Considering a trip to Amsterdam? Don't rule out winter for a visit to this beautiful, historic Dutch city! Two years ago my husband (he's from a village about an hour away from Amsterdam) and I stayed for two weeks and lived like locals in his sister's apartment in South Amsterdam (in December). It was such a unique experience and I'm excited to share my insights and tips with you! After many trips to the Netherlands, I have discovered there is never an ideal time to visit and count on nice weather! You've never seen excitement, as to when the Dutch see the sun appear! My first visit to Amsterdam was on a cold, windy day in May and my December visit was also chilly. 🙂 Keep in mind that during the winter, the sun goes down around 4pm - so plan your days accordingly. Also, this Colorado girl learned the hard way... don't pack a puffy jacket for a winter Amsterdam visit! Snow doesn't often fall in Amsterdam... but any visit to the Netherlands you'll most likely experience raindrops!
Rijksmuseum - Located in Dam Square in the Amsterdam South neighborhood, the Rijksmuseum is a great place to spend a winter day or two! The museum was completely renovated and reopened in 2013. Even if you're not an art history buff - the building and architecture are spectacular! Rembrandt's famous painting "The Night Watch" is also worth a look. In the winter, don't miss ice skating (not much could be more Dutch!) outside of the Rijksmuseum and warm up after in a nearby cafe!
Amsterdam Light Festival - From the beginning of December to the third week in January the city of Amsterdam is aglow with lights! International artists showcase about 30-40 pieces of artwork on two routes through the city. The Illuminade is the walking route and Water Colors is the boat route through the canals. I strongly encourage you to take the boat route as it's magical to cruise under some of the artworks and see Amsterdam's beautiful canal houses from a canal view (and it's warmer! 😉 ).
Walking in Amsterdam - As many European cities, Amsterdam is also a highly walkable city. A car isn't needed to visit it's many neighborhoods and attractions. On foot is the best way to explore the local markets, Vondelpark (a beautiful park near Museum Square), and eat at a local cafe (try a broodje gezond - my favorite Dutch sandwich!). The best reason for walking in Amsterdam is all those picturesque canal views! It's the best way to discover hidden canals and view the unique architecture of the famous canal houses.
Food - During winter, you're sure to come upon stands selling Dutch treats of olliebollen, stroopwafels, or poffertjes - try them all! Oliebollen are fried and donut like, a traditional Dutch New Year's food. Stroopwafels (pronounced strope!) is caramel goodness wrapped between very thin crepe like waffles (trust me - yum!). Lastly, poffertjes (my personal favorite!) are small pancake like puffballs dusted with powdered sugar! Since you're walking, you will burn off these tasty Dutch specialties (and for lunch you've had my favorite sandwich - gezond means healthy!)! 🙂
Anne Frank House - The Anne Frank house is not to be missed during any season trip to Amsterdam! After reading the Diary of Anne Frank as a teen, I re read it again before arriving in the Netherlands. Visiting the house is truly like entering Anne's world from years ago. This is truly a memorable experience and I urge you to go. It's is one of the most visited places in the Netherlands (also during the less touristy seasons), so I suggest you make a reservation ahead of time. Tickets can be purchased two months in advance at www.annefrank.org. Even during the less busy winter season, the line to get tickets the day of is wrapped outside around the block!
Until the next adventure - bon voyage!