Amsterdam Light Festival 2023-2024: by bike, boat, or on foot
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Table of contents
- Amsterdam Light Festival 2023-2024: by bike, boat, or on foot
- Amsterdam Light Festival, Edition 12 (2023/2024) Information
- Video: 2023/2024 Amsterdam Light Festival Art Installations
- Amsterdam Light Festival Tickets
- Not into Light Art Installations? Here are your alternatives
- Tips for Amsterdam Light Festival Visitors
- Video: Amsterdam Light Festival 2022/2023 Aftermovie
- Amsterdam Light Festival: Reviews and our Opinion
- Suggested alternative: a much more enjoyable canal tour
Amsterdam Light Festival, Edition 12 (2023/2024) Information
The annual Amsterdam Light Festival® is a winter event that combines light, art and — of course — water.
Dotted around canals in the center of the city are 24 light sculptures created by international artists.
The art installations can be viewed from canal tour boats, on foot, and by bicycle.
Video: 2023/2024 Amsterdam Light Festival Art Installations
Amsterdam Light Festival Tickets
The festival can be enjoyed free of charge. You can walk, bike, or sail your own boat along the route.
But of course, a canal cruise — Amsterdam’s top tourist attraction — is the most popular way to experience the Amsterdam Light Festival:
Not into Light Art Installations? Here are your alternatives
The Light Art Installations are not everyone’s cup of tea. But if the Amsterdam Light Festival doesn’t quite float your boat, so to speak, no problem. There are plenty of alternative Amsterdam canal cruises that, in our opinion, are actually more enjoyable.
Personally we prefer to take one of these evening boat rides. You will see Amsterdam illuminated by street lanterns, the lights in the windows of canalside houses (yes, many with open curtains), and bridges strung with lights.
No wonder Amsterdam has a love song dedicated to the canals.
Tips for Amsterdam Light Festival Visitors
Most people prefer to see the works of art from