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. 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. Jean-François Millet: Sowing the Seeds of Modern Art, examines the style and technique of the French artist and how he influenced the likes of Van Gogh, Monet, Munch and Dalí. Runs 4 Oct 2019 to 12 Jan 2020. 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.
Nieuwe Kerk – The Great Suriname Exhibition, major winter exhibition at the New Church on Dam Square telling the story of the country of Suriname and its inhabitants. It includes over 300 objects, artefacts, photos and documents as well as multimedia presentations. Runs 5 Oct 2019 to 2 Feb 2020.
Hermitage Amsterdam – Showcases an exhibition every 6 months from the vast collection of the grand State Hermitage in St Petersburg, Russia. Jewels! an exhibition which is part of the 10th anniversary of the Hermitage Amsterdam. It features highlights from the fabulous jewellery collection of the State Hermitage. Runs 14 Sep 2019 to 15 Mar 2020.
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.
Amsterdam Museum – Nr. 1 Tourist Attraction, controversial exhibition featuring the work of artist Jimini Hignett about Amsterdam’s red light district. Runs 1 Nov 2019 to 1 Mar 2020.
MOCO Museum – This modern and contemporary art museum on Museumplein. Banksy: Laugh Now (includes Beanfield) is now a permanent exhibition. Daniel Arsham – Connecting Time, solo show from the New York-based artist incorporating architecture, design, sculpture, film and performance. Runs 18 Jan 2019 to 6 Jan 2020. Book MOCO Museum tickets here
Tropenmuseum – Ethnographic museum featuring fascinating exhibitions on non-Western cultures. What a Genderful World, an exhibition which looks at cultural influences on gender around the world. Runs 11 Oct 2019 to 23 Aug 2020.
Allard Pierson – Bes, Little God in Ancient Egypt, an exhibition about the popular god from ancient Egypt represented as a dwarf-like figure with large head, big belly and crooked legs. Runs 18 Oct 2019 to 8 Mar 2020.
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.
Stadsarchief (City Archives) – Modern Perspectives. Photo & Film Amsterdam 1920-1940, exhibition highlighting the visual creativity in Amsterdam during the interwar period. Runs 18 Oct 2019 to 16 Feb 2020.
Museum Van Loon – On the Suriname canals – Van Loon & Suriname (1728-1863), exhibition highlighting the involvement of the wealthy Van Loon family with the Suriname plantation economy. 5 Oct 2019 to 13 Jan 2020.
Verzetsmuseum – Fashion on a Ration, exhibition at the Dutch Resistance Museum examining how fashion changed during the wartime period due to fabric shortages – in stark contrast to the throwaway society we live in today. Runs 11 Oct 2019 to 2 Jun 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. Bullets Betrayal and Letters: Chronicle of a Jewish Family, exhibition which highlights the history of an Amsterdam family. Runs 28 Oct 2019 to 2 Feb 2020.
Hollandsche Schouwburg – Perspectives of the Holocaust, a penetrating installation with audio, video, photos and virtual reality which tell of Holocaust survivors’ experiences. [Note, some images are shocking and are not suitable for under 16s.] Runs until 1 May 2020.
Jewish Historical Museum – Amsterdam, City of Diamonds, an exhibition on 400 years of the diamond industry in Amsterdam and how Jews played an important role. Runs 27 Sep 2019 to 1 Mar 2020.
FOAM Photography Museum – Brassaï, retrospective exhibition of the key 20th century French-Hungarian photographer. Runs 13 Sep to 4 Dec 2019. Lorenzo Vitturi, Materia Impura, exhibition from the Italian artist-photographer. Runs 18 Oct 2019 to 19 Jan 2020. Adorned – The Fashionable Show, exhibition looking at the new ways of presenting fashion-related photography specific to a younger generation of image-makers. Eric Gyamfi Fixing Shadows self-portraits and installations from the Ghanaian photographer. Both run 13 Dec 2019 to 11 Mar 2020.
Huis Marseille Photography Museum – Berenice Abbott, Portraits of Modernity, large retrospective from the American photographer. Runs 7 Sep to 1 Dec 2019. Chikako Watanabe, The Third House Owner, a dollhouse installation based on the history of Huis Marseille. Runs 7 Sep to 1 Dec 2019. Outside Fashion / Fashion photography from the Studio to Exotic Lands (1900–1969), vintage fashion photos from the collection of the Palais Galliera. Arja Hop & Peter Svenson / Distilled Landscapes – an allegory of four rivers, The artistic duo apply plant-derived dyes directly to photographic film. Both run 7 Dec 2019 to 8 Mar 2020.
