What's not to love about Amsterdam in December? The city is awash in holiday spirit: famous squares turn to winter holiday markets and ice rinks, and stalls reward those who brave the outdoors with seasonal treats like koek en zopie (cake and a spiced alcoholic drink), warme chocolademelk (Dutch hot cocoa, richer than the American version), and Gluhwein (German mulled wine, also known as wassel).
The Dutch holiday of Sinterklaas is celebrated on December 5, a day when families trade presents and read out specially composed poems to one another.
Tourists have the same variety of stellar museum exhibits and live performances as in the rest of the cultural season, but with far fewer crowds - and those who can cross a few names off their Christmas list here will also find considerably emptier stores than in the U.S. Compare this to other advice and events for traveling Amsterdam throughout the year.
- Airfares and hotel rates are at an off-peak low but beware of price hikes around the winter holidays
- The tourist crowds have vanished, so intrepid December visitors have the run of Amsterdam's popular attractions and restaurants
Not only is the traditional Dutch holiday Sinterklaas celebrated on December 5, but there are also two days of Christmas in the Netherlands; expect special holiday events, markets, and seasonal treats all month
- Bundle up: winter in the Netherlands promises consistently chilly days, and December is also Amsterdam's rainiest month
- The days are at their shortest this time of year; by the end of December, the sunset falls at 4:30 p.m.
December Temperatures & Rain
- Average high: 42°F (5.5°C)
- Average low: 33°F (0.5°C)
- Average precipitation: 3.3 in (84 mm)
Sunrise & Sunset in December
- December 1 - 8:27 a.m. / 4:32 p.m.
- December 31 - 8:51 a.m. / 4:37 p.m.
Yearly Festivals & Events in December
To prepare for Sinterklaas - the title of both the man and his name day - Dutch children will set their shoes next to the fireplace at bedtime, in the hope that he will leave treats in them. Popular favorites include chocolate letters and a variety of spiced cookies, from speculaas bricks to bite-sized pepernoten and kruidnoten. The holiday culminates in family celebrations on December 5, also known as Sinterklaas Eve.
Kerst (Christmas Day)
Not only is there Sinterklaas, but Christmas is also celebrated in the Netherlands. Pleae note that some museums are closed on Christmas Day.
Tweede Kerstdag (Second Day of Christmas)
If your holiday spirit still isn't satiated, there's yet another day of Christmas observed here in the Netherlands. The Dutch take this national holiday to visit relatives or to shop, especially for furniture - a tradition that's repeated with even more fervor on the second day of Easter.
Oud en Nieuw (New Year's Eve)
"Oud en Nieuw", or Old and New, is what the Dutch dub New Year's Eve, and Amsterdammers are apt to usher in the New Year with parties across the city. From comedy shows to music-driven dance parties, everyone can find a celebration to fit their tastes; see our round-up of New Year's Eve parties in Amsterdam.
The last days of December are also the only time of the year when fireworks sales are permitted, so stock them up and set them off with the rest of the city on the 31st.