9 Festive Activities for Kids In and Around Amsterdam

November 09, 2016 By Deborah Nicholls-Lee 0 Comments

It's holiday season! Want to make sure that the kids know it's Christmas? Here's how to create that festive feeling and put a smile on their faces.

1. Follow the Lights at the Amsterdam Licht Festival

As night falls, so Amsterdam lights up with an array of artistic illuminations located around the Nieuwe Herengracht. And with the early evenings, even the children can take part. To add to the magic, enjoy the light tour by boat. The festival runs from mid-December to the first week of January. 

2. Take a Vintage Santa Tram Ride

One of Amsterdam Mamas' most popular events. Take a vintage tram ride through town, hear some carol singing, have your face painted, and get your picture taken with Santa. Plus festive food of course! Tickets sell out fast.

3. Sing Along to Disney on Ice

See your children's favourite cartoon characters come to life as they glide across the ice at the Rai Amsterdam, and join in the much-loved songs. For something more traditional, take the children to the Nutcracker Ballet on Ice at the Theater Carré. 

4. Go to a Super-Sized Christmas Show

World Christmas Circus – Featuring talent from all over the world, this show is one of the most celebrated of its type. Trapeze artists, plumed horses, diabolos and hoops - this circus has it all. At the Theater Carré, just east of the centre.

The Christmas Show – Dancing, singing, special effects and even a bit of Disney's Frozen, this is family entertainment on a big scale. In Dutch, but still a big eye-full of fun for non-native speakers. At the Ziggo Dome, southeast of the city.

5. Pick out a Christmas Tree

Choosing and decorating the family tree brings kids such joy. A fun way to enjoy this ritual is at a tree adoption centre. The Eco-Logisch Bouw Markt is a great choice. It's environmentally-friendly and, once a year, they have a special Christmas event with mulled wine and gifts for sale. Check out our list of providers to find a tree near you.

6. Marvel at Ice Sculptures

Get festive overload at the ice sculpture exhibition in Zwolle, an hour's drive from Amsterdam. Once the kids have finished staring open-mouthed at the works of ice art, let them whizz down the ice slide or take them to the festively-decorated café for a hot chocolate while you reheat with a mulled wine. Just remember to wrap up warm!

7. Take to the Slopes

What's Christmas without snow? Pretend you're in the mountains at Snow Planet, a short drive north-west of Amsterdam. Here you can ski on indoor slopes with real snow. Kids might also enjoy the Pepernotenfestijn, where they can bake their own biscuits just like the Piets. If you don't feel like entertaining, you can book Christmas Day and Boxing Day meals there too.

8. Shop at a Christmas Market

For maximum festive impact, Christmas markets are hard to beat. Here are a few of our favourites:

Pure Wintermarkt – With its focus on gourmet food this is a good choice for grazers and greedy-guts. Markets located at the Amstelpark and Park Frankendael.

Funky Xmas Markt – Based at the Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam West, this is an arty-crafty take on Christmas with fashion, food stalls and live music.

Kerstmarkt Haarlem – Hugely popular event with a 19th Century theme, spread over two days. Traditional Christmas food and drink, choirs, and hundreds of stalls. Public transport recommended.

Kasteel Keukenhof – A short drive South East of Amsterdam, this is a huge market. The beautifully-decorated castle and live entertainment make it extra special.

Read more about our favourite Christmas markets in the Netherlands and beyond. 

9. Go Ice Skating

This classic Dutch winter pastime is great exercise for the kids and lots of fun. The most picturesque location is the Ice Village on the Museumplein but there are plenty of other rinks around town. And when you've hung up your skates, grab some fresh oliebollen at the nearby stalls and warm your belly as you make your way home.


Deborah Nicholls-Lee is a British national who moved to The Netherlands in 2009. A former French and English teacher, she now works as a freelance writer and editor while raising her two children. See her website to find out more about her work.

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