Now that Halloween is over, we can shamelessly shift to
Sinterklaas. Just kidding, we’re ready for Christmas. Although the Dutch Christmas markets are not as famous as their German counterparts, the Christmas markets in the Netherlands are absolutely charming. I ended up not ranking these strictly as people look for different things in different Christmas markets, but I’ve grouped it based on the opinions of friends. I’ve included ten Christmas markets in the Netherlands and I’ll be updating this post with more experiences/photos this year!
Kerstmarkt Gemeentegrot is one of the most unique Christmas markets in the Netherlands. This underground Christmas market is home to the largest, oldest, and most popular underground Christmas market in Europe. (I doubted for a moment that there were others, but there are!) Be warned that this is quite a busy event and hotels in the area are almost sold out as early as September. For 2018, Valkenburg was named the “European City of Christmas.”
You’ll need to purchase entry tickets ahead or wait in line for the Christmas market. Beyond the Christmas market, you can enjoy the festive atmosphere starting as early as the 16th of November (2018) until early January. There are stalls with handmade goods, gluhwein, and and a spooky fairytale forest for visiting families. If you have time, take a tour of the Velvet caves and see the castle ruins.
If you intend to stay over in Valkenburg (or Maastricht), book your hotel as soon as possible as prices can be quite high on the weekends. (You can save a bit by going mid-week.) If you’re driving, you’ll save a lot by staying in the surrounding towns.
My Dutch friends have raved about the Magical Maastricht Christmas market. This Christmas market, which starts on December 1st and runs until New Year’s Eve, is one of the largest in the Netherlands. Closer to a fair, it has rides and a ferris wheel to give you views over the market.
Maastricht is beloved for its stunning medieval city center and its charming atmosphere. The charm only grows with a warm gluhwein (or hot chocolate) in your hands as you browse the many stalls of this market.
(You can easily combine Maastricht with Valkenburg over a weekend if you’re hoping to see as many Christmas markets in the Netherlands as possible. We recommend staying in Maastricht and booking soon as many hotels are sold out.)
Leiden is known for having a special Christmas market as it’s a floating Christmas market that goes on top of Leiden’s stunning Nieuwe Rijn canal. In case you’re not familiar with Leiden, Leiden is easily one of the charming cities in the Netherlands with its picturesque canals and stunning canal houses. Just imagine them all lit up!
In this Christmas market, you’ll find more than 75 adorable stalls that you can enjoy from December 14th until Christmas. If you’ll be busy during the holiday season, don’t worry: you can’t visit this Christmas market on the second day of Christmas.
Dordrecht has the largest Christmas market in the Netherlands. In case you are not familiar with Dordrecht, this stunning city in South Holland is known as the “Venice of Holland.” Although the Christmas market here goes on a considerably shorter period than some other Dutch Christmas markets, the Dordrecht markt has more than 300 stalls, sing-a-longs, and entertainment for all ages.
The entire city center is taken over by stalls, so don’t miss this chance to see Dordrecht during this festive time. The Dordrecht Christmas market will be between December 14th and December 16th for 2018. (The market will be open until 9pm on Friday and Saturday.)
The Hague: Royal Christmas Fair
The Hague has one of the loveliest Christmas markets in the Netherlands. From December 14th to December 23rd, the Royal Christmas Fair will be open. There’s nothing as romantic as strolling down Lange Voorhout, the Hague’s most lovely street, underneath the the trees with a warm drink in your hand. There’s nothing like watching the lights twinkle from the trees above as you browse the adorable stores for gifts.
Amsterdam has multiple Christmas markets for those looking for some holiday cheer in the Dutch capital. The most famous Dutch Christmas market is in the Museumplein at Ice Amsterdam Museumplein where revelers can enjoy a warm drink, some stalls, and ice skating with a view of the Museumplein. Unrelated to Christmas, you’ll be able to enjoy the city all lit up at night for the Amsterdam Light Festival.
However, all around the city, you’ll find smaller Christmas markets in the various neighborhoods. (My personal favorites are the Haarlemmerstraat Kerstmarkt as well as the Funky Xmas Market at Westergasterrein where you can find some interesting and sustainable gifts.)
In December, Deventer shines with its Dickens festival. During this time, the stunning Bergkwartier comes alive with Dickens characters, carolers, and Christmas decorations. The Dickens festival is free to enjoy although lines to enter the festive (but crowded) streets can be long. In 2018, the Deventer Dickens Festival will be held on December 15th and 16th.
Beyond the Dickens Festival, Deventer holds a charming Christmas market close to the Grotekerk. You’ll find typical stalls, food, and Christmas cheer. Unfortunately the Christmas market itself is not free, however tickets cost 3 euros for adults (kids get in free).
The Haarlem Christmas market is known for its Christmas cheer, in particular the sing-a-along. Although the Christmas market only lasts one weekend (December 8th and 9th), the city center of Haarlem comes alive during this free Christmas market! (You can also enjoy special winter beers from Jopen, Haarlem’s well-known brewery during this time!)
Country and Christmas Fair at Kasteel de Haar
For castle lovers, the County and Castle Fair is a dream come true! This charming Christmas fair near Utrecht takes place at the stunning Kasteel de Haar. For those seeking the perfect gift for Sinterklaas (or for Christmas), this fair that occurs over a week in late November has more than 200 stands for those seeking something special. At this Christmas fair, you’ll find an emphasis on lifestyle, household decorations, clothing, and beauty products.
Castle Christmas Fair at Heemskerk
Another Christmas fair near a castle! Heemskerk is a beautiful town outside of Amsterdam where the 13th century castle, Slot Assumburg, sits. This castle now operates as a hostel today (really!). During Christmas, this magical setting is turned into a Christmas fair with music and more than 150 stands. (For 2018, the Castle Christmas Fair will occur between November 29th and December 2nd.)