The Amsterdam light festival is more than just Christmas lights dotted around the city. It is a showcase of art that guides you around the beautiful canals and streets of Amsterdam. It runs from the end of November until the beginning of January.
I love going to different festivals around the world however this one I found the hardest to research. That’s why I wanted to compile all my top tips into one place for when you decide to go!
Where are they?
Every year there are 25 pieces of art are chosen from all over the world. They vary in size, colour and style, some are even interactive. Next to each piece there is a display board in both Dutch and English which explains the thought process and message behind the artwork. Also make sure you keep your eyes open, we even one on a third story window.
Ways to see the lights
Going by boat is a good option if you have difficulty walking or just want to stay warm. The only negative is that you aren’t able to see the art in great detail and can miss out on some of the interactive ones.
There are different types of cruises to choose from. The Amsterdam light festival cruise is heated and enclosed boat, it also includes a cup of hot chocolate (€22.50 per adult). It is also possible to combine these tickets with a trip to A’DAM lookout, spending an hour there and then being picked up for the cruise (€32.50 per adult).
Alternatively there is an open top boat which makes taking pictures easier and a blanket is provided to help with the cold (€25.00 per adult).
All of the cruises take 75 minutes, except for the combined A’DAm lookout ticket which is 85 minutes. It is best to book in advance either online or at a tourist station.
In my opinion the best way to appreciate the art is by walking. The boat trips include audio descriptions however they do not allow enough time at each exhibit. Walking gives you the freedom to stay at any pieces you particularly like for longer or move quickly past any that aren’t for you.
If you are spending a few nights in Amsterdam then you could go on a cruise on the first night to get an overview of the art. Then the following night go for a walk to concentrate on the pieces that you enjoyed most.
This is an option however most of the displays are very close together so you would be stopping a lot. Also there are crowds of people walking so you might have difficulty navigating around them. I wouldn’t recommend seeing the exhibits in this way. Save the cycling for the day time.
Best time to visit
It is best to visit at the end of November or the very beginning of December. This means that you will see the exhibits at their best. Unfortunately when we went during the second week of December some of the displays were broken. However there were so many amazing exhibits that it didn’t affect our overall experience.
The piece I was most excited to see was called absorbed by light. It showed three young people on a bench with their faces lit up by their phones. Unfortunately it was broken so I didn’t get to sit next to them.
When we visited I wasn’t aware that the lights are only on between 17:00-23:00. Thanks to a long nap and a husband who thought it would be good to practise his parkour earlier in the trip we found this out incidentally. I’m sure most people won’t have the same problem.
The route can change each year, find a map here: Light festival route
The festival was beautiful, interesting and an amazing way to see the city at night. Whilst you are in Amsterdam here are some other things to do: The most Instagrammable places in Amsterdam