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
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. Rembrandt-Velázquez, exhibition which puts Rembrandt into an international context by placing 17th-century Spanish and Dutch masterpieces in dialogue with each another. Runs 11 Oct 2019 to 19 Jan 2020.
Van Gogh Museum – Popular museum with the world’s largest collection of Vincent van Gogh paintings.
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 Golden Age.
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.
Tropenmuseum – Ethnographic museum featuring fascinating exhibitions on non-Western cultures.
Rembrandt House – Laboratory Rembrandt – Rembrandt’s Technique Unravelled, part of the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt’s death, this exhibition uses scientific analysis which provide insights into Rembrandt’s works. Runs 21 Sep 2019 to 16 Feb 2020.
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.
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
Football (new season 2019/20, fixtures to be announced):
Ajax home match at the Johan Cruyff ArenA in Amsterdam
Friday Night Run – Free monthly 1 hour run organised by running group Phanos. Meet at Olympic Stadium Amsterdam at 1930 on Friday 13 Dec 2019.
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 8th 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 late Nov 2019 to mid-Jan 2020 (dates to be confirmed)
Tangotrain – Tango festival cooperative event (6th 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, expected early Dec 2019.
This Art Fair – Fair offering a platform for talented artists to show and sell their works to the public. At Beurs van Berlage, late Dec 2019 (to be confirmed).
Comedy & Shows in Amsterdam
Amsterdam Magic Show – At Boom Chicago’s Rozentheater, Rozengracht in Amsterdam, Tuesday 3 Dec 2018 at 2000.
Boom Chicago – Comedy and improv show held Wed – Sat and playing at Rozentheater on Rozengracht.
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 – 2019/20 season shows to be announced.
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 2019/20 – 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 2019.
Bijenkorf lights – Check out the lights and window displays at the Bijenkorf department store on Dam Square.
World Christams Circus – 35th edition of the international circus extravaganza. At Theater Carré in Amsterdam, due late Dec 2019, early Jan 2020 (dates unconfirmed).
Christams Circus Ahoy – Rotterdam’s Ahoy hosts a Christmas circus with a host of spectacular acts. Runs late Dec 2019 (dates unconfirmed).
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 from mid Nov 2019 to early Feb 2020.
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. Almost every Tuesday 1230-1300, doors open 1215.
Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ – Free monthly concert showcasing young classical talent.
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 15 Dec 2019 (1100-1700) and at Park Frankendael on 22 Dec 2019 (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 1 Dec 2019 (1200-1800); funky Xmas market edition on 22 Dec 2019 (1200-1800); Sunday Market Rokin edition at Oude Turfmarkt on 8 Dec 2019 (1200-1800). New Market (Deli & Lifestyle) at Nieuwmarkt on 27 Dec 2019 (1100-1800).
Museum Market – Museumplein hosts this Sunday market with arts and crafts, food and music, 15 Dec 2019 (1200-1800).
IJ-Hallen – Huge weekend flea market event held at NDSM-wharf in north Amsterdam with 500 indoor stands. Dates to be announced.
Rock & Pop Concerts in Amsterdam and Netherlands
Chris de Burgh – 1/2 Dec, Carré
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: