Ice Village: Review Of The Gorgeous Amsterdam Christmas Market (2023)

ice rink and christmas tree in front of grand building

Interested in attending a Christmas Market in Amsterdam in 2023? Great idea! Amsterdam is not only a beautiful city, but it sparkles at Christmastime and it does have a good Christmas Market. In this post, I’ll share my experience of the main Amsterdam Christmas Market, Ice Village, plus the other Christmassy things to do in Amsterdam in December.

I visited Amsterdam in Christmas 2022 and attended the Ice Village Christmas Market In Amsterdam, so I am basing this article on my first-hand experience from last year, plus the information that’s been released for 2023.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. These are links to products or experiences I recommend and if you were to buy something after clicking on them, I might earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Any earnings go towards the upkeep of this blog, which I appreciate.

Amsterdam Christmas Market FAQs

Is There An Amsterdam Christmas Market?

Yes, there is. In fact, there is more than one Christmas Market in Amsterdam.

There are typically several Christmas Markets, including:

  • Ice*Village Christmas Market, which is a traditional Christmas Market
  • Amsterdam Winter Paradise, which is more of a fairground than a market, with paid-for tickets required
  • Funky Xmas Market is a one-day special edition of the Westergas Sunday Markets
  • Pure Markt Winter Market Edition is another one-day event: a Christmassy edition of a regular Sunday Market.
  • Rembrandplein normally has some Christmas Market stalls with a Children’s ice rink

Which Is The Best Christmas Market In Amsterdam?

In my opinion, the Ice Village is the main and best Christmas Market in Amsterdam, for several reasons:

  • It’s much bigger and more relevant for adults than the Rembrandplein event
  • It is the closest to what you’d expect of a European Christmas Market: hot food, hot drinks, crafts & gifts on sale, plus some activities and, importantly, a cosy Christmassy atmosphere.
  • It is centrally located and easy to get to
  • Unlike the two one-day Amsterdam Christmas Markets, it runs for a couple of weeks, so there are more chances to experience it
  • There’s no charge for entry. You have to pay for food, drinks and activities, of course, but entry is free (unlike the Winter Paradise event).
cup saying Merry Christmas in a christmas market with sparkly lights and blue-purple-lit trees
Ice Village: the main Amsterdam Christmas Market

What Are The Amsterdam Christmas Market 2023 Dates?

The thing about Christmas markets in Amsterdam, which is different to many other cities that host them, is that they don’t run for very long.

In other places I’ve visited Christmas Markets (London, Paris and Luxembourg City), the Christmas Markets open mid-late November and some run to early January. Amsterdam’s start later and run for fewer days.

The Amsterdam Christmas Market 2023 dates have been confirmed as follows:

  • Ice*Village Christmas Market: 13 to 26 December 2023
  • Amsterdam Winter Paradise: 14 December 2023 to 1 January 2024
  • Westergas Funky Xmas Market: 17 December 2023
  • Pure Markt Winter Market Edition: 17 December 2023.

So, to experience any Christmas markets in Amsterdam, you’d need to be there in the second half of December. And to have your pick of all of them, you’d have to be there on Sunday 17th December 2023.

Ice Village: The Main Amsterdam Christmas Market

I’ve visited a few European Christmas Markets before, and I would say that Amsterdam’s Ice Village compares pretty well in terms of the actual market experience.

people walking through a wooden archway covered in white christmas lights
Ice Village Christmas Market in Amsterdam

I think it is better than any of the London Christmas Markets I’ve been to; it’s as festive as the Luxembourg Christmas Markets and equally as atmospheric as the best of the Paris Christmas Markets (and better than some of the worst Paris ones).

I only wish it ran for a longer period!

Where is the Ice Village Amsterdam Christmas Market?

It’s in a great location. The Ice Village tales place on Museumplein, in front of Rijksmuseum, which is a pretty cool backdrop for the Christmas market.

lights of a christmas market in amsterdam in front of a grand building
Ice Village Christmas Market in Museumplein

It’s next to and joins up with the ice-skating rink which is there for longer than the market is (the ice rink is open from 11 November 2023 to 4 February 4, 2024).

What Is There To Do At The Ice Village?

The main activity is the ice rink, which did look like fun, but I didn’t partake in my visit. I have an ice-skating phobia, having broken my arm on a Christmas ice rink in London a few years ago!

There’s also a good number of stalls with a mixture of clothes, crafts & gifts and food & drink, so you could browse the market stalls. Another good thing to do is simply grab a drink or a bite to eat and enjoy the cosy, festive atmosphere and the many twinkly lights.

ice rink and christmas tree in front of grand building
Ice rink next to the Ice Village Christmas Market in Amsterdam

Food & Drink

Vendors will change year to year, but on my visit, there was quite a lot of choice for food and drink.

Snack-type foods on offer included chipstixx (spiralled fried potatoes), raclette and poffertjes (mini pancakes). And there were more filling options, like filled jacket potatoes, hot dogs, fried fish, burgers, BBQ and pulled pork. And of course, there were sweet treats, too: chocolate marshmallows, churros and coconut balls.

And to drink, there was coffee, hot chocolate, a juice bar, beer and some kind of Bailey’s drink. And of course, no Christmas market would be complete without Gluhwein (a hot wine mulled with warming spices, also known as vin chaud and mulled wine) – so I made a beeline for that stall, he he.

market stall lit up with christmas lights and a sign saying Gluhwein
The most important stall at the Christmas Market in Amsterdam

Crafts / Gifts

Again, the stalls might vary in 2023, but to give you a flavour, last year, I browsed stalls selling clothes & accessories, hats, jewellery, socks, notebooks, paintings/prints, Christmas ornaments and carved wooden items.

Overall, it felt pretty much in line with the variety and high quality that I’d expect at a good Christmas Market.

My Favourite Parts Of The Ice Village

Overall, I really enjoyed the Christmas Market in Amsterdam.

I like that it isn’t too big, which helps it retain a cosy, intimate feel. Yet at the same time, there were plenty of stalls and a choice of food & drink.

I like that they had a decent-sized area to eat & drink including proper seats, not just standing tables.

The light displays were gorgeous: I loved how they projected changing colours onto the surrounding trees – it created a magical, enchanted feeling. And the little festive touches, like the cosy designs of the market stalls, were really nice.

And finally, I REALLY loved my first ever poffertjes! These mini pancakes came in a portion of 12 and they’re a lovely hot treat. They’re made on a hot plate-type thing on the counter right in front of you, and then you can choose your dressings from butter and powdered sugar (I had both!).

These hot sweet bites were perfect for a cold night at a Christmas Market.

plate of small round pancakes dusted with powdered sugar
A plate of perfect poffertjes

What To Do In Amsterdam In December

If you’re thinking of going to Amsterdam for a Christmas Market, you probably want to know what else there is to do in the city.

I’ve been to Amsterdam twice in winter: once in February and once in December, which I preferred. The winter months can be pretty cold in the Netherlands, but at least December has the pretty lights and festivities to liven things up.

If you fancy visiting the Ice Village Christmas market in Amsterdam, there’ll be plenty of other things to do while you’re there.

church and buildings lit up for christmas and reflecting in the still water of canals
Amsterdam in December

Christmassy Things To Do In Amsterdam

Enjoy The Christmas Lights Around The City

There are pretty Christmas lights on many streets around the centre of Amsterdam, and also various light installations that I think are designed for people to take selfies in.

amsterdam canal lined with trees lit up for christmas
Spiegelgracht

To be honest Amsterdam’s canals look pretty at night even without Christmas lights, seeing as the smooth water reflects the street lights. But at Christmas, they look extra special.

My favourite canal for Christmas lights was Spiegelgracht, which is close to the Rijksmuseum.

In terms of street light displays, some that I liked include Nieuwe Spiegelstraat, which also has some fancy old shops; Heiligeweg; Reguliersdwarsstraat; Herengracht; Huidenstraat and Hazenstraat.

Taste Festive Treats

If you come across one of these food stalls in the Amsterdam streets in December, look to see if they have Oliebollen, which are fried doughballs, served with powdered sugar. They’re so good! I liked the ones with raisins best, which are called Krentenbollen. The only downside is that it’s hard to avoid getting the powdered sugar all over you – I spilt mine all down the front of my coat!

Another Dutch Christmas treat is Pepernoten, which are small buttery cookies that are very nice. They melt in your mouth.

I was also advised to look out for Chocolate Letters and Speculaas cookies, but I didn’t find any. Possibly these had already come and gone by the time I was in Amsterdam because they do start Christmas festivities in early December in the Netherlands.

Visit The Other Winter Festival Events

As mentioned earlier, there are other Christmas market-type events in Amsterdam, beyond the Ice Village, so you could visit those.

Amsterdam Winter Paradise hadn’t opened while I was there last year, so I missed that one, as well as the one-day events. But in any case, I don’t think I would have wanted to pay the high price for entry to the fairground (€24.50!).

However, I did have a look at the Rembrandplein market, which was pretty small and very geared towards children. It had a few market stalls and a children’s ice rink. I don’t think it would be much of a destination for those without kids, though.

small christmas market with an ice rink for small children
The ice rink at Rembrandtplein is for smaller children

For details on the different Christmas Markets in Amsterdam, check the Winter Festival Amsterdam website.

Other Things To Do In Amsterdam In December

In terms of things to do in Amsterdam in December, most of what you’d do in warmer seasons you can still do in winter – but you’ll just need to be rugged up to do it.

It can be wet or overcast, of course, but I was quite lucky on my most recent visit: I had some lovely crisp & clear winter days.

Visit A Museum

I already mentioned Rijksmuseum, which is the national museum of the Netherlands and Amsterdam’s showpiece museum. It covers 800 years of Dutch history and has a huge collection of art, including those from the Dutch Golden Age of painting, such as Vermeer and Rembrandt van Rijn. It’s right by the Ice Village Christmas Market in Amsterdam, so you could easily visit the museum in the afternoon, and then go to the market afterwards.

grand red brick building with two towers
Rijksmuseum

Around Museumplein, there is also the Van Gogh Museum, dedicated to the master of impressionism and has the largest collection of his works, and the Moco Museum, which exhibits modern art.

And of course, Amsterdam is where you’ll find Anne Frank’s House, the biographical museum about the young diarist Anne Frank, whose family lived in hiding from the Nazis. I visited this moving museum on my first visit to Amsterdam years ago. I was interested in visiting again last December, but it seemed to be closed. It wasn’t until later I read that the entrance is around the corner from the actual house address!

There’s also an Anne Frank walking tour that I’ve seen is well-rated, although I haven’t done it myself.

Wander Jordaan

Jordaan is a very attractive residential area, with lots of pretty canals, quaint canal houses and cute arched bridges. It dates from the 17th century and was once a working-class area, but is now very genteel.

canal lined by trees and houses with a church at the end of it
Bloemgracht, Jordaan

I loved wandering along gorgeous Bloemgracht and when I got a bit too cold, I dropped into Kafenion Amsterdam to warm up with a hot drink and one of their amazing honey & cinnamon cookies.

Find Canal Viewpoints

Amsterdam’s iconic canal houses are very photogenic, especially if you can catch them reflected in the water. Here are some canal house viewpoints that I loved on my December visit.

Damrak waterfront – the wonky row of houses that back onto the look great reflecting in the water, if you can get a clear view in between the piers and boats. I’ve seen these called ‘the Dancing Houses’, which seems fitting because they look like they’re jostling up against each other in an awkward, squashed-up dance.

row of colourful old houses reflected in water of a canal
‘Dancing’ Canal Houses at Damrak

Drunken Houses. There’s another cluster of waterfront houses that look like they’re falling over. There are seven of them which remind me of a bunch of flowers, like they’ve been clutched together at the bottom, but they’re tipping over on both sides. The best viewpoint is on the corner of ‘s-Gravelandseveer and Groenburgwal.

row of wonky canal houses reflected in the water at night
Drunken Houses

Astoria Building. This grand 19th-century corner building is a nice break from the norm of canal houses and strikes quite the pose. A good place to see it in its full glory is the nearby bridge on Leliegracht.

tall corner building reflected in surrounding canal water
Astoria

Shop In De Negen Straatjes

De Negen Straatjes (The Nine Streets) is another attractive neighbourhood, made up of, you guessed it, nine streets (Reestraat, Hartenstraat, Gast-Huismolensteeg, Berenstraat, Wolvenstraat, Oude Spiegelstraat, Runstraat, Huidenstraat and Wijde Heisteeg).

This area is more commercial than Jordaan, so head here if you want to shop. You’ll find chic boutiques, vintage clothing stores, gift shops, galleries and coffee shops.

people queuing in the street for a coffee shop
If the queue is anything to go by, Chun must be a good coffee place in De Negen Straatjes

Take A Canal Cruise

Amsterdam is a canal city. While you can see a lot in Amsterdam on foot, I feel like you’re missing out if you don’t also get a view of the city from the water.

canal tour boat on a canal in amsterdam
One of many canal cruise boats doing the rounds in Amsterdam

Many canal cruises depart from Damrak. They tend to put signs out with the next departure time, which can be pretty flexible (the boat I took was signposted as leaving at 10:10, then they changed it to 10:30 when they didn’t have enough takers). But I think if you aim for 9:30/10 a.m., you should be able to catch one. Or you can book a canal cruise online in advance.

My cruise gave me a pre-recorded audio tour in English, which gave me lots of information about the history of the city, the canals and the iconic canal houses. My favourite moment was probably getting the Seven Bridges view, which is only visible from the water.

water-level view under or through seven bridges that all line up
Not the best picture, but the Seven Bridges view is pretty cool

Have A Look At The Red Light District

It’s undeniably a unique feature of Amsterdam, so it’s understandable that tourists will be interested in visiting the Red Light District.

Not many cities are so open and free about things like sex work, so you might want to have a look around De Wallen (Red Light District), to see what it’s all about. The window brothels and sex clubs are centred around Oudezijds Voorburgwal and Oudezijds Achterburgwal.

If you want to know more, IAmsterdam has some dos and don’ts for the Red Light District.

I’ve wandered through on two of my three visits to Amsterdam and I find it pretty depressing, to be honest. And beyond the actual red light district, which is small, the surrounding streets are tacky, full of fast food places and bong shops. It’s far from my favourite part of Amsterdam, personally.

tall canal houses with windows and closed red curtains
Red Light District window brothel early in the morning

Visit A *Coffee Shop*

Amsterdam is famed for its tolerant approach to cannabis, and there are lots of coffee shops that are licenced to sell small quantities of it.

On my second visit to Amsterdam, some of my student friends partook – and one nearly passed out having not been prepared for the strength of the Dutch weed.

So while I was considering trying an edible on my most recent Amsterdam trip, in the end, I decided not to. I was travelling solo, so figured it would be unwise to get intoxicated in the city on my own. Safety first and all that.

Anyway, I’m no expert, so if this is something you’re interested in doing, best to check the IAmsterdam website for their guide to cannabis use in Amsterdam.

Eat Traditional Dutch Food

I have a Dutch friend who suggested several traditional Dutch dishes to try while I was in Amsterdam – so you could do the same:

  • Bitterballen are kind of like meaty spherical croquettes and they’re served with a mustardy mayonnaise.
  • Stamppot with sausage is a serving of potato mashed with greens and topped with a firm smokey sausage. It’s hearty, filling stuff – but that can be great on a cold winter day. Hutspot can be a veggie alternative.
  • Herring is a very traditional dish, which is often eaten raw in a bread roll with raw onions and slices of pickle. You can buy it at fish stalls in the city centre. I didn’t like it that much (apart from the pickles), but at least I tried it!
  • Stroopwafels must be one of the best Dutch exports and you can find them internationally, including in Starbucks. But if there’s one place to try them, it’s the Netherlands. I was on the hunt to find some freshly made ones while I was in Amsterdam, but they eluded me – so I had to make do with a pre-made packet of them. I scoffed loads of them on my train ride home (sorry, not sorry).
  • Pancakes are big in Amsterdam and you won’t struggle to find a pancake place serving them with lots of choices of toppings. I’ll forever think of poffertjes when I think of Dutch pancakes, though…

Map: Christmas Market In Amsterdam

To help you navigate the city, here’s a map of the Amsterdam Christmas Markets and the other things to do in Amsterdam in December.

How To Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left-hand corner of the map to view the layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each one.  If you click the star next to the map’s title, it will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu, go to ‘Your Places’ or ‘Saved’, then click Maps and you will see this map in your list.

How To Get To Amsterdam

For flights, Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is huge. I have a bad memory of running through it to catch a connecting flight to Peru – and failing! But I can’t deny it is well-connected. Check Skyscanner for flight times and deals.

On my trip, I arrived at Amsterdam Centraal Station by train from London. It’s a nice way to get there because it’s beautiful around the station and it’s easy to get to anywhere in central Amsterdam from there.

If you’re interested in doing something similar, check train times and ticket prices (in multiple currencies) on Omio.

ornate red brick building with towers
Amsterdam Centraal Station

Where To Stay In Amsterdam

I loved my hotel in Amsterdam, Hotel Nes, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I had a comfortable warm room, which was nice to come back to after a day exploring the chilly streets. Secondly, it was centrally located and easy to get around. Thirdly, it offered a tasty breakfast in the morning.

But most importantly, I had a canal view from my bedroom, which was of the Drunken Houses! I thought that was pretty special.

Check availability and prices for hotels on Booking.com

The Last Word

I hope this article has been useful to manage your expectations about the Christmas markets in Amsterdam. Overall, between the really fun, playful Christmas Market and the pretty festive lights around the city, I think Amsterdam is a great place to visit at Christmastime.

If you’re open to other Christmassy destinations, have you considered the Paris Christmas Markets, or the Luxembourg Christmas Markets?

Finally, if you’re getting ready for Christmas, check my ideas for travel stocking stuffers and other gifts for travel lovers.

Oh, and have a Merry Christmas!

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