As the Christmas break approaches we thought it would be the perfect time to share some tips on how you can make the most of the winter break in the Netherlands. Although the Netherlands has more cool breeze and rain showers than a snowy winter wonderland there are still ways to get the most out of the season!
If you want to get out there and enjoy everything on offer during the Christmas break the first step is to get set in some Winter layers. You can add a pair of leggings or tights under your pants, wear an extra layer such as a vest or t-shirt under a sweater, and top it off with a fluffy scarf, a beanie, and mittens. A pro tip is to make sure your outer layer is waterproof, that way you can brush it off if you get caught in the rain unexpectedly.
If you are bundled up right, you are all set to enjoy Dutch winter like a local. Winter days might be short but it makes the twinkly lights shine that much brighter, Head outside and look out for glowing Christmas trees in neighbors’ windows and festive, light displays in your local shopping street. The colder the day, the more likely you are to stumble upon a stall selling glühwein, hot chocolate with whipped cream or ‘oliebollen’ with Nutella filling.
Once you have this step down you can take your exploration even further. Many Christmas markets in the Netherlands are not to be missed and if you feel like exploring there are a multitude of wonderful markets in neighboring Belgium, Germany and France. It is good to check the requirements if you are planning on driving across the border as winter tires may be required. They are not mandatory in the Netherlands, although they are advised to increase your grip on the road in sub-zero temperatures.
Speaking of sub-zero, once temperatures drop below zero in the Netherlands a unique energy fills the entire country as the Dutch do what they do best, ice-skate! Once canals and lakes freeze over people will head out enthusiastically to make the most of the frozen surfaces. Once the skating fever sets in, you can head to a pond near your house and you are almost guaranteed to find a frozen festival has popped up overnight. If you are lucky you will find a figure skater casually carving up the ice along with people of all ages gliding and falling along. You will know you have found a good skating spot if you see ‘koek en zopie’ stalls pop up where you can get a hot drink, a snack or a cup of ‘snert’ (hearty pea soup) to recharge, energize and get you back on the ice.
After an exciting day making the most of the cold weather, there is nothing better than walking into a cozy home. When the days get short in winter make sure to bring your own sunshine into your home, by filling it with warm twinkly lights, cozy candles and warm blankets. You might have seen your neighbors doing the same when you peeped in through a window (accidentally of course, but we all do it). Take your cue from the locals and turn your home into a cozy hide-out from the cold.
You could also take some inspiration from the hearty, carb-heavy traditional Dutch dishes like ‘stamppot’. The unusual word translates to – mashed pot, which is a perfect visual description of the dish. It is a combination of mashed potatoes and vegetables, all mixed and mashed together. Popular veggies to incorporate are kale and a variety of cabbages. These potato-based meals are served with rich meat such as the classic meatball, smoked sausage or a ‘speklapje’ (bacon). Consider this your invitation to try out as many variations as it takes to find your favorite.
In just a few days the days will start to get longer and winter will slowly be on its way out, but until then we will all be holding fast, armed with a trusty vitamin D supplement and a wish for a bit of snow if we are lucky.
Wishing you a warm, wonderful Christmas break filled with homemade cheer and a 2024 sparkling with joy.