In the past decade or so, winters in Amsterdam have been relatively mild. Whereas in the past, temperatures of -20 degrees Celsius and lots of snow were not uncommon, these days, it seldom freezes and snow comes and goes in a flash, if it ever comes at all. Two exceptions were the winters of 2012/2013 and 2017/2018, when lots of snow fell in Amsterdam and the canals froze.
Early in 2021, deep in the COVID-19 pandemic, Amsterdam was experiencing yet another mild winter. That changed abruptly on 7th February. The temperature literally dropped overnight, caused by high winds from Siberia, followed by prolonged snowfall. For once, another topic dominated the news: the big freeze! The Dutch winter frenzy ensued: thick winter coats, gloves and boots were hauled out of storage, the blades of ice-skates were sharpened and the weather reports were watched with great anticipation.
I was excited too! Winter in Amsterdam is absolutely enchanting, especially when it snows, so I really looked forward to walking around the city. I decided to stay the night at the 2 Houseboat Suites (Booking.com) on the Prinsengracht canal in the city centre so that I could enjoy the Amsterdam winter scenes first thing in the morning.
Amsterdam in the snow (winter 2021)
As forecast, it started snowing late in the evening and continued the next day. I woke up, grabbed a coffee and headed out for a walk around Amsterdam in the snow.
The wind was unrelenting. The temperature was just below freezing but with the chill factor, it felt at least ten degrees colder! The wind whipped up the snow into giant swirls and created snow dunes in the streets. This certainly wasn’t a sight one gets to see often in Amsterdam!
Despite the cold, many people were out enjoying the snow. There were kids on their toboggans, friends throwing snowballs at each other and some people were out on their skis! And Amsterdam looked gorgeous covered by a blanket of snow!
It sure was a unique experience walking around Amsterdam in the snow. I’m often asked if it’s a good idea to visit Amsterdam in winter. My answer is YES! Aside from the Christmas and New Year period, it’s less busy and accommodation prices are cheaper. If you’re looking to experience Amsterdam in the snow or the frozen canals, February-March would be your best bet. Though, as I mentioned earlier, that has only happened twice in the past decade. Get more tips from my Amsterdam travel guide.
Frozen canals (winter 2021)
A week later, temperatures were still below freezing and everyone waited excitedly for the ice to thicken. The Dutch love the ice – as soon as the ice in lakes, canals and waterways is sufficiently thick, they will be out in full force on their skates! Exactly a week after the snowfall, I went for another walk in the city centre. The ice in the canals was just about thick enough in some places and I quickly spotted the first people ice-skating. This doesn’t happen often so it’s always an extraordinary sight.
Check out my video of the frozen canals:
It’s simply a magical experience when it snows in Amsterdam, or when the canals freeze. In that sense, having both phenomena happen within a week in the winter of 2021, considering it doesn’t happen often, was truly special.