5 fun winter activities in the Netherlands

5 fun winter activities in the Netherlands

Yes, it’s cold outside and although winter hasn’t officially begun in the Netherlands, it sure feels as though it has if the temperature is anything to go by. But instead of curling up indoors under a fluffy blanket and binge-watching Netflix shows- no judgment from us- why not get out and about and see what the Netherlands has to offer this winter period?

1. Discover Dutch cities and towns by candlelight

All over the Netherlands, Dutch cities and towns will be extinguishing street lamps in favour of thousands of candles, illuminating the surroundings with a warm glow. This, in itself, is pretty romantic and would make for a great evening trip to one of the places holding such a candlelight festival.

But this is not all, as many cities and towns will be hosting a whole programme of activities on this special evening. One of the cities well known for this event is Gouda, whose candlelight evening features over 80 activities!

Be sure to check if and when a candlelight evening is being held in a town near you, as they are not all on the same evening. Many are, however, held on December 14, such as the one in Gouda, and December 15 in Klundert, Buren and Enkhuizen. Huissen is holding its candlelight evening the weekend before on December 8 and Vreeswijk during the week on December 12.

A visit to one of these events is sure to light the holiday fire in you and have you feeling festive in no time. Bring your other half, family or friends, or all of them at the same time, and experience everything this special night has to offer.

2. Get your skates on (or rent a pair) and dance on the ice

It’s a very Dutch thing to do and whilst you may think that some Dutch children are born with their own bicycle, already cycling away, you could also say that some are born wearing ice skates. The Dutch take ice-skating seriously and have won dozens of medals in speed-skating.

But if you weren’t born wearing ice-skates, or aren’t champion level yet, that’s ok too. Ice-skating is something you can do for fun too; it doesn’t have to be competitively. Just go on down to your local ice-rink- this could be a seasonal one- and get some ice time in with friends. A great addition to ice-skating is, of course, hot chocolate. Yum! It’s the perfect treat to warm yourself up after dancing on the ice.

Ice Amsterdam and the Coolest Rink in the Netherlands are popular options for those in the capital, but ice-rinks can be found popping up all over the country in the winter period. Another great way to enjoy one of the seasonal ice-rinks in style is by visiting a winter village. Usually, the ice rink is a standard attraction, and it’s very obvious why! Who doesn’t want to glide across the ice surrounded by everything festive? 

3. Visit the ballet

So, it’s time for an indoor activity, the ballet. Ballet is mesmerising, especially during the winter period with all the festive performances. The dancers make it look effortless, but trust me; it’s very, very difficult. Ballet sounds like something only wealthy people can go to, and I get it, but it is simply not true! Take Cinderella at the Dutch National Ballet for instance, you can get tickets as cheap as 23 euros.

That is a bargain in almost everyone’s books, after all, think how much it costs to go to a concert. A ballet performance features extravagant sets, costumes, dancers that have trained for years and years and it isn’t over after 30 minutes. Worth every penny!

And wherever you sit, you’ll be able to see the stage. The auditorium where ballet shows are given is built so that every member of the crowd can see the stage. So, wherever you sit, the performance will be fabulous! This is not something you can say for every concert- especially the standing ones.

4. Head out to taste some traditional Dutch winter dishes

Let’s be honest, the Dutch don’t exactly shine when it comes to the dishes their kitchen has to offer, especially when compared with other cuisines that have very distinctive flavours. However, in the winter the dishes here are downright delicious and not all centred around sweets- think stroopwafels and hagelslag.

In the winter, the Dutch really know how to satisfy your appetite with their hearty stamppots or thick soups. Venture out to a local restaurant to try some of these goodies. If you are stuck for a place and just want to grab a meal, you can always go to the Hema. There you will be able to find stamppot with smoked sausage for just 3,50 euros. Make sure you check online first if your Hema offers hot meals in the afternoon, as only 9 of their larger stores do.

5. Experience the magic of a winter theme park

Theme parks are not just for the summer; they are amazing in the winter too, full of twinkling lights and delightful amusements! Some theme parks even embrace the spirit of the holidays, offering special attractions and warm food and drinks.

The Efteling is probably one of the most well-known theme parks in the Netherlands and it holds a special winter edition during the cold months of November to the end of January. At the Winter Efteling, you’ll find all of the usual fairy-tale characters and be able to visit each and every attraction, with the exception of the water rides, of course. In addition to the usual attractions, the theme park has some great winter extras, such as a cross-country ski slope, snow slide and ice-skating rink.

Of course, Efteling is not the only theme park in the Netherlands open during the winter season; Toverland in Sevenum, Slagharen Amusement and Holiday Park in Slagharen and Park Tivoli in Berg en Dal (for children) are all open for those wanting to experience the thrill of a roller coaster and the magic of the winter season.

Ready for the winter season?

So, now you know about a few of the awesome things you can do during the winter season in the Netherlands, will you be unwrapping yourself from your self-made, fleecy burrito state, turning off the TV and venturing out of the house? We hope you will, and we hope that you will have a great time discovering the winter magic and fun that the Netherlands possesses!

Mina Solanki


Mina Solanki

Completed her Master's degree at the University of Groningen and worked as a translator before joining IamExpat. She loves to read and has a particular interest in Greek mythology. In...

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