If you can handle the cold, January is one of the best times of the year to visit Amsterdam. This is the time of year you’ll find the fewest tourists on the narrow streets and many of the 1,200-odd bridges criss-crossing the 160 or so canals are festooned with lights to counter the dark winter months.
Amsterdam is the seventh most visited European city with around 16 million visitors per year so if you can head there at its least crowded time you’ll be that much closer to the famous paintings in the fabulous museums and easily find a table in the cafes, locally known as brown cafes for the aged-color of their walls. Flights and hotels are cheaper too. The downside of course is that it will be less enticing to take a canal cruise or to sit in one of the city’s lovely green parks such as the Vondelpark but to compensate, you can ice-skate at Museumplein outside the Rijksmuseum, at Leidesplein surrounded by cafes, or at Beursplein near Dam Square.
One of my favorite places in Amsterdam is the arts precinct in the former gasworks at Westergasfabriek – here the ice rink is covered so if the falling snow or biting wind is too much for you, head here where there’s also a winter restaurant. If you have your own skates, it’s free, but skate hire is not expensive. And then there is skating on the canals – perfect. Keep an eye out for where to do it and take care under bridges where the ice is thinnest! When you come off the ice, make sure you have some of the delicious little Dutch pancakes known as poffertjes. If you’re a proficient skater, head to Jaap Edenbaan where the professionals go – but you’ll have to dodge the speed skaters.
If you’re not into skating, on January 23rd there are the Chinese New Year celebrations with fireworks lighting the winter skies, and from January 25-29th there’s Amsterdam Fashion Week.