EYE Film – Andrei Tarkovski, retrospective exhibition about the Russian filmmaker and mystic. Runs 14 Sep to 6 Dec 2019.
Body Worlds – Display of human body plastinate specimens at the permanent venue on Damrak. The exhibition focuses on happiness.
Cobra Museum (Amstelveen) – New Nuances, exhibition showing the work of 8 women artists in and around the Cobra movement. Runs 12 Jul to 1 Dec 2019. Intense Mexico: Politics, Identity, Sex and Death. Exhibition featuring 46 exuberant works of art from the collection of the Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico City. Runs 11 Oct 2019 to 29 Mar 2020. Sigmar Polke vs Blaudzun. Music of Unknown Origin, audio-visual exhibition expected 14 Dec 2019 to 5 Apr 2020.
|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 €60 to €115.
You can order the Iamsterdam City Card online here
Sport in Amsterdam and Netherlands
Ajax home fixtures at Johan Cruyff Arena Amsterdam:
AFC Ajax vs Willem II – 7 Dec 2019, 1830 (Eredivisie)
AFC Ajax vs Valencia CF – 10 Dec 2019, 2100 (Champions League)
AFC Ajax vs ADO Den Haag – 22 Dec 2019, 1215 (Eredivisie)
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 28 Nov 2019 to 19 Jan 2020.
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
EuropArtFair – Hosts a cross section of contemporary artists from around Europe. Runs at Westergas in Amsterdam, 6-8 Dec 2019.
Comedy & Shows in Amsterdam
Amsterdam Magic Show – At Boom Chicago’s Rozentheater, Rozengracht in Amsterdam, Tuesday 3 Dec 2018 at 2000. Book Amsterdam Magic Show tickets here
We Will Rock You – Musical show by Queen and Ben Elton featuring Queen’s greatest hits. At AFAS Live on 5-8 Dec 2019.
Boom Chicago – Comedy and improv show held Wed – Sat and playing at Rozentheater on Rozengracht. Book 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 – Production highlights in December are La Cenerentola (opera) and The Nutcracker and The Mouse King (ballet).
Anna Karenina – Boris Eifman’s ballet of Leo Tolstoy’s novel is performed at Theater Carré on 5 Dec 2019 (2000). There is also a ballet of Boris Eifman’s Rodin on 6/7 Dec 2019 (2000) at Carré.
Queen’s English Theatre Company – Special stage adaptation in English of Hitchcock’s classic thriller The 39 Steps. Runs 6-8 Dec 2019 at CC Amstel theatre in Amsterdam.
Candlelight Concert – Evening performance by the Amsterdam Wind Quintet with music by Felix Mendelssohn. At the Portuguese Synagogue on 19 Dec 2019 (1930). Book here
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 Christmas Circus – 35th edition of the international circus extravaganza. At Theater Carré in Amsterdam, 19 Dec 2019 to 5 Jan 2020.
Christmas 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. Open 16 Nov 2019 until 2 Feb 2020. There will also be an ice skating rink at Westergas from 6 Dec 2019 to 5 Jan 2020 – with disco nights on Friday.
WesterFête – Special evening event at Westergas in Amsterdam held monthly in winter. Venue partners will open their doors to the public and offer special events from live music, vegan cocktails, pop-up vinyl night market and Amsterdam’s smallest club. Free entry, runs from 1800 on 6 Dec 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). Concert dates this month are 4/11/18 Dec 2019. 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. Concerts this month on Tuesday 3/10 Dec 2019 and Wednesday 18 Dec 2019 – they run 1230-1300, doors open 1215.
Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ – Free monthly concert showcasing young classical talent. The Thursday lunchtime concert this month is on 19 Dec 2019 at 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 15 Dec 2019 (1100-1700) and at Park Frankendael on 22 Dec 2019 (1100-1700).
Sunday Market – Sunday market at Westergas 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 15 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).
Amsterdam Christmas Market – This Christmas themed market will be held at Westergas in Amsterdam 20-23 Dec 2019.
IJ-Hallen – Huge weekend flea market event held at NDSM-wharf in north Amsterdam with 500 indoor stands. 14-15 Dec 2019 (0900-1630).
Rock & Pop Concerts in Amsterdam and Netherlands
Chris de Burgh – 1/2 Dec, Carré
Parov Stelar – 11 Dec, AFAS Live
Madness – 12 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: