The Netherlands has a decent tradition regarding Christmas, we can even say that Christmas is celebrated twice in the country, in fact, in addition to the traditional Christmas, the Sinterklaas festivity, which is celebrated on December 5, is also very heartfelt. On this day Sinterklaas distributes gifts to the children, this is also the day in which the Dutch traditionally exchange gifts with each other and celebrate the Christmas holidays. Sinterklaas, a character very similar to Santa Claus – with a long white beard and a red cloak -, usually arrives in every city in the Netherlands on a steamboat full of presents. Normally a parade through the city center, Sinterklaas rides through the city on his white horse, throwing small gingerbread cookies at the crowd. During the Sinterklaas festival, you will also find bakeries overflowing with delicacies such as gingerbread men, spiced biscuits, marzipan and chocolate letters.
The tradition of Christmas markets – called Kerstmarkt in Dutch – is quite recent, they have only been held in Holland for a few decades. Among the most famous Christmas markets in Holland are those of Maastricht and Valkenburg. But many other Dutch cities and towns have their Christmas market during Advent, but these are often markets that last for a single day or a single weekend. Some small markets are also held in the many fairy-tale castles scattered throughout the country.
Valkenburg Christmas Market (Kerstmarkt Fluwelengrot Valkenburg).
The Valkenburg Christmas Market takes place in a suggestive atmosphere inside a cave, the Fluweelengrot, that is the Velvet Cave. This is certainly the most awaited Christmas event in Holland. The caves where the Valkenburg Christmas Market takes place give the event a splendid and unique atmosphere, they are full of festively decorated stalls, with beautiful lighting and romantic Christmas music. A visit to the market will take visitors to an illuminated Christmas grotto, in which an impressive 18th-century chapel is set up. This market has a “Christmas all over the world” theme, and features Christmas scenes from various places around the world.
In the caves there are over 50 stalls with Christmas products, handicrafts, gift items and a welcoming restaurant facility. Even Santa Claus is waiting for you in the cave, here is one of his houses: you will find the gift room, his bedroom and you will be able to see the reindeer and his sleigh.
Maastricht Christmas Market (Magisch Maastricht).
Another famous Dutch market is the Maastricht Christmas Market. The one in Maastricht is a Christmas Market with a lively festive atmosphere, during Advent the Vrijthof in Maastricht is transformed into a Christmas square, with a Christmas market, an 800 m² ice skating rink, a tall Ferris wheel 38 meters, a carousel and many other attractions. The Maastricht Christmas market is made up of over 50 stalls offering seasonal food, drinks, Christmas gift ideas and traditional Dutch Christmas cuisine. Try the oliebollen (doughnuts), the poffertjes (traditional Dutch pancakes) and the Gluhwein (mulled wine).
Dordrecht Christmas Market (Kerstmarkt Dordrecht).
The Dordrecht Christmas Market is one of the largest Christmas markets in the Netherlands. The market is in fact usually made up of over 300 stalls offering a wide range of Christmas gifts and culinary delicacies. There is also a large ice skating rink. The Christmas market extends in the historic center of Dordrecht along a 2.5 km route. Dordrecht also has the longest shopping street in Holland: the Voorstraat.
Deventer Christmas Market (Dickens Festijn).
Also interesting is the Christmas Market in Deventer, a town in Overijssel in the central-eastern part of the country, where every year the historic center (Bergkwartier) is transformed into an authentic 19th-century English village. In fact, the Dickens Festijn takes place here, an event inspired by the famous stories of Dickens. The visitor is catapulted back in time with costumed actors recreating the typical setting of Dickens’ stories. The scent of roasted chestnuts, the thousands of tiny lights, the towering Christmas trees and the beautifully restored buildings of the historic center form the backdrop to this surreal environment. In the Christmas market, traders offer their products and artisans present their works.
Amsterdam Christmas Market.
Christmas markets in Amsterdam. The capital of the Netherlands is also a good destination during the holiday season, there is no real big Christmas market, but here you can pay a visit to one of the many small Christmas markets in the city. Amsterdam traditionally organizes a wide range of small Christmas markets each year. In the Christmas markets in Amsterdam, you can do your Christmas shopping or drink hot chocolate or taste a typical Dutch dessert. Traditional places for small Christmas markets are Leidseplein and Koningsplein which are located at the two ends of the Leidsestraat. The ice skating rink is also located in Leidseplein.
For the entertainment of those who visit it during Christmas, Amsterdam also offers ice skating rinks and many Christmas activities for young and old. At the floating flower market (Bloemenmarkt) you will find Christmas trees of all shapes and sizes. A place in the city where it is always Christmas is the Christmas Palace, a shop dedicated to Christmas located along the Singel canal in Amsterdam. In this shop, it’s always Christmas, for 365 days a year, here you will find Santa Claus who reminds you how many days are left until Christmas. In the shop you will find all kinds of Christmas items.