Winter holidays in the Netherlands. What to expect?

I am from Russia, a country known for its cold winters and huge amounts of snow. The average temperature in my home town Samara during the winter time is about -15 to -20 ℃, sometimes even colder. Therefore, I got used to spending my winter holidays ice skating, sledding, ice fishing and of course building snowmen.

Posted by Daria Iatmanova at Jan 17, 2018 05:35 PM

When I moved to the Netherlands, I could not wait for the winter holiday to start as I wanted to see what winter looks like in this part of the world. I thought nothing could surprise me, but I was mistaken!

Ice skating on the road  

It doesn't need to be -20 °C to feel that winter has arrived. Once the temperature drops in the Netherlands, there is a high chance for you to experience the beauty of ice roads. 


My first winter in the Netherlands was definitely something to remember. It was raining for several days and then the temperature dropped to -2. Ice sheets completely covered most of the roads in Leeuwarden. It was almost impossible to walk outside. As a result, when KNMI (Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute) showed “Code red”, all classes were canceled, and we had a chance to start our winter holidays a bit earlier. It was incredible to see that many Dutch children just put their skates on and went outside to enjoy the natural event all together. 

Have you been good this year? Sinterklaas is coming from Spain!

Although Dutch Sinterklaas also wears red and has a big white beard, his story is quite different from a traditional Santa Claus. No one can clearly explain why, but the Dutch character lives in Spain, where he spends most of the time preparing the gifts with his helpers Zwarte Piets. Only on 5th of December they check their huge book of children’s names to bring wonderful gifts to good kids and coals to the bad ones.

SinterklaasIn the middle of November, you can witness Sinterklaas’ grand arrival to the Netherlands. The great parade takes place in a different city every year, where the character comes by boat with his helpers. Thousands of people come to see Sinterklaas and catch cookies and candies thrown by Zwarte Piets. This tradition is something you can never see somewhere else in the world. It creates an absolutely special atmosphere.

Don't forget about Christmas shopping!

Christmas market

One of the best things I like about the Netherlands is that you can travel fast, affordable and easy throughout the country.= So when you have free time, you can catch a train with your friends and explore some other city. Winter holidays is the best time for these travels, as you can visit a lot of great Christmas fairs to buy some gifts or just enjoy the atmosphere. This year I decided to go to the Royal Christmas Fair in The Hague.

There you could find over 80 Christmas chalets with different wares, decorations, food and drinks. For me it felt like a moment of a small miracle. When you walk down the street with all of these lights and Christmas music, you feel like you are back in your childhood. Even though most of the time there is no snow in the Netherlands, you still get this unforgettable feeling of the winter time. There are also a lot of other Christmas markets throughout the country, where you can find plenty of different attractions and even hop on an ice rink or Ferris wheel, or see some performances.

How about a New Year’s dive? 

New Year's diveIn Russia we have an old tradition of ice swimming. When the temperature outside is below zero, people break the ice in the lakes and dip in the cold water several times. While it might seem unusual for most, the Dutch take it a step further.

On 1st of January thousands of people come to the beach of Scheveningen in The Hague to swim in the North Sea! This tradition started in 1965 and has become a national event. Every time more and more people join to start the New Year fresh.

I must confess that this year I was extremely close to actually going for that. I think that this is just an unbelievable challenge which you will remember for the rest of your life. Even though that this time I still was not brave enough, I promise myself to go for this adventure in 2019. I think this tradition clearly shows how open, easy-going and fun Dutch people are.

I hope this blog helped you to get an insight of the winter holidays in the Netherlands. Read more student stories or ask questions on our website Fijne vakantie!


Daria IatmanovaName: Daria Iatmanova
Nationality: Russian
Age: 20
University: NHL Stenden University of Applied sciences
Programme: International Business and Management Studies BS 




Posted by Daria Iatmanova at Jan 17, 2018 05:35 PM