Every winter the Amsterdam Light Festival is a must, check our tips on seeing it.

If you happen to be in Amsterdam this winter, you will not want to miss the Amsterdam Light Festival. Brightening up the dark winter days, the Amsterdam Light Festival is a yearly event that illuminates the Dutch capital.

What is the Amsterdam Light Festival?

Coming into its seventh year, the Amsterdam Light Festival is the perfect remedy for those depressing winter nights as a number of artists, both from the Netherlands and around the world, come together to create some of the most magnificent light sculptures.

Across the city, from the River Amstel to the many canals, installations are created that are both spectacular and thought-provoking. The light sculptures will be installed throughout Amsterdam for festival which will be on between 29 November 2018 to 20 January 2019.

Over that period there will be over 200 installations created and lit up, creating a one-of-a-kind experience as your walk, drift and bike through Amsterdam at night.

Every year the festival has a theme and the 2018/2019 theme is “The Medium is the Message”. Originally a quote by Canadian scientist Marshall McLuhan, the theme look at the part light plays in spreading a message using Amsterdam as the perfect canvas to do that.

The Amsterdam Light Festival by cruise

If you plan to see the amazing artworks without the walking, you can enjoy a night time canal cruise that will take you around the most interesting and eye-catching works. With The Amsterdam Pass, you’ll be able to snag yourself a discount of 10% of the ticket price.

Then you can sit back and relax as your coast by one of the most unique art exhibitions you’ll ever see. All cruises will offer a guided tour so you can soak up the art and learn about their journey from inception to creation.

The Amsterdam Light Festival walking route

If you prefer to take in the sights of the Amsterdam Light Festival by foot you can secure a map from the festival’s website which offers walkers two routes around the city. The first is a 10km route (6.2 miles) that will show you the majority of the artworks on display. Walking you along the majority of the Herengracht, from west to east, the 10km route will take small detours through the Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht before bringing you back to the dockland starting point. 

The 15km (9.3 miles) is a bit more extensive as it shows you all of the light sculptures on display. This route is similar to the 10km route except for a big detour that takes you to the Museumplein past the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum towards the Vondelpark. It then links back up with the original route finishing at the Amsterdam docks.

If you don’t want to go it alone there are guided tours for the festival available, which will give you all the inside information you could possibly want. With so many stand-out artworks on display, a guided tour will give you some context for each display.

The Amsterdam Light Festival by bike

If you want to see things at your own pace but don’t want to walk, rental bikes are the perfect choice. Thanks to the city’s vast cycling infrastructure and the ease of bike rental, taking in the light festival couldn’t be easier.

Some bike companies will offer their own tour guide at an extra price otherwise you can follow your own path and take in the sight leisurely.

Top tips

  • If you want to see all the lights quickly be sure to utilise both boats and bikes
  • You don’t have to see it all in one night, spread out the light-seeing
  • Wrap up warm as you may be out a while

Fun facts about the Amsterdam Light Festival

  • Over 200 pieces of art will be on display
  • The show started in 2012 and has been on every year since
  • There will be 30 artists from 16 different countries taking part
  • Chinese artist Ai Weiwei participated in the 2017 edition
  • Organisers work hard to ensure that the light sculptures go on to other exhibitions around the world after the festival ends
  • The festival lasts a whopping 53 days from 29 November 2018 to 20 January 2019