Our itinerary for an Amsterdam Christmas with teens, was an interesting and fun experience for sure! As you know we have visited Amsterdam several times and it is certainly a top family destination, but this Christmas vacation was one of our favorite trips to Amsterdam. By the way, we also list many things to do in Amsterdam all year too.
If you recall when we were seeking out help to choose our European Christmas vacation spot, everyone was great with input on some amazing places. In the end we selected Amsterdam for various reasons and you can see what we planned to do in Amsterdam here. Well, as with any vacation we didn’t do exactly as planned. We may have had a tiny disappointment, but also some unexpected treats! Keep on reading to see what we recommend you add to your Amsterdam itinerary.
Amsterdam Map of things to do, places to stay and where to eat!
It can be overwhelming trying to figure out what to do in Amsterdam, especially if you have some picky teens. Not to worry, we have several suggestions for you and it should make everyone happy!
When I plan, I usually seek out far more than we can do. That way, we can just do the things we feel like doing or when we are near them. I like to map everything out, so I know which items can easily be grouped together. Of course we don’t end up doing it all, but you (our readers) get to reap the benefits of all of my planning anyway! Everything should be pinned on the custom map for you too.
Amsterdam Christmas Things To Do
We were so excited to visit Amsterdam at Christmas. The tourism site boasted about the Christmas Markets, ice skating, light shows, the big tree in Dam Square and many amazing holiday activities. The photos were amazing and we couldn’t wait to experience it all. Below we will share our Amsterdam itinerary with you and our thoughts, as well as a few extras we just didn’t have time to do. I know we have this listed as Amsterdam with teens in the title, but all of these things are great for anyone to do!
Let’s start with the biggie, lights! Lights are the one thing that can instantly transform an ordinary setting into something extraordinary and give you that holiday feel instantly. Amsterdam did not disappoint with the streets decked-out in Christmas lights. It seemed as if each neighborhood had their own theme or type of lights.
Christmas Tree at Dam Square
If you are in Amsterdam at Christmas time, you must go to see the tree at Dam Square. The entire area is just beautiful and no matter which path you take to arrive and depart, you will be dazzled with beautiful lights and decorations.
Amazing Experience, Dinner & Show
The Winter Parade was a completely unexpected treat. Eating with hundreds of people, being served from atop your table, being part of the show, and ending with a silent disco was incredible. It was a real local event in Dutch, but we had a blast for over 5 hours. They sometimes spoke English, for the few of us that had no clue, but you didn’t need it too much.
We read a little about it in advance and weren’t really sure what to expect, but it turned out to be a trip highlight for sure. This was one Christmas dinner and show to remember for a lifetime! We highly recommend this, if you plan to visit over Christmas. It is a temporary show and is only in town for a limited time and then moves around, so plan accordingly. Read more about our experience here.
Amsterdam Canal Cruise
A visit to Amsterdam, just wouldn’t be complete without taking a canal cruise. During the holiday season, you may experience the festival of lights while on your cruise. I just loved looking at the works of art made of light and each year it changes, so you will have a new experience every time! See the canal cruise deals here!
Of course there are so many to choose from and we have visited most of them in the past, so we didn’t do too many this time around. That said, it was Gma Linda’s first time to Amsterdam and the Van Gogh Museum was high on her priority list. We typically don’t like to tour a museum as a group, so we all split up with a time to meet back at the lobby. This is the bonus of having teens for sure! Alan went off on his own, the kids paired up and Gma Linda and I went on our way. We each had our audio guide and it was nice to just go at our own pace. I am certain the kids enjoyed it more on their own too.
The museum does offer a scavenger hunt pamphlet for kids, but I think they are fun for adults too. My favorite painting is Irises and I tasked the kids with finding it on their journey. We had a great experience and each of us walked out with a list of our 2 or 3 favorites, all different from one another. I downloaded everyone’s favorites from the museum website, but we can’t share them here due to copyrights. Click here for availability and skip the line tickets to the museums.
I will be very honest, if you are going for the Christmas Markets, just go ahead and head to Brussels instead! More on Brussels later. Amsterdam just wasn’t filled with the Christmas markets like we expected. There were a few pockets around town with some booths, an ice rink and booths at the museumplein, and then a “larger” Christmas market and ice rink out at the convention center. Let’s just say they weren’t the European Christmas markets we were hoping for, but it did give us a flavor.
The larger one called Winter parade market, advertising rides, ice rink, Christmas booths and more. We did partake in a few of the food booths, hot chocolate and enjoyed the fire pit. The indoor ice rink seemed to be where all of the action was and more food booths inside.
This was cute, but we didn’t like that you had to pay an entrance fee to then go in and have to pay for everything that was offered. If you have smaller kids, this may be more up your alley, rather than with teens. We always make the most of it and we enjoyed our day out with Gma Linda, so that made it all worth it!
Our Own Christmas Traditions
Of course we can’t forget about our own Christmas traditions. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without decorating one of Gma Linda’s gingerbread houses. This year Lars decided to go minimalist and eat most of the decorations, rather than put them on the house. Hot chocolate and marshmallows were involved as well!
Ice Village Amsterdam is the place to go for a fun day of ice skating and museums. Located right on the Museumplein, it is a great outdoor break after visiting one of the famous museums. There are a few Christmas market booths around as well, so it is a fun experience for the kids. There was also an indoor ice skating rink at the Christmas Market out near the convention center.
Amsterdam Street Art
No matter where you are in Amsterdam, you are sure to happen upon some of the street art. The kids are very much into this right now. It is so fun seeing how their interests change as they get older. It was almost like we discovered an entirely new city. We like to just discover it as we go, but if there is something in particular you would like to seek out, there are a couple of great Amsterdam street art guides available:
Amsterdam Vintage Clothes & Thrift Shopping
Traveling with teens adds a few extra stops to the itinerary, which may not otherwise have been thought of. Yep, we usually ask the entire family for input on what to do and this year thrift shopping has been high on the list. The kids made a big haul at Deseret Industries when we visited Utah over the summer, so they wanted to see what they could find while thrifting in Amsterdam.
We managed to make it to Episode Thrift Shop and Bij Ons Vintage. The kids each walked out with something special. Shhhh don’t tell them, but what they bought are items from their parents past, in the 80’s or 90’s. Anya got a pair of Van shoes and a Lars picked out something like a Coogi sweater.
Roam the Streets of Amsterdam
Our advice no matter where you travel, even in your own home town. Allow yourself to just roam around and don’t worry about where you are or where you are going. Take the time to just absorb what is around you and take the path which looks most interesting. That is how we happened upon this great view after dinner one night. Take some caution as well, as it also took us into the red light district. Luckily we didn’t happen upon the windows with live displays, but if we had it would have been an educational opportunity for our teens.
Amsterdam Cheese Museum
Okay we didn’t do this because we had 2 no cheese eaters in the group, but I really want to do it next time. I love cheese and the kids usually do too. So next time we will get our taste buds ready, as they have samples! Read more here.
Visit Amsterdam Noord
Take the free ferry from the Central Train Station and hop on over to Amsterdam Noord (Amsterdam North). There are a few attractions to see. It was a bit cold and rainy while we were visiting, so we are going to save these for the next time we visit in warmer weather.
- EYE Filmmuseum
- A’DAM Lookout and ride the edge swing! We really wanted to go to the A’DAM Lookout and ride the swing. Okay let’s be real, Alan and the kids wanted to ride the swing, but the weather just was a bit dreary so we will save it for a warmer visit. Check out the various skip the line passes for the lookout and the swing here.
The only museum of microbes, in the center of Amsterdam. You can’t see them, but they’re here. They are on you. In you. And you’ve got more than a hundred thousand billion of them. They’re with you when you eat, when you breathe, when you kiss. They are everywhere. On your hands, and in your belly. And they meddle in everything. Read more about Micropia here.
More than 200 anatomical preparations of real human bodies show the complexity, resilience and vulnerability of our body. They show the function of organs, but also everyday diseases. The anatomical museum has been voted the number 8 museum in Amsterdam by travelers on TripAdvisor! Read more about skip the line options and deals for combo tours here.
A Kids Adventure Zone
Race Planet is a place for Karting, bowling, laser tag and more. They even have an indoor playground, for those rainy days. Read more here.
Amsterdam Attractions & Tours
If you are trying to figure out what to do in Amsterdam, there are also many organized tours for you to enjoy. From being active on walking or biking tour, to enjoying a food or wine. There is so much to do and Viator has so many great offers for you.
Amsterdam Food & Drink
Winter Parade Dinner & Show
Of course as you read above, we just loved this and it needs to be top on the list of our places to eat, but only at Christmas. Read more on their site, and read about our experience enjoying the Amsterdam Winter Parade.
An Amazing Steak Dinner
We enjoyed Christmas Eve dinner at Toro Dorado and we loved it so much, we almost returned a second time. The steak and desserts were delicious! The only reason we didn’t was because there are hundreds of great places to try out, so we decided to do that. The service and food was outstanding! Visit their website here.
Hard Rock Cafe
Who doesn’t love a good burger. I know this is a touristy American chain restaurant, but we sure miss big American burgers. We also devoured plenty of the chicken wings too. They even have a special VIP menu and service, to make you feel like a rock star! We had a 3-course meal, drinks and it was also amazing as there is no waiting for a table! Click here to see the great VIP deal.
This is certainly worth checking out. It is like a trendy indoor street food court, built in an old warehouse. That said it boasts some sumptuous gourmet burgers, sushi, Mexican and more. It was within walking distance from our apartment, so we took a stroll to check it out. The day we were there, there was also a street market just out front. Read more about Foodhallen here.
This is supposed to be the place to go for a great brunch. We didn’t get a chance to try it out, but in my planning research several people recommended it. Read more about TEDS.
Tantalize Those Tastebuds
Try out some FEBO croquettes! This company has been around since the 1940’s and offers fast food out of food dispensers all over town. It is kind of just a unique thing to do and try some Dutch favorites. So go ahead and snack like a local. Read more about the food from FEBO.
Wynand Fockink Tasting Tavern
Obviously this isn’t for the teens, but there’s no harm in them being with you during the tasting. This authentic ‘Proeflokaal’ (Dutch for tasting tavern / bar) has retained its 17th century character and product assortment. A great variety of genevers and liqueurs is served here. Among the various liqueurs you will find many Old Dutch liqueurs such as ‘Volmaakt Geluk’ (Perfect Bliss), ‘Bruidstranen’ (Bride’s Tears) en ‘Hansje in de Kelder’ (Jack in the Cellar). Liqueurs such as ‘De Boswandeling’ (A Walk in the Woods) en de ‘Half en Half’ (Half & Half) have made Wynand Fockink world-famous.
Dutch Apple Pie
As per our friend Janet, Winkel 43 and has the best apple cake in Amsterdam. It is on the Noordermarkt 43, in the city. We didn’t make it there this trip, but I am certain we will return to taste this great apple cake! Read all about it on TripAdvisor!
Chill Out At An Ice Bar
Okay Amsterdam isn’t exactly the land of extreme snow, but I’ve always wanted to go to an ice bar. There is one called Xtracold Icebar and they offer entrance times with drinks. We didn’t have time to do this, so it will just have to stay on the bucket list, perhaps in Iceland or Norway one day. Click here to see the deals for the fast track ticket, including your drinks.
You Have To Try Stroopwafels!
A stroopwafel (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈstroːpʋaːfəl] literally “syrup waffle”) is a waffle made from two thin layers of baked dough with a caramel-like syrup filling in the middle. It is popular in the Netherlands, where they were first made in the city of Gouda. Alan and I stayed in Gouda, nearly 20 years ago and bought some hot from the factory! There are also a couple of top bakeries to try them fresh in Amsterdam. If you can’t get them hot at the bakery and end up buying some at the store, just heat them a little before eating. It will make that syrup just melt in your mouth.
If you are in the area of the Original Stroopwafels, you may as well bite the bullet and check out the nearby Chocolate bar. I know it will be tough trying all of these treats, but someone has to do it!
These are the great tools we use to find self catering rentals, hotels, or house sits.
- Booking.com Apartments, Hotels & more – Click here for availability and pricing
- Airbnb – If you are new to Airbnb and are looking to either rent a room or the entire place, use this code to receive a $29 USD discount on your first booking.
- House sitting – Stay in luxury homes worldwide free of charge
Family Rooms Galore!
Do you need 3 to 8 beds for your family or group? This is the place for you, with a good location, clean and safe. Best of all there is plenty of space for everyone and a kitchen for your use. Check out deals here.
A City Apartment!
Of course what made this entire trip extra special and cozy, was having an amazing apartment in the city. They even had a tree and some Christmas decorations for us. We often use Vrbo, find your vacation rental now.
This is a unique experience and we stayed at the botel almost 20 years ago. Since then the location has changed, but still the same experience. Check out their availability and prices here.
Amsterdam Marriott Hotel
If you prefer a hotel, this is a great location and very nice rooms. We stayed here many years ago and loved it. Check their availability and prices now.
Houseboat on the Canal
A few summers ago, we stayed a week on a houseboat and had a wonderful experience. Usually these are very centrally located and easy to just hop out and explore the city. One big bonus is you don’t have to deal with all of the steep apartment stairs! Read about our houseboat experience here.
Additional Amsterdam Resources
- This is our guide for Great Things To Do In Amsterdam With Kids (or Without)
Free Amsterdam walking tours
- This one offers a very popular free Amsterdam walking tour, as well as many other free tours. Read more.
- A free 2-hour Amsterdam tour with a Dutch guide, you can’t go wrong. Read more.
- Free tour Amsterdam, which highly ranked and offers several times. Read more.
- These are guided and free, but charge per person for groups. Read more.
- Dutch foods to try
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