Amsterdam was built on a muddy bog, an inauspicious start for what would become one of the world's greatest trading cities. While it may now have been eclipsed in the trade wars it remains one of the most popular European destinations for tourists. December is a quiet month when families gather for the Christmas vacation, but you will still find plenty to entertain you, and some museums and restaurants stay open even on public holidays.
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It started as a cultural parade travelling to four cities in the Netherlands during the summer, and has proved so popular there is now a winter version held in the middle of December and offering food, film, theatre, music and dance at various venues throughout Amsterdam. Grab a winter warmer at Cafe Ik, swing to a silent disco in the streets, and get your chocolate fix at Chocokeuken Guadulupe.
Stichting Mobile Arts Weverssingel 36 3811 GK Amersfoort Netherlands +31 33 465 4555 winterparade.nl
Amsterdam has over 75 festivals each year and few are more engaging than the annual Tangomagia, an international festival of Argentine tango that has been heating up the city since 1998. Tango dancers from around the world convene for five days of festivities that include film screenings, photography exhibitions, and--of course--plenty of dancing in spectacular locations. There is a free Tango Café each day in the historic Hotel Arena and at the Amsterdam tango dancehall, Kompaszaal.
Albert Cuypstraat 241 1073 BH Amsterdam Netherlands +31 20 675 1440 tangomagia.com
Concertgebouw Christmas Matinee
One event worth fighting to see is the annual concert held by the legendary Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in the Concertgebouw hall on Christmas Day. With its fabulous acoustics, tickets for many of the concerts at the hall, located in the Museum Quarter, sell for €100 or more, but the Christmas Matinee is free, and usually features an internationally-acclaimed guest soloist.
Concertgebouwplein 10 1071 LN Amsterdam Netherlands +31 900 671 8345 concertgebouw.nl
The temperature in Amsterdam rarely tops 6.11 degrees Celsius in December, with an average of just 1.5 hours of sunshine per day. Although snow is rare, in 2010 the canals froze for the first time in a decade. If it gets a bit too gloomy, head for the botanical gardens, Hortus Botanicus. They have been in existence since 1682, and still have a 300-year old cycad in the palm greenhouse. Open every day from 9am until 4pm--except weekends, when it opens one hour later---the tropical, subtropical and desert climates in some of the glasshouses should soon warm you up.
Plantage Middenlaan 2A 1018 DD Amsterdam Netherlands +31 20 625 9020 dehortus.nl
Metz & Co Christmas Windows
Amsterdam residents have two big celebrations in December: the first on the eve of the feast of St Nicholas on December 5th in an event known as Sinterklaas, and again on Christmas Day, or Eerste Kerstdag. Consequently much of the city is decked in lights and decorations throughout the month and the big department stores arrange extravagant window displays to entice you in. One of the best is Metz & Co where high-end gifts and designer furnishings fill their special Yuletide shop. Once you've taken stock of the Christmas windows, head to the top floor for coffee, cake and fabulous rooftop views from the M'Cafe.
Leidsestraat 34-36 1017 PB Amsterdam Netherlands +31 20 520 7020 metzenco.nl
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