Amsterdam Tourist Information

Ice skating on the canals of Amsterdam, Feb. 6, 2012 — Talk to old locals in Amsterdam and you hear stories about winters the likes of which we haven’t seen in recent memory.

Weather is always a topic of interest, especially in a country of which it is said — more or less jokingly — that you can experience four seasons a day.

Ice skating on the canals of Amsterdam. 1

The weather in the Netherlands isn’t really all that fickle, but fact is that the climate has been changing over the past years. Noticeably so.

As we say in our February Amsterdam Weather article, the weather in just about any given month can be quite different from year to year.

In February 2012 the big freeze kicked in. I can assure you that we had not seen weather this cold in a long, long time.

How Amsterdam’s Water Company facilitates ice skating on the canals

When it looks like its going to be freezing enough for a while, the Amsterdam city council instructs Waternet — the Water Company for the area of Amsterdam and surroundings — to issue a sailing prohibition for certain canals.2

Boats are then not permitted to sail through (sections of) certain canals in the center of Amsterdam, including Prinsengracht, Leliegracht and Keizersgracht.

Waternet also shuts a number of locks in and around the city. That causes the flow of water through those canals to slow down, facilitating the formation of ice.


  1. The photo of Keizersgracht is © Amsterdam Toerisme & Congres Bureau. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. Used by permission.
  2. The City Council’s instruction is called IJsnota
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