A Complete Guide to Amsterdam Light Festival Canal Cruise 2023-2024

If you visit Amsterdam in winter, you can witness the city become an open-air light exhibition. 

Amsterdam Light Festival is the most popular annual event in the city and you can enjoy it from November 30, 2023, to January 21, 2024. 

For the next 53 days, you can see the city lit with lamps, virtual bridges, optical illusions and more.

The theme of the 12th Light Festival is the world of artificial intelligence and digital technology. 

Hundreds of artists from all over the world are coming together to light this theme up throughout the city of Amsterdam. 

You can enjoy this festival on foot, join a guided walking tour or take a canal cruise. 

The best way to experience the Amsterdam Light Festival is to take a guided canal cruise that follows the exhibition’s path.  

This article provides all the information you need about the 2023-2024 Amsterdam Light Festival and Cruises. 

Quick Glance about Amsterdam Light Festival Canal Cruises

Festival date: November 30, 2023 to January 21, 2024

Timing: 5 pm to 10 pm 

Closed on: December 31

How to explore: By foot, walking tour or canal cruises

Best Light Festival Canal Cruises: Cruise from Centraal station

Price: €27

The best time to enjoy the light cruise: 8 pm

Table of Contents

What to expect during the Amsterdam Light Festival Cruises

The Amsterdam Canal Cruises are the best way to experience the Amsterdam Light Festival. 

There are special canal cruises available to follow the light festival route. 

These cruises also come with an audio guide that explains the artwork you see. 

There are various types of cruises to choose from, like closed classic boats, open boats, private tours and more.

During the cruise, you can enjoy food, drinks and classic Dutch delicacies. 

Amsterdam Light Festival Canal Cruise Tickets

Closed Boat Light Festival Cruise Ticket

Amsterdam gets cold and dark during winter. 

If you wish to enjoy the Amsterdam Light Festival in a comfortable and cozy atmosphere, choose a closed boat ride. 

This cruise is fully heated and you can get extra blankets to keep you warm during the ride.

The cruise runs for 75 minutes and covers the entire Amsterdam Light Festival.

You can also enjoy a live commentary about the light festival, where you can learn more about the art installations. 

Operated by Lovers Canal Cruise Company, this cruise starts from their dock located in the Amsterdam Central Station. 

The cruise leaves every 15 minutes from 6.45 pm to 9.15 pm. 

This closed-boat Amsterdam Light Festival Cruise costs €27 for visitors above 13 years old. 

Children between four and 12 years pay €14 for entry, while kids below four years get free admission. 

Open Boat Amsterdam Light Festival Cruise Ticket

Open Boat Cruises are the best for enjoying views without any obstruction. 

If you want to enjoy the Amsterdam Light Festival to the fullest on a cruise, then pick the open boat cruise. 

You do not have to worry about the cold much. Dress warmly, and the cruise has extra blankets for you to have a comfortable ride. 

The 75-minute cruise is guided by a captain who offers narration in both English and Dutch. 

Operated by Stomma, one of the official Amsterdam Light Cruise partners, this cruise leaves from their dock at Damark and covers the full course of the fest. 

The cruise is available from 5 pm to 9.30 pm. 

The Open Boat Light Festival Canal Cruise costs €27 for visitors over 13 years. 

It costs €25 for children between four and 12 years and is free for infants below four years.

Amsterdam Light Festival Canal Cruise with Food and Drinks Ticket

Do you wish to enjoy the best of Amsterdam winters in one cruise? Then this is your perfect option. 

This cruise lets you glide along the signature Amsterdam Light Festival through the canals while enjoying the winter delicacies. 

Starting from Herengracht, the cruise goes through Amstel River, where you can enjoy the light festival installations explained by your lively guide. 

You will also see the Skinny Bridge, Theatre Carree and The Hermitage on this ride. 

During your 75-minute cruise, enjoy Hot Chocolate, Gluhwein and Dutch Snacks. 

On your way back, you can spot the ARTIS Zoo, Enterpotdok and more. 

This cruise is available at 5 pm, 6.30 pm, 8.30 pm and 10 pm. 

The Amsterdam Light Festival Cruise with food and drinks costs €34 for visitors over 11 years and €15 for children between three and ten years. 

Infants below two years can get free entry. 

Luxury Amsterdam Light Festival Canal Cruise Ticket

There is no better way to explore the Amsterdam Light Festival than doing it in luxury. 

Hop on an electric, semi-covered saloon boat to visit the light installations. 

Your expert skipper will guide you through the fest and share interesting facts about the light art displayed there. 

No matter if you are traveling as a couple, family or a group of friends, this cruise matches everyone. 

During the 75-minute cruise from Central Station, you can enjoy artwork interpretations and unlimited mulled wine, beer, wine and fresh drinks. 

This cruise is available from 4.45 pm to 9.45 pm every day. 

The Luxury Boat Light Festival Canal Cruise costs €28 for visitors over 13 years. 

It costs €14 for children between four and 12 years and is free for infants below four.

Private Group Cruises

There’s no better way to take in these spectacular light sculptures than on a private canal cruise. 

If you are still wondering why to take a private cruise to enjoy the Amsterdam Light Festival, picture this:

Your evening begins as you step aboard your comfortable private vessel docked near Amsterdam’s city center. 

Leaving behind the crowds, you’ll glide through the illuminated waterways on your very own boat with an expert guide bringing the installations to life.

You will settle in with a welcome drink as your guide introduces the Light Festival and the route you’ll be taking. 

Slip under bridges bedecked with dancing lights, gaze up at light beams streaming across the sky, and spot playful displays tucked into tiny alleyways in the Canal Ring.

Around halfway through the 1.5-hour cruise, your boat may dock for a brief leg-stretching stop where you can savor Dutch snacks and drinks. 

Towards the end, cruise through the Amstel River back into the city center aglow in a rainbow of colors. 

Why you should try a private Amsterdam Light Festival Canal Cruise

Here are some of the main reasons to take a private Amsterdam Light Festival canal cruise:

Avoid the Crowds: 

The Amsterdam Light Festival draws big crowds to its light art installations each year. 

But on a private boat tour, you won’t have to jostle with crowds along the canals. 

Your small group will have ample room to move around the boat and prime viewing spots for the dazzling light displays.

Flexible Schedule

Unlike regular tour boats that run on fixed schedules, a private cruise lets you choose your departure time. 

See the lights at a quieter hour or during peak display times – the choice is yours. 

A private boat also means you can customize details like food and drinks.

Intimate Experience

Rather than sharing the experience with dozens of other passengers, a private boat keeps your group intimate. 

This fosters a cozy atmosphere under the twinkling lights, where you can easily chat with your guide and fellow passengers.

Unique Perspectives

Private boats can navigate narrower and shallower canals that standard tour boats don’t access. 

See the creative light displays from unique smaller waterways and under iconic bridges for perspectives others miss out on during this magical time of year.

Prices of Private Canal Cruise During Amsterdam Light Festival

The Private Amsterdam Light Festival Canal Cruise costs €350 for a group of two to ten visitors.

The price stays constant whether it is two or ten. 

So bring along your friends or family and enjoy the private cruise for the best price

Light Festival Cruises timings

From Sunday to Tuesday, the Amsterdam Light Festival is available from 5 pm to 10 pm. 

From Wednesday to Saturday, the light festival runs from 5 pm to 11 pm. 

During the Christmas break from December 23 to January 7, the light show timings are 5 pm to 11 pm. 

The Amsterdam Light Festival will not happen on December 31. 

The first Amsterdam Light Festival Canal Cruise starts at 4.45 and the last cruise departs at 9 pm. 

Usually, the cruise runs for one to 1.5 hours. 

The timing and duration of the cruise depend on the cruise you book. 

You can select your desired time slot when you book your Amsterdam Festival of Lights Canal Cruise online. 

How to reach the Amsterdam Light Festival 

The Amsterdam Light Festival starts from the Amsterdam City Center and stretches for 7.5 km. 

It is best to take public transport to reach the light festival. 

The closest stops for trams and buses on this route are the Amsterdam Central Station and Waterlooplein. 

If you want to get to the festival the Dutch way, rent a bicycle. 

There are a lot of bicycle rental stands along the route. 

For more information, you can find two information booths on the route at Stoperaplein and Hoftuin. 

Prices and Departure locations of Light Festival Cruises

The Amsterdam Light Festival Canal cruise generally costs €27. 

The price also depends on whether the boat is open/closed, its departure point and if it is a shared group or private tour. 

Private cruises cost €350 while the shared tours are cheaper.

Open boat cruises cost €19, while most closed/heated boats cost €27. 

The prices and departure locations of the Amsterdam Light Festival Cruises are given below: 

Departure LocationType of CruisePrice
DamarkClosed Boat€27
DamarkOpen Boat€27
Centraal StationClosed Boat€27
Centraal StationOpen Boat€20
HerengrachtClosed Boat€34
Amsterdam NorthLuxury Cruise€45
Amstel Private Cruise€350

Route Map of the Light Festival Amsterdam 

If you are new to Amsterdam and if it is your first time attending the light festival, make sure you carry the light festival map. 

The map will help you navigate the route of the festival without losing your way. 

map canal amsterdam
Image: Maps-amsterdam-nl.com

Tips on How to Enjoy the Amsterdam Light Festival

The Amsterdam Light Festival is one of the most popular winter events in the Netherlands. 

From late November through early January, the city is illuminated for over a month with dazzling light installations along the canals and parks. 

If you’re visiting Amsterdam during this magical time, here are some tips on how to make the most out of the festival:

Plan Ahead

The light festival attracts many visitors, so planning ahead is crucial. 

Book accommodation, transportation, and any tours or activities well in advance.

 Research which areas have the best light artwork to strategize where you want to go and when. 

Have backup options and be flexible in case some places are too crowded.

Dress Warmly

Amsterdam winters can get very chilly, with temperatures averaging around freezing at night when most light artworks shine the brightest. 

Layer up with winter coats, hats, scarves and gloves so you can comfortably walk outside and cruise the illuminated canals. Waterproof shoes are also a good idea.

Take a Light Festival Cruise

One of the best ways to experience the festival is aboard a heated cruise along the canals. 

Most ferry and tour companies offer special evening light cruises during this period. 

Gliding through the waters surrounded by dazzling displays along the bridges and canal houses is truly magical.

Explore by Foot or Bike

Amsterdam is a compact, pedestrian-friendly city perfect to explore on foot or by bike. 

Stroll through the sparkling tree-light displays in the various parks and gardens. 

Pedal along the narrow streets to discover whimsical light art in tucked-away neighborhoods and shop windows.

Try Some Seasonal Treats

Refuel between light viewings by trying some Dutch winter foods and beverages. 

Savory dishes like Erwtensoep (peat soup) and Boerenkool (kale stew) are plentiful. 

Be sure also to sample seasonal sweet delights like Banket (almond pastry), Pepernoten (spiced cookies) and Oliebollen (fried dough balls). 

For drinks, mulled wine and hot chocolate will warm you right up.

Stay Until the End

The lights are illuminated from 5 pm until 10 or 11 pm each night. 

Staying until the end rewards you with fewer crowds so you can linger and leisurely appreciate the installations at their full shining potential against the night sky.

Following these tips guarantees a magical time soaking up all the illuminated splendor Amsterdam offers during this festive period. 

Amsterdam Light Festival Canal Cruise Reviews

Light Festival Bike Tour 

The Amsterdam Light Festival Bike Tour is a magical way to experience the city’s famous winter light art festival. 

For two months from late November through January, Amsterdam sparkles as over 50 light art installations illuminate the canals, streets, parks, and historic buildings.

The bike tour takes riders on an enchanting evening journey past many of the light artworks. 

Pedaling along the pristine canals and narrow streets, the illuminated sculptures, projections, and interactive displays seem to jump out at every turn. 

Artworks rang–e from whimsical animals to statements on sustainability to avant-garde light sculptures.

Guides expertly lead small groups of riders, ensuring safety while allowing time to appreciate each artwork. 

The leisurely 8 km tour lasts around 2 hours, with a hot beverage break halfway through. 

Bundle up against the winter chill and ride off into this magical wonderland of light. 

As the lights dance across the historic gabled buildings and reflect in the still canals, riders feel immersed in an Amsterdam that seems to glow from within.

The Amsterdam Light Festival Bike tour costs €30 for all visitors. 

Amsterdam Winter Festival

If you are visiting Amsterdam for the light festival or during the winter, you can not miss the Amsterdam Winter Festival. 

When winter descends on Amsterdam, the city revels in hygge vibes, twinkling lights, and festive cheer during the annual Amsterdam Winter Festival. 

Taking place from mid-November through January, this vibrant winter carnival brings holiday sparkle across various city locales. 

Museumplein transforms into a festive fairground with an open-air ice skating ribbon and a bustling Christmas market serving up spiced wine, sweet treats, and gifts. 

Colorful light sculptures illuminate the canals on boat tours or during the popular Amsterdam Light Festival bike ride. 

Musical and dance performances liven up theater venues while cozy concerts fill churches with harmonies. 

From the fantasy-like Amsterdam Light Festival illuminating the gloom to classic holiday markets, merrymaking abounds during Amsterdam’s Winter Festival.

Top 5 Must-Try Activities at the Amsterdam Winter Festival

The Amsterdam Winter Festival brings seasonal magic to the city each winter from mid-November through early January. 

As days get darker and colder, this festival lights up the city with dazzling light art installations and abundant holiday festivities. 

When visiting Amsterdam during this wonderful time of year, here are five quintessential activities to partake in:

Cruise the Festive Canals

See the city’s iconic waterways transformed by a sparkling array of light art projecting onto bridges and reflecting along the canal houses. 

A heated canal cruise offers the perfect vantage point to take it all in while gliding through the waters. 

Sipping on a spiced winter drink against the illuminated backdrop makes for an unforgettable experience.

Indulge in Seasonal Treats

The Dutch take holiday treats seriously. Be sure to sample beloved seasonal goodies like: 

  • Oliebollen (fried dough balls dusted with powdered sugar)
  • Poffertjes (tiny fluffy pancakes with butter and powdered sugar)
  • Erwtensoep (hearty pea soup loaded with sausage)
  • Glühwein (mulled wine infused with cloves and citrus). 

The abundance of Christmas markets around the city makes tasting these specialties easy and delicious.

Go Ice Skating

Lace up your skates and twirl around one of the many pop-up ice rinks set up in locations like Museumplein, Rembrandtplein, and Dam Square. 

The holiday atmosphere and views of landmarks like the Rijksmuseum make ice skating in Amsterdam a magical winter activity for all ages.

See a Show

World-class circus performances, concerts, theater shows and more take place in venues across the city during the festival. 

Catch spectacular acrobatic feats, musical guests, and talented international performers showing off their skills on stage. It adds variety to your festival experience.

Ride the Holiday Carousel

No winter carnival is complete without a nostalgic carousel ride. 

The Amsterdam Winter Parade has you covered with a beautifully-lit vintage carousel.

Nestle into one of the handcrafted animal figures or a sleigh while taking in colorful floats and street performers passing by for a truly immersive winter wonderland.

FAQs about Amsterdam Light Festival Canal Cruise 

1. How to book tickets to the Amsterdam Light Festival Canal Cruise?

Due to high demand, visitors must reserve their Amsterdam Light Festival Canal Cruise online.

The tickets are available from November 1, 2023 to January 21, 2024. 
Book Your Light Festival Cruises

2. How much does the Amsterdam Light Festival Canal Cruise cost?

Ticket prices for the Amsterdam Light Festival Canal Cruise vary based on the type of experience and package chosen. 

Generally, prices range from €20 to €30 for standard group tours and may increase for premium experiences or private tours. 

Prices can also fluctuate based on the day of the week and the demand during the festival period.

3. Where does the cruise leave from?

The departure points for the canal cruises during the Amsterdam Light Festival are typically from various locations in the city center. 

Common departure points include canal hubs like Damrak, Central Station, or specific docks along the city’s waterways.

4. What is the weather like during the Light Festival?

During the Amsterdam Light Festival, the weather in Amsterdam tends to be chilly.

December to January sees temperatures ranging from around 0°C to 7°C (32°F to 45°F) on average. 

Expect cold temperatures, occasional rain, and the possibility of snow. Dress warmly and consider waterproof clothing.

5. Are the boats covered and heated?

Many boats used for the Amsterdam Light Festival Canal Cruises are covered and equipped with heating systems to ensure a comfortable experience.

However, it’s advisable to dress warmly, especially if you plan to be on the open deck, to get the best view of the illuminated artwork.

6. What happens when it rains or snows during the light festival?

During inclement weather, such as rain or snow, the canal cruises continue to operate as scheduled. 

The covered boats provide shelter, and the festival’s magical light installations can still be enjoyed. 

Extra precautions are taken to ensure passenger comfort, such as providing umbrellas or adjusting routes if necessary.

7. How many people do they take on a cruise?

The capacity of the canal cruise boats varies depending on the type of cruise and the boat’s size. 

Standard group tours may accommodate around 20 to 40 passengers per boat.
Smaller, more intimate experiences could host 10 to 15 passengers, ensuring a more personalized tour.

8. What is included in the Light Festival Small Group Canal Cruise?

The Light Festival Small Group Canal Cruise typically includes a guided tour led by a knowledgeable local guide, which provides insights about the art installations.

Additionally, these small group tours often offer a more intimate experience with fewer passengers, ensuring everyone gets a good view of the illuminated artworks. 

Some packages may include refreshments or beverages, but specifics may vary based on the tour provider.

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Open Boat Amsterdam Canal cruise tickets: If you are taking the Amsterdam Canal Cruises for sightseeing, open boat tickets are your perfect match. 


One-Hour Canal Cruise tickets: Low on time, but wish to tour the entire Amsterdam City? Get the One Hour Canal Cruise ticket for the most comprehensive tour. 


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Featured Image: Tiqets.com

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