Amsterdam is vibrant and exciting city. There is always something to be doing or seeing – particularly around the Christmas and New Year period. Booked as a surprise, we had no plans and were free to aimlessly wonder the maze of side streets and canals exploring the different shops, markets and crazy museums the city has to offer.
I wasn’t sure really what I was expecting when it came to New Year’s Eve but our Airbnb host was amazing at giving us advice on the best places to see and to celebrate. As you can imagine, Amsterdam’s many clubs, pubs and bars were rammed with people all night and we hopped between them on our way through the centre, sticking mostly to pubs in order to avoid the entry fees on Leidseplein!
The place to be however, was definitely the streets. What I wasn’t anticipating though was the number of fireworks. They were quite literally all over the place as, in every square and street, people lit rockets and small bangers with absolutely no fear and without any warning. Despite some initial confusion and surprise, this added to the lively atmosphere and excitement that fills the city at this time of year. Dam square was a particular hotspot for the last count down as well as any of the many bridges across the canals. Fireworks continued in huge numbers, lighting up the sky as we roamed, and I still have little recollection of how we got home.
Aside from New Years Eve itself, Amsterdam in the winter does not disappoint. Even though it was freezing, we embraced the cold and the rain by exploring markets, drinking beer and visiting various shops and notable places such as Museumplein, Kalverstaat, the Sexmuseum and the Oude Kerk . I even persuaded Aidan to go Ice Skating at the Rijksmuseum which he ended up enjoying more than I did. Though, it was probably something to do with being better than me…
As I mentioned earlier, we really spent the majority of our trip walking around the city and this is definitely something I would recommend, especially in the winter. The annual Light Festival (that runs between December and January) makes walking in the evenings even more magical at this time as various different coloured sculptures light up the canals each night. You can even book a night cruise that follows the different marked routes through the city. Canal cruises are almost mandatory when visiting Amsterdam, but we chose to take one on our final day to give us a chance to relax before our late flight home. At only €10 per person for the hour tour (which was in four different languages) it was a bargain and exactly what we needed after a huge pancake breakfast!
Pancakes were not the only thing we found to fill ourselves. Waffles, Vlaamse Frites (Dutch chips) and Oliebollen (traditional Dutch doughnuts) were particular fast favourites of ours and the markets in the trendy Jordaan district were great for all sorts of local food finds, despite being a little further out of the centre. Having both spent the whole of Christmas working we also decided to treat ourselves to a small “blow-out” meal. For this, we came across Herengracht Restaurant, a neat bar and restaurant on the Herengracht canal which offers lovely food in the cosy upstairs as well as a lively outside bar area that hosts live music and events all year round. However, my absolute favourite food spot in Amsterdam was definitely Ramen-Ya – a cute downstairs ramen place just off the Red Light District. It’s perfect escape from the cold outside and after a day of walking there is nothing more comforting than a rich bowl of ramen.
Amsterdam is the perfect winter destination and definitely worth braving the cold for! The excitement of New Years Eve is something really different and is great to get really involved with. Our short break was definitely needed and we returned relaxed, but already keen for our next escape!
Information on visiting Amsterdam: