If you want to see a true winter wonderland this December, start making your reservations for the Netherlands. This enchanting European destination looks like a living holiday postcard where Santa and his elves live. The Netherlands winter season begins in December and continues until March. In December and January, temperatures drop to as low as 2; it’s the place to be this time of year. 

You can find here lovely beaches, ancient monuments and amazing neo-gothic castles. Here are the top ten places to visit in the Netherlands in December.

photo by catalina fedorova

1. Amsterdam

The capital city of the Netherlands is Amsterdam, a historical city with more than 1,000 centuries-old monumental buildings. It is one of the best places to visit in the Netherlands in winter when people are even merrier than normal. Amsterdammers are known as some of the happiest and most easy-going people in the world.

Photo by Steven Lasry on Unsplash

If you haven’t planned your December yet, visit Amsterdam to see its famed museums, bridges, and beguiling canals. Strolls are lovelier in winter as you discover the city’s national parks, cathedrals, palaces, restaurants and other tourism spots. 

The capital is always busy and crowded with tourists all year round, but not so much in winter. If you wish to see Amsterdam with fewer tourists to contend with, then come in December. The low season in the Netherlands is around November and December (before the Christmas Holidays) and January and February, right before the first traces of spring. This means shorter lines of people are waiting to enter the museums and cheaper hotel room rates.

Museums are one of the reasons people come to Amsterdam, and the best time to appreciate the exhibits is when there are no crowds of tourists. 

The most important museums in the city are the Rijksmuseum or National Museum, the Van Gogh Museum, which houses the most extensive collection of the Dutch master’s works, and the famous Anne Frank House.

It’s common knowledge that flights and accommodations are cheaper and easy to book in winter. In December, hotels, hostels, and Airbnbs have low demand, so prices drop. This is good news when visiting an expensive city like Amsterdam.

Shopping in Amsterdam is also quite popular and exciting in December when retail stores go on sale. 

Hit the shopping centers, retail stores, and boutiques in 9 Streets to find high-end brands, jewelry, local Dutch independent items, international brands, sweet shops and more. The Bijenkorf, is another great shopping spot and one of Amsterdam’s oldest and most iconic buildings located in Dam Square. Check out the Kalverstraat, one of the most famous and busiest shopping streets in Amsterdam that goes from Dam Square up to Spui and Muntplein.

2. Amsterdam ice-skating rinks

Still in Amsterdam and the northern areas of the country, the water in the canals and lakes freezes in December, virtually turning them into ice-skating rinks. You will see ice-skating enthusiasts, locals, families, and tourists enjoying this unique experience that happens only in winter. 

There are several artificial rinks available during other months around the country, but the experience of skating on natural ice is unbeatable.

Go to the most famous skating area in Museumplein in the capital. You shouldn’t miss this beautiful experience that can only happen during the colder months. You can find most frozen ice-skating rinks in the city center. Some are open from November to January, while others until February.

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3. Madurodam

Winter is best spent with family, and one of the most popular destinations for families is Madurodam in The Hague. Located in Scheveningen, the Madurodam has entertained over 50 million people since it first opened in 1952. It was built in memory of George Maduro, a resistance hero during the war. The park revenue was put towards the Madurodam Support Fund Society, which benefits children in need.  

Madurodam is the miniature Netherlands, complete with tiny traditional buildings, famous landmarks that you can find around the country, markets, canals, windmills, and important sites such as Schiphol Airport, the Port of Rotterdam, and Dam Square. 

It is a theme park that features exact miniature replicas of important Dutch buildings, objects, and landscapes.

This is one of the best places to go if you have kids. Not only can they see the exhibits, but they’re also encouraged actually to touch and play with them. The tiny windmills turn, airplanes move, boats float along the canals, and trains run through the park. Undoubtedly, Madurodam is one of the unique attractions in the Netherlands. 

The spirit of Madurodam also befits the spirit of the Holidays. Madurodam is open even during the colder days of winter.

4. Groningen

Groningen may not be a leading Dutch city, but it is known for several reasons, one of which is Winterwelvaart, the city’s well-loved Christmas Market. Come here in December to see authentic mulled wine of Gluwein, little local handicrafts and several stalls that line up on the banks of Groningen’s canals. Here, you don’t only get to shop, but you also get to enjoy a ride on the canal boats, dine in the best Dutch restaurants, and catch some live performances, concerts or art exhibits.

Like Amsterdam, Groningen also has interesting museums and a lively shopping scene. The most popular museum is the Groningen Museum, located straight across Central Station, which houses the works of a local artistic group De Ploeg and a world-renowned collection of Chinese and Japanese porcelain. 

You can find Groningen Museum in a beautiful post-modern building on the banks of the Verbindingskanaal.

Another museum to check out is the Northern Shipping Museum (Noordelijk Scheepvaartmuseum), housed in two historic buildings known as Gotisch Huis and Canterhuis. It provides a unique glimpse into Groningen’s rich maritime history by showcasing ship models, paintings, photos, parts of old ships, and navigational instruments.

When shopping, check out three popular shopping destinations, namely Folkingestraat, Kromme Elleboog and Oude Kijk in ‘t Jatstraat, each offering unique items and experiences.

5. Maastricht

Another city that is known mainly for its Christmas market is Maastricht. In December, this beautiful village transforms into a vibrant shopping destination. 

The Maastricht Christmas Market is an annual event from November 15 to the New Year at Vrijthof Square in Maastricht. 

The city transforms into an enchanting merry wonderland as it goes into full Christmas mode. Earning the moniker “Magical Maastricht,” the city market lights up with stalls and entertainment. 

There is also a natural ice-skating rink here. Also, if you’re up for it, you can take a ride on the Ferris wheel to enjoy a stunning panoramic view of the festive Vrijthof. 

Maastricht is the Netherlands’ top winter destination, and the Maastricht Christmas Market is one of the top Christmas markets in the country. 

After having a blast at the Christmas market, mellow down and spend peace and tranquillity as you reflect on Christmas at the beautiful Saint Servatius Basilica nearby.

Here is a list of other Christmas markets in the Netherlands:

  • Sinterklaas Market in Amsterdam, also known as Funky Christmas Market. It opens on December 1-15
  • Amsterdamsche Kerstmarkt also in Amsterdam, which opens on December 22 and 23
  • Ice Village in Amsterdam from December 13 to December 26
  • Christmas Markets in Valkenburg, which is not far from Maastricht, from November 16 to January 6
  •  Christmas Market in Haarlem from December 7 to January 6
  • Christmas Market in Dordrecht on December 14-16
  • Royal Christmas Fair in the Hague that runs for 10 days, on December 14-24
  • Castle Christmas Fair in Heemskerk for the whole month of December
  • Archeon Midwinter Fair in Alphen on the Rijn during Christmas week

6. Giethoorn

Giethoorn is a quaint Dutch village in the province of Overijssel that turns even more magical in December. It is famous for being car-less and one of the most peaceful historic towns in the Netherlands. 

People who’ve been here say Giethoorn is “The Venice of Holland”, primarily for its intertwining canals, which stretch for over 80 km through 180 picturesque wooden arch bridges. In winter, they turn into frozen crystal paths for skating.

In December, you should see Giethoorn when covered with glistening snow. The experience is like being inside a giant Christmas crystal ball, as snowflakes trickle and sparkle under the sun while slowly resting on the wooden cottages and villages.

7. Deventer

The Deventer region, also in Overijssel province, is host to one of the best festivals in the Netherlands – the annual Dickens Festival that celebrates the well-known author Charles Dickens. 

Several characters from his books come to life during the festival to help you remember your childhood. People come dressed as Scrooge, David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, Fagin and others.

8. Efteling

Efteling is the Disneyland of the Dutch but precedes the House of Mouse for many decades. As December is the month for children and theme parks, you and your family should consider checking out this place. Efteling is a little retreat for children and adults to enjoy for an entire day with rides, attractions, food, and fun, as well as little fairies, gnomes and charming songs.

9. Scheveningen

Scheveningen in The Hague is one of the most famous Dutch beaches of all time. It is a well-loved retreat during the summer and wintertime. Come to this beach city with the entire family to see the popular Scheveningen pier and the gigantic Fair Ferris Wheel over the sea. You will love the cold December wind by the beach.

10. Ameland

Ameland is another lovely winter destination by the sea. It is one of the Frisian islands located in the Northern part of the country, in the middle of the Northern Sea. It is packed with nature-loving tourists in summer and winter, starting at the end of October.

Final thoughts

The Netherlands is one of the most popular destinations in Europe. About 11 million people from around the world come here throughout the year. The country is beautiful during the four seasons – spring, summer, fall and winter, which means the tourist season lasts all year round.

Come in winter when there are few tourists and when everything is cheaper. Above are the ten top winter places to visit in the Netherlands. Pick one, two or three, and start packing your bags for December. Discover more about The Netherlands here at Ask the Dutch Guy!