Though Rotterdam is certainly worth exploring year-round, there’s something fascinating about being there during the holidays. Streets are illuminated with twinkling lights and families ice skate to the sound of festive music. Let the happiest season begin!
Words: Paola Westbeek
Come December, our vibrant city gets decked out in festive splendour. Whether you prefer to surround yourself in its magical atmosphere while sipping mulled wine and making your way past pretty market stalls, or can’t wait to treat the family to a riveting holiday performance, there’s plenty to look forward to as the year draws to an end. Here are our favourite tips to indulge in the city’s bountiful cheer!
If you can’t think of a better way to spend a winter afternoon than gliding through the ice, head to Plaswijkpark’s covered skating rink which will remain open until March 1st and boasts 500m2 of real ice. Additionally, as of December 14th, the park will transform into Winterwijck, a wintry wonderland where young and old can partake in activities such as skiing and curling followed by a cup of hot chocolate or a pancake at De Boshut (open weekends from 12 until 5 PM). Children can also enjoy arts and crafts, have their faces painted and even leave a wish in the Christmas tree.
Schaatsbaan Rotterdam is the city’s largest indoor skating complex, located in Kralingen and offering an exceptional experience for skaters of all levels. Those who are more advanced and want to whizz through the ice can take advantage of the 400-metre main rink. The ‘Fun Rink’, which spans 800m2, is perfect for beginners and anyone eager to practise their figure skating. There is even a special ‘Curling Rink’, in case you want to engage in a little competitive fun. And for a merry good time, why not join in on this year’s Santa Skate? Get dressed up in the famous red suit and roll on for a good cause!
Not to be missed is this year’s return of the much-anticipated IJsvrij Festival. Open December 13th until January 12th, the holiday skating extravaganza will be held at an enchantingly decorated Plein 1940 and features everything from skating and music to tasty Swedish delights such as the ever-popular Swedish meatballs. Last year the event attracted more than 30,000 visitors. Its skating rink was even hailed as one of the top three in Europe by Lonely Planet!
Christmas Markets and Cruises
There’s no better way to immerse yourself in the holiday spirit than at a Christmas market. Luckily, there are choices aplenty! You’ll definitely want to check out the Winter-Fair in Ahoy from December 5th through 8th. Packed with stalls offering everything from toys to decorations and fashion to gourmet delicacies, this fair will have you ready for a dazzling holiday. And the best part? It’s indoors so no need for the weather to cooperate!
If wandering through a market in the crisp evening air is more your idea of fun, hop on board the handsomely decorated Spido ship and sail to Dordrecht. The Christmas Market Dinner Cruise will bring you to the country’s largest and most picturesque Christmas market counting nearly 300 stalls. En route, you can savour a varied buffet, and on the way back, mulled wine and dessert will be served with a round of Bingo. The event takes place on December 13th from 5:30 to 11 PM, but if you can’t make it, a brunch cruise will be organised on the 14th and 15th.
Another delicious cruise that will surely be enjoyed by children of all ages will be hosted aboard the Pancake Boat on December 25th and 26th. Feast on unlimited pancakes, hot side dishes and a varied ice-cream dessert. The cruise lasts 2 ½ hours and can be booked online.
Looking to really splurge? The historic SS Rotterdam is one of the most elegant places to make holiday memories. Revel in an exquisite decor and take advantage of the various package deals ranging from overnight stays complete with breakfasts and champagne to sumptuous dinners and brunches.
Enter a world of adventure featuring daring tales from across the kingdom in Disney On Ice presents Magical Ice Festival. Join fearless wayfinder Moana and the greatest demigod that ever lived, Maui, on an action-packed voyage to return the stolen heart of Te Fiti. Journey with the Disney Princesses in a magical mix of royalty when Disney On Ice brings this winsome wonderland to Rotterdam from December 11th through 15th!
Last but not least, round off the festive period with one of the most beautiful holiday stories ever written, the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol. Scrooge the Musical will play from December 26th through 29th during the afternoon and evening at the Luxor Theater.
We hope these ideas will help you make the most out of this enchanting season!