If you’ve visited Amsterdam in the summer, you already know that the city is lively outdoors, but don’t let the winter months discourage you from booking a flight to this quaint destination when the snow falls down. In fact, the winter can be just as wonderful, magical and all-around entertaining thanks to the many festivities around the city to celebrate the season. From shopping at the winter markets and skiing on the canal to dining on season-specific specials and watching a parade, here are our favorite things to do in Amsterdam in the winter.

Light Festival

One of the most beautiful festivals in Amsterdam in the wintertime is the Light Festival, which starts in November and goes all the way into January. The Light Festival is essentially when Amsterdam brings the city to life by installing an array of light decorations on all streets and corners and canal. Artists set up different sculptures made out of lights along the canal, and one of the best ways to see them (if it’s not too cold) is via a canal tour.

Winter Markets

Another one of our favorite things to do in Amsterdam during the winter is to explore all the different Winter Markets. There’s the Funky Xmas Market where you can find handmade goods by local artists, the Amsterdamsche Kerstmarkt has live music, beautiful gifts and drinks for you to enjoy, and the Market in Museumplein features lights, music, shopping and treats. There’s also another Winter Market that’s different than the others called Het Amsterdams Winterparadijs, located inside of RAI that offers rides for children, shopping for adults and delicious cuisine and drinks to keep you energized and satisfied.

Sinterklaas Parade

You don’t have to be young to enjoy seeing Sint-Nicolaas (based on Saint Nicholas) gliding through downtown with boats, horses, floats during a parade held on the third Sunday of November each year. The parade is about 1.6 miles long and brings in locals and other residents in the Netherlands. During the procession, treats, sweets and cookies are thrown to the crowd to enjoy, and at the end, there’s a spectacle.

Season-specific Dishes

Although you can have almost any cuisine during the summer months, the winter is extra special as there are a few dishes that are only available (and best enjoyed) during the colder months. One of the most popular treats is called oliebollen, which essentially are fried donut balls covered in powdered sugar. They are available all over the city at food stalls and Christmas Markets. Another treat you have to try in Amsterdam in the winter is a stroopwafel, two fresh wafers with caramel in the center—pair it with coffee and it’s absolutely divine. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, then at least try some erwtensoep also known as snert, a split pea soup with bacon or sausage on top. The best places to order a warm bowl of snert is Moeders, Hap-Hmm, The Pantry and De Baluwe Hollander.

Have you spent a winter weekend in Amsterdam? What were your most memorable activities you would recommend?

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