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Amsterdam Light Festival 2018-2019

Amsterdam Light Festival, on water and on land

Amsterdam doesn’t do Christmas well. But it does have the annual Amsterdam Light Festival® — a fantastic winter event that combines light, art and — of course — water.

The Winter 2017-2018 edition of this event has now concluded.

As soon as information about the 2018-2019 edition of the Amsterdam Light Festival becomes available we will post it on this page.

Tip: For a different kind of light show, tour the canals of Amsterdam at night, with a Dutch Wine & Cheese Cruise, a 2-hour 4-Course Dinner Cruise, or an Amsterdam Evening Cocktail Cruise

The Winter 2017-2018 edition took place on the following dates:

Water Exhibition: November 30, 2017 — January 21, 2018.
Land Exhibition: December 14, 2017 — January 7, 2018

Now in its sixth year, the Amsterdam Light Festival has become a very popular attraction for tourists and locals alike.

Last winter the event drew 900.000 visitors — 50.000 more than in the year before.

Advance ticket sales promise another record for the 2016-2017 version.

Amsterdam Light Festival 2015-2016 Aftermovie
Amsterdam Light Festival 2016-2018 Aftermovie

Theme: Existential

The connecting theme of Amsterdam Light Festival 2017-2018 is ‘Existential’. The artworks show where the essential elements of light meet the basic needs and dreams of man.

In the beginning of time, light existed in its most original form. Since the big bang light has been a central force in the universe, a crucial factor in creating life. Light is essential to our human existence, but we now regard it as a given fact.

With the theme ‘Existential’ we go back to the earthly approach to light and make the existential properties visible and understandable again; the potential to shape, heat, vitalize and connect. Light seems abstract, but is in fact very tangible. By recognizing this, light forms inspiration for life itself.
– Source: Amsterdam Light Festival (Freely translated)

Ai Weiwei

Speaking of ‘connecting’: world renowned artist, dissident, and activist Ai Weiwei has created an art installation inspired by the Eruv.1

His creation, ThinLine, consists of a 6.5 kilometer fiberglass line circumventing the historical center of Amsterdam. The line lights up red during festival hours.

Weiwei says he wanted to question the meaning of boundaries: “The organization gave me a map of the area in which I was allowed to make a work, I copied that boundary, which has become my work. define the border, and who can and can not cross it, and what’s inside and what’s not allowed.”

Amsterdam Light Festival Tickets

Artists, architects and light designers from around the world create fantastic installations in two different exhibitions, one on water and one on land.

Water Colors is the hugely popular boat route, while Illuminade is the walking route.

All art installations can be seen free of charge, but the Water Colors route is best seen from a tour boat.

So while you do not have to pay anything to see the works of art, you’ll need a ticket if you want to see the Water Colors route the way it was meant to be viewed: from the water.

Water Colors – the Boat Route

Water Colors has big monumental displays that, say the event organizers, are ‘best seen from the water.’

Actually, you can walk or bike the route as well — stopping at various cafes and pubs along the way, perhaps. But we ourselves make sure we enjoy the installations from the comfort of a tour boat. [Here’s what Amsterdam’s weather is like in December and January]

It is not for nothing that a tour through the 17th century canals is Amsterdam’s most popular tourist attraction.

  • Dates and Times: November 30, 2017 — January 21, 2018. 17:00 – 23:00 (5 pm – 11 pm)
  • Route: The length of this route depends on the canal boat company you select. The route itself would take about 75 minutes to complete, but many companies also include (portions of) their regular tour through the canals.
  • How to get there: Most boat companies have a boarding area near Amsterdam Central Station.
  • How much: Free, if you go on foot or by bike. Varying fees if you go by tour boat.

Illuminade — Land Exhibition

Illuminade, the land exhibition, shows interactive and innovative installations from upcoming designers. In previous years Illuminade consisted of a walking route is in the Plantage neighborhood, in the center of Amsterdam.

This year the exhibition takes place on the Marineterrein, which is also home to the National Maritime Museum.

Within walking distance of Amsterdam Central Station, this small foreland in the center of Amsterdam was for over 350 years the sole domain of the Ministry of Defence.

Centuries ago this is where highly advanced ships were built for the Admiralty of Amsterdam, the precursor to the navy.

In 2013 it was announced that the Ministry of Defence would gradually vacate the Marineterrein, after which the area would be opened to the public. The Voorwerf was officially opened on April 1, 2015. The entire area will be opened to the public in phases, with the final phase ending in 2018.

You are welcome to explore this historical terrain on your own, taking in the light art installations without having to follow a predetermined route.

Guided tours are available though. There will also be artist talks, performances and readings.

Dress warmly!

  • Dates and Times: December 14, 2017 — January 7, 2018. 17:00 – 22:00 (5 pm – 10 pm)
  • Where: Marineterrein.
  • How to get there: 15 minute walk from Central Station. Or take bus 22 (destination ‘Indische Buurt’) at the station. Exit at Kattenburgerplein.
  • How much: Free if you walk the route by yourself. Varying fees if you join a walking tour.

Amsterdam Light Festival: Our Opinion

As Amsterdam locals, the DutchAmsterdam team has come to enjoy this annual event and we’re sure so will you.

To be honest, none of us are really into contemporary art. Some of the art installations leave us puzzled, bemused, or both. But most of them are a pleasure to behold.

We prefer seeing the art works from the comfort of a canal tour boat, but as in previous years we will visit the land-based exhibit as well.

Overall, a very gezellige experience — especially when you combine it with a nice dinner or a visit to a pub or two.

Amsterdam Light Festival 2017-2018

Amsterdam Light Festival. (Yes, you are welcome to share this image)

Can you guess how many canals and bridges Amsterdam has?


  1. An eruv… is a ritual enclosure that some Jewish communities, and especially Orthodox Jewish communities, construct in their neighborhoods as a way to permit Jewish residents or visitors to carry certain objects outside their own homes on Sabbath and Yom Kippur […] An eruv allows Jews to carry, among other things, house keys, tissues, medication, or babies with them, and to use strollers and canes. The presence or absence of an eruv thus especially affects the lives of people with limited mobility and those responsible for taking care of babies and young children.” Source: Wikipedia: Eruv
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This post was last updated: Jan. 23, 2018