam including Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ, Bimhuis and De Duif.
See our complete festival calendar for Amsterdam
Fairs & Expos in Amsterdam
EuropArtFair – Hosts a cross section of contemporary artists from around Europe. Expected at Westergas in Amsterdam in December 2020.
Comedy & Shows in Amsterdam
Amsterdam Magic Show – At Boom Chicago’s Rozentheater, Rozengracht in Amsterdam, Tuesday 1 Dec 2020 at 2000. Book Amsterdam Magic Show tickets here
Boom Chicago – Comedy and improv show held Wed – Sat and playing at Rozentheater on Rozengracht. Book Boom Chicago here
Classical Concerts & Theatre in Amsterdam
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.
Dutch National Opera & Ballet – Season 2020/21 to be announced.
Book a concert here at Amsterdam’s renowned Royal Concertgebouw hall.
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 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 creating a sooty Pete.
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 – See in the new year in Amsterdam. For general mayhem, fireworks and parties all over town. There will be fireworks let off all over the city at midnight. Consider heading to one of the panoramic rooftop bars for the best views.
The main national firework show will be in Rotterdam around the Erasmus Bridge area.
Bijenkorf lights – Check out the lights and window displays at the Bijenkorf department store on Dam Square.
World Christmas Circus – 36th edition of the international circus extravaganza. At Theater Carré in Amsterdam, dates to be announced.
Christmas Circus Ahoy – Rotterdam’s Ahoy hosts a Christmas circus with a host of spectacular acts. Dates to be announced.
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. Expected to open mid-November 2020 and should run until early February 2021.
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). 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. Season 2020/21 to be announced.
Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ – Free monthly concert showcasing young classical talent. Season 2020/21 to be announced.
Market Events in Amsterdam
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.
Sunday Market – Sunday market at Westergas with a mix of fashion, design, arts, food and kids stuff. Funky Xmas Market on 13 Dec 2020 (1200-1800); Homeware Market at De Hallen 6 Dec 2020 (1100-1700); New Market (Deli & Lifestyle) at Nieuwmarkt on Friday 18 Dec 2020 (1100-1800); Sunday Market Rokin edition at Oude Turfmarkt on 27 Dec 2020 (1200-1800).
Museum Market – Museumplein hosts this Sunday market with arts and crafts, food and music on 20 Dec 2020 (1000-1800).
IJ-Hallen – Huge weekend flea market event held at NDSM-wharf in north Amsterdam. 12-13 Dec 2020 (0900-1630) with 500 indoor stands.
Rock & Pop Concerts in Amsterdam and Netherlands
to be announced
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: