It might be cold outside (and wet, and windy), but instead of curling up under a cosy blanket and binge-watching your favourite show, you may want to consider throwing on your waterproof winter parka to explore something new. In the Netherlands, there are all types of exciting and magical outdoor activities you can do with your family (and a few indoor ones, too). Here are some great family-friendly winter break activities in the Netherlands, you should put on your family’s holiday bucket list.
Explore the Deventer Dickensfestijn
Once a year, The Dutch city of Deventer transforms into a quaint English city from the pages of a Charles Dickens novel. Bergkwartier lines its historic streets with Christmas decorations and actors in period clothing to give you an immersive and unforgettable experience right from A Christmas Carol. Make sure to dress for the weather with your favourite Protected Species parka and grab a little hot mulled wine to help keep you toasty.
Go Ice Skating
Ice skating is a very Dutch activity, right up there with bike riding. It’s also the perfect activity for family-friendly holidays in the Netherlands! Ice skating can be found just about everywhere in the Netherlands in winter. From the famous canals that crisscross the streets of Amsterdam (when the weather allows), to the Rijksmuseum, to a rink in Rotterdam, you have your pick of interesting, beautiful and magical places to create some holiday memories on ice.
Explore Christmas Markets
You can find Christmas markets all across Europe during the holiday season, and the Netherlands is no exception. In Groningen, you can find the WinterWelVaart, a holiday market with a maritime theme that sells food, gluwein and handicrafts. In Dordrecht, you can find one of the largest Christmas markets in all of the Netherlands – a great way to experience all that Dutch culture has to offer. As you traverse the cosy cobblestone streets of Dordrecht (which isn’t a city well-known to many foreigners), you can admire the lights and decorations all over the city and experience the holiday season as the Dutch do. If it gets too cold, there are a variety of stores and cafes to take shelter in and explore.
If you don’t find yourself in Groningen or Dordrecht over your holiday break, don’t worry. While their holiday markets are not as well-known as those in other countries such as Germany, many other cities and towns across the Netherlands have Christmas markets where you can stroll around to visit various stalls selling goods, drink hot chocolate or mulled wine, and simply enjoy the ambience.
Go to Haarlem
The Netherlands is famous for its many museums, but one you may not know about is the Teylers Museum just outside of Amsterdam in Haarlem. This museum was founded in 1784 and has a variety of interesting exhibits that range from wonderful to weird and will hold your family spellbound. You’ll find everything from fossils and old coins to valuable books and ancient scientific instruments. Also, as one of the oldest museums in all of the Netherlands, it has an authentic 18th-century interior that should fascinate your inner historian. It’s the perfect day trip if you’re staying in or around Amsterdam.
The Amsterdam Light Festival
The Amsterdam Light Festival is an event that takes place every year in December and January, and it’s one of the most popular winter holiday ideas in the Netherlands. It features artists from all over the world who create themed artworks using light that is then displayed across the city. To explore the festival, you can take a boat tour or simply grab a map that shows you a walking route through the streets. You can take a bike as well, if you want to go full Dutch!
This festival allows you to see Amsterdam in a different light, but make sure to dress warm and bring your waterproof parka in order to prepare for cold temperatures and rain – common weather in Amsterdam this time of the year.
Visit the Efteling
If you love amusement parks, then don’t miss the Efteling with its rides, shows, and attractions. In the winter, the park offers special attractions such as bonfires and winter treats. There are fairy lights and dances with the Fire Prince and Snow Princess that will delight your children. It’s a great way to add a little thrill to your holiday.
See Gouda by Candlelight
The Gouda Bij Kaarslicht takes place each December. During this time, the medieval town of Gouda, a quick train ride away from Amsterdam, is lit up by candles to celebrate the Christmas season. The town extinguishes all artificial lights and illuminates the town square with over 1,500 candles. It’s a beautiful scene that no one in your family is soon to forget. You can also take advantage of a traditional Christmas market and tree-lighting ceremonies while you’re there.
Visit the Dutch Ice Sculpture Festival
One of the biggest Dutch winter events, the Dutch Ice Sculpture Festival attracts over 100,000 people each year to Zwolle’s large ice hall called de IJsselhallen. The festival uses over 275,000 kilos of snow and ice to create magical ice sculptures themed around world-famous stories. You can view sculptures based on the tales of The Three Musketeers, Romeo and Juliet and Alice in Wonderland.
There are so many winter holiday ideas in the Netherlands that are fun for the whole family. We hope you’ll get out and try some of them this holiday season!