Celebrate New Year's in Amsterdam—for Free
There’s nowhere quite like Amsterdam on New Year’s Eve (or Oud en Nieuw, as they call it here). The whole city erupts into a gigantic, riotous street party, with crowds of revellers indulging in a massive DIY firework display—who knew so many Dutch people had pyrotechnic tendencies? Of course, you can spend a lot of money to go to an exclusive party, but New Year’s in Amsterdam is best enjoyed outside, on the street. The evening divides up neatly into two parts. Pre-midnight, when it can be preternaturally quiet (everyone is inside until then), you can feel almost as if you have the canals to yourself; and post-midnight, all hell breaks loose. To enjoy both on a shoestring budget, here are our top tips.
This is the perfect night to take a stroll along the canals. Later on, you’ll have little option other than to walk, anyway, as public transport stops at around 8 p.m. on New Year’s Eve.
Pay a Visit to the "Skinny Bridge"
It’s best to view Amsterdam’s most romantic bridge, the Magere Brug (Skinny Bridge) at night, when it’s beautifully illuminated. Later on, it’s a prime firework-viewing location.
It’s a bit of a cliché, but taking a photo on top of or in front of the giant “I Amsterdam” sign on Museumplein has become a real tourist must-do. And Museumplein is another good firework-viewing spot for after midnight.
Hit the Water
The free ferry from Amsterdam Central Station to Amsterdam Noord is like a micro-cruise, with expansive views twinkling with glittery lights by night. Come straight back with the next boat, or stay and explore the city’s up-and-coming north neighbourhood for a while—but don’t forget that service is reduced on New Year’s Eve.
Midnight: Firework Frenzy
At midnight, Amsterdam explodes with fireworks, pretty much all over the city. You can see it all from the street. The best places to watch them in a crowd are the city’s squares, including Dam Square, Museumplein and Rembrandtplein. As the fireworks continue for an hour or more, you can visit a few different locations. Noordermarkt is always lively (and noisy), as it’s part of Amsterdam’s Chinatown, and boasts the city’s most deafening firecrackers. For a less hectic experience, station yourself on a canal bridge and enjoy the glittering reflections in the water.
They may not be free, but oliebollen (a kind of raisin-filled doughnut) won’t break the bank, and this is what all the Dutch eat eat on New Year’s Eve. You’ll find them widely on sale all over town. Ideally, enjoy with a glass of champagne for the full Dutch New Year experience.
Jane Szita is on the Netherlands beat for Travel + Leisure. She lives in Amsterdam.