Christmas lights in Amsterdam – where to find them during the annual lights festival!
Learn how Amsterdam celebrates winter with an annual festival of lights. Explore the historic centre with your lover with a map of the best locations to look out for!
Winter is an exciting time in Amsterdam as the city hosts a light’s festival. Time to put away your sunglasses and get your favourite hat and scarf out of the cupboard. Not only is it getting chilly, but the days are also getting shorter. Soon sunset will be around 16:30, changing the way Amsterdam looks and feels until spring comes along. Although the long summer days are gone and you might be more inclined to cuddle up at home, don’t let the winter blues discourage you from an adventure. If you’ve decided to spend some time in Amsterdam this winter season there is more to experience than you might expect!
When the holiday season comes along Amsterdam chases the darkness away by covering itself with thousands of Christmas lights. Adorning the branches of the elm trees along the canals. Suspended between the old 17th-century houses in the twisting narrow streets. Outlining the arched bridges over the Amstel. And of course, nestled in the branches of the huge Christmas tree on the central square. They come in all shapes and sizes and bring a truly magical atmosphere to the already stunning city centre.
In the last decade, Amsterdam has been taking its Christmas lights a step further than other cities in Europe. For the 10th year in a row, the Dutch capital will host a very special light festival in Amsterdam in December and January, bringing over 20 unique art sculptures in and around the canal district.
There are several ways to enjoy the lights of this festival scattered across Amsterdam. You could put your favourite winter shoes on, take your partner by the hand and explore on foot. For those not afraid to cycle in the busy centre, taking a bike is a fantastic way as well. Or you could do it as a true Amsterdammer and explore the city’s canals on a boat.
In this blog, I am excited to share with you a detailed up-to-date map of ALL locations of the light sculptures in Amsterdam especially decorated for the festival as well as advice on how to explore them in the best way possible.
Map of Amsterdam’s festival of lights
Before we discuss the pros and cons of the different ways of exploring the city during the winter season, I want to share a map with you.
First of all, I made a list of all the streets where you can see Christmas lights. Second, there are also some light decorations which are in Amsterdam throughout the year and are a permanent part of the city.
The canals and bridges are the most iconic part of the city and almost all of them are lit up. It can be easy to get lost in the labyrinth of the city centre, but this map will help you find the fastest way to some of the most breathtaking views of the canal district. They are a must-see and a perfect place to take a photo with your lover and remember your adventure in Amsterdam forever!
If you would like to learn more about the bridges in particular and why they are so romantic, here is an article I posted on the love bridges of Amstedam.
Lastly, this map will feature the location of all light installations of the festival in Amsterdam. Apart from a short description of the piece, there will be information on what inspired the artist to create it and what message they want to share with it. This information will be available after the 2nd of December when the festival of lights officially begins so stay tuned for an update!
What is the best way to explore Amsterdam during the festival of lights?
Be aware because of Corona lights will be on every day between 7 and 9 in the morning and 15:00 to 22:00.
The best way to explore Amsterdam during the Christmas lights festival depends on what you would like to see, how much time you have and of course whether you are ready to face the cold. Be aware that sunset is around 17:00 and the sculptures of the light festival in Amsterdam are turned off at 22:00 o’clock!
The simplest way to explore Amsterdam’s centre is on foot. Make sure to dress warmly and be prepared to walk a fair distance if you want to see all locations featured in the lights festival. The advantage of this is that you can really feel the rhythm of the city. Away from your daily routine, you can take the time to connect with your partner as the two of you explore the crooked streets of Amsterdam. You can easily pop in and out of the many cosy shops scattered in the centre. It is a wonderful idea to enjoy a warm cup of Glühwein or a hot chocolate with cream and cinnamon to really feel the spirit of the Christmas season.
If you would like to enjoy a drink or have a warm meal at a local bar or restaurant, make sure to plan this in advance. Don’t forget your QR-codes! Because of the pandemic regulations, all bars and restaurants close at 17:00. Take-away is open. Please read this here my top picks for romantic places to have lunch.
If you don’t have a reservation and plan to explore freely, I suggest beginning your walk of the lights festival in Amsterdam around 18:00 when it is fully dark.
Another exciting way to explore the festival of lights is on a bike. There are plenty of places in Amsterdam to rent one and this is certainly the most flexible way as it also allows you to reach the neighbourhoods outside the city centre. It is a great way to feel like a true Amsterdammer, but make sure to cycle safely! The city is not as full in winter, but can still be challenging to an inexperienced cyclist.
If you would like to choose the most carefree way of exploring the city during the lights festival, then I highly recommend joining a boat tour. Amsterdam has always been intimately connected with the water and the canals are a permanent feature of the way of life in the city. They also offer undoubtedly the best views of the decorations featured in the lights festival, as most of the installations are specifically designed to be enjoyed from the water.
A boat tour is an ultimate way to enjoy the winter spectacle. Picture yourself cuddling up next to your partner in a heated boat while a guide takes you to the top spots of the light festival. You do not need to worry about the cold or finding your way around, just relax and listen to the stories of the pieces as they are revealed to you.
The tour by Romantic Tour Amsterdam is all about creating the most romantic atmosphere possible to celebrate the lights festival in Amsterdam. We are the only company that has such a focus so if you are enjoying your Christmas vacation with your partner, this is a perfect choice.
At the moment due to the new corona measures, we are not allowed to offer any tours after 5 pm. Hopefully, after the 18th of December, we can offer tours after this time again. Feel free to book after this date and if we can not offer the tour due to new COVID measures you will receive a full refund. Go here to find more info on the light festival boat tour.
The Christmas Tree in the heart of Amsterdam
Looking for the ultimate Christmas location? Then Dam Square is the place to go!
Every year an over 20-meter high Christmas tree is brought from the Ardennes mountains in Germany. It is lavishly decorated with over 40,000 lights. Standing in front of the Royal Palace, also covered in light, the tree is the centre of Christmas activity in Amsterdam.
Dam square is the perfect location to start exploring. It is only minutes away from the Central Station along the widest street in the historic centre – the Rokin. This street is where the Amstel river used to divide the city in two and where the richest merchants used to live. Parallel to the Rokin is the Warmoesstraat on the east and the Kalverstraat on the west, both of which are fantastic routes from Central Station to Dam square.
Enjoy the Lights Festival in Amsterdam
I hope this guide has given you a few ideas of how to spend your day in Amsterdam during the lights festival. With everything being closed after 17:00 this could be something fun to do with your lover in the evening. I hope this map will help. Christmas is the most wonderful time of year especially if you spend it with your loved one at your side. What are you waiting for? Go exploring!
Romantic Tour Amsterdam specializes in creating quality experiences for couples visiting the Dutch capital. If you have any more questions about how to make your time here more exciting, feel free to look at the other blogs posted on the website or send us an email directly!