Travel to Amsterdam in December
July 5, 2016 5:59 AM   Subscribe

I just fell madly in love with Amsterdam. I'd like to go back in December (mostly because it's easiest for me to get away then). Of course, I have no idea what Amsterdam will be like in December, so I'm turning to the hive mind.  I'm also looking for some specific advice on where to stay.

I just spent a week in Amsterdam and would like to go back ASAP. Next chance I get will be in December, and I'll be alone. I understand from some of the locals that the weather is hard to predict, so I have no idea what to expect. So my specific questions are: 

- Is it crazy to travel Amsterdam alone during December? (I'm a middle-aged woman, if that matters.) I've read this question, but it's more about where to shop.
- Based on the past couple of winters, can anyone venture a guess as to what kind of weather can I reasonably expect? (I'm from NYC, so not unused to cold weather or snow, or both).
- Is there anything I should make sure I don't miss in December, or, alternatively, anything I should avoid? 

Second part of the question: 

This time around, I stayed in a rather expensive hotel for Reasons. Next time around, I'd  prefer to stay in an AirBnB if possible, or at least a less expensive hotel -- say around €150 a night, give or take. Only problem is that I tend not to trust the AirBnB reviews, also for reasons. Any recommendations for an AirBnb that you've actually stayed in? Alternatively, any recommendations for reasonably priced hotels not too terribly far from the Spui, or that are easily accessible by tram? (Normally I'd consider staying in Utrecht, but I'd rather not this time because I'm thinking I'll be there for only about three or four days, five at the most.)

Thanks, everyone!
posted by holborne to Travel & Transportation around Amsterdam, Netherlands (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
We were there at the beginning of December last year. I have never been in warmer weather and so can't compare, but we really enjoyed it. The weather was fairly lousy most of the time we were there--rainy and gray and chilly (but not chilly enough for snow), but it was still enjoyable, and for the most part the rain was a low-level intermittent drizzle--there was no truly heavy rain.

One thing that caught us by surprise was the lateness of the sunrise compared to what we were used to in northern US latitudes. We arrived to drop our things off at our AirBNB around 8:30 AM and it was still pitch black. I nearly stepped into the paths of oncoming bikes a few times because I'm not used to looking for heavy rush hour traffic (much less bike traffic) while it's still dark out.
posted by enn at 6:24 AM on July 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

It can be grey and damp, and while it doesn't often snow in December, the wind blowing in off the sea can be... bracing. Yes, the sun only shows up for about eight hours of the day, so make the most of that, and look for late afternoon / evening things that aren't dependent on daylight.

The Christmas lights in the Nine Streets are lovely, and if you're around for Sinterklaas, that's... a thing.
posted by holgate at 7:13 AM on July 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

I stayed in an AirBnB in Amstelveen that was lovely. It was a ~three block walk to the train and then 10-20 minutes to Centraal. I felt very safe in the neighborhood even after dark. Memail me for the specific listing if you want it.
posted by soelo at 7:18 AM on July 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

December is much better than the Summer because the hoards of tourists are mostly gone. It's a lot quieter but everything is still open of course. No issues whatsoever with solo travel. Can be chilly, but not NYC cold, and very rarely snows. Be there for Sinterklaas - but if you want the full festivities take the train to Gouda to watch the carol singers. I recently stayed at the Volkshotel. Would recommend.

I used to live in the Hague and traveled to Amsterdam quite often, mostly in the Winter.
posted by wingless_angel at 8:03 AM on July 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Early December is usually chilly, gray, and wet; like, constant mist rather than heavy rain. Temperatures will probably be in the high 40s/low 50s F during the day. It almost certainly won't snow. I recommend bringing a water-resistant jacket with a hood and layering it with a sweater and light undershirt, so you can strip off layers (shops and restaurants tend to crank the heat pretty high, IMO). You don't need rain boots, but be sure to wear shoes that can withstand a few puddles. It won't get light outside until after 9:00 AM, and it will be dark by 4:00 PM.

If you want to see Sinterklaas-related things, be sure to visit before December 5th. On December 6th, you can pick up lots of deeply discounted chocolate letters. ;) There's some more info about December events here.
posted by neushoorn at 8:13 AM on July 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

Be prepared to be surprised by how short the days are. Despite the mild climate (thanks to the Gulf Stream), Amsterdam is actually further north than Calgary.

In December, the sun sets around 4:30pm.
posted by 256 at 9:46 AM on July 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

I went in November a few years ago and the weather was rather unpleasant. About the same temp as NYC but maybe a bit grayer. I wasn't really prepared and had to hit up H&M to get a hoodie.
posted by smackfu at 9:53 AM on July 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

I loved staying at a cute boutique hotel HotelV and would (and have to many friends) recommend. It's groovy but not pretentious, and it's central. They can organise a night out at the Supper Club too and I had a great time there. They tuck you up in a white sheeted bed and bring you plenty of drinks and a super degustation meal - which would be a lovely winter evening in my book. When I was there I did life drawing of a nude model, danced to awesome house music, curled up with my drink in bed and people-watched. I also had a Swedish masseur provide neck massage mid evening. I love winter time in design-centric cities - the windows and displays are such nice things to enjoy - also, free.
posted by honey-barbara at 10:47 AM on July 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

It's cold and a little windy and damp in my experience, and my peacoat was not enough. If you have a waterproof/windproof layer that would be better! You might not need a giant puffer, but more than a wool coat that lets the breeze through. A hood would be good.
If you are there near xmas, you can get olliebollen (fried dough balls) that are soooo good.
posted by rmless at 12:02 PM on July 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

In multiple years of visiting my sister in December (usually for Christmas, but once in late November into early December) I think I've encountered maybe two or three days that couldn't be described as chilly but not too cold (think 40s F, both highs and lows), with occasional light rain. There was blue sky once, and snow once, IIRC, but usually it's just grey and damp. And the days are short. But the people are lovely.
posted by fedward at 3:27 PM on July 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, you'll be visiting during the Amsterdam Light Festival! Last year some friends and I did a boat tour of the light installations and it was really fantastic. (You can also walk it, but, y'know, boat and glüwein > feet.)
posted by sldownard at 10:44 PM on July 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

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