Winter in The Netherlands, not a good time to visit, you think? Think again! Because winter in The Netherlands is the time for ice skating in the middle of ancient cities, enjoying a mulled wine with your bitterball and of course, experiencing some of the world most cutting-edge light festivals. You really shouldn’t miss these 4 light festivals in The Netherlands.
Amsterdam Light Festival
The Light Festival has been a (literal) highlight for the winter season. Since 7 years Dutch and international experimental artists have created breathtaking light sculptures on and around the canals of Amsterdam, on the Amstel river and at selected locations in the city. Wander around, rent a bike or hop on a boat to see enjoy Amsterdam Light Festival to the fullest.
How to experience Amsterdam Light Festival?
- Amsterdam Light Festival is held from the end of November until the end of January.
- See a sneak peek of what light installations you can expect on the website.
- To enjoy the festival from the water (and I highly recommend that), join one of the boat tours. It’s wise to book ahead, as these tours are immensely popular.
- If you’d rather conquer the festival by bike, so you can also explore the installations in more remote spots away from the water, rent a bike. It only sets you back €10 a day.
- Plan your trip using my ultimate Alternative Guide to Amsterdam.
Eindhoven is the Dutch city of light. Literally, as for decades, it was the world leader of production of light bulbs, as Philips calls Eindhoven its home. Therefore, light and Eindhoven are strongly connected. Also, Eindhoven is the capital of Dutch Design. And being both the capital of light and the capital of Dutch Design is the perfect combination for hosting a yearly light festival: GLOW. Yearly, around 35 light artists create their installation around a specific theme, forming a cutting edge light route through the city centre of Eindhoven.
How to experience GLOW Eindhoven?
- Simply show up! GLOW is completely free, though you can book tickets for special guided tours and shows.
- Check out my article about Light festival GLOW in Eindhoven.
Maastricht Light Route
If you’d like to visit a proper Christmas market in The Netherlands, I highly recommend you hop on a train in Amsterdam and travel to the most southern tip of the country and spend a few days in Maastricht. Every advent season, Maastricht turns into something magical.
The giant heart of the city, Vrijhof, is turned into one of the largest Christmas markets in The Netherlands and the historical heart, and the more contemporary quarter on the other side of the Meuse river is lit up magically. And Maastricht has been doing this before light festivals were even a thing. The Light Route takes you along the most famous sights of Maastricht, the most beautiful shops and the best restaurants. A good reason to follow those fairy lights.
How to experience the Maastricht Light Route
- Check out the website for the yearly route. You can open the route on your phone (or tablet) or print a PDF.
- If you’re curious about Maastricht: here’s where you eat, shop and sleep in Maastricht.
- Did you know Maastricht has the most beautiful (and award winning) bookshop in the world? Hint: it’s inside a 13th century church!
- Plan your trip to Maastricht using my complete city guide.
Trajectum Lumen Utrecht
Now, I wouldn’t be a good Dutch Guide if I didn’t sneakily tried to lure you to my hometown. But seriously, Trajectum Lumen in Utrecht is something you definately have to see for yourself. First of all, you can experience Trajectum Lumen year round, you can take a guided tour or download the app and follow the route of light yourself.
Trajectum Lumen is an ode to the rich history of Utrecht, with a growing number of art installations by local and international artists. These artworks illuminate the cities past, present and future and will make you pay attention to some spectacular historical buildings or canal wharfs that you wouldn’t even notice in daylight.
How to experience Trajectum Lumen in Utrecht
- You can experience Trajectum Lumen year round, the installations come to life after the sun sets. So whenever you’re in Utrecht: join!
- Either download the free app or join a tour to find the installations and get to know the stories behind them.
- Utrecht is only 20 minutes from Amsterdam by train and truly and utterly Dutch. Come on over and discover Utrecht by foot, bike and boat.
- Wanna see some Dutch UNESCO world heritage? Visit the Rietveld Schröder House.
- Ready for a beer after all that walking? Check out the Utrecht craft beer guide.
- Plan your trip to Utrecht using my complete city guide.
Celebrate winter in The Netherlands
- Eindhoven, Utrecht and Maastricht are easily reached by train. Trains to these cities run every 15 to 30 minutes from Amsterdam Central Station. Buy an OV Chip Card, which you can charge as you go, to travel on all public transport in The Netherlands. Check your timetables here.
- There’s so much more going on in winter than just Christmas markets and light festivals. Read about all the winter festivals in The Netherlands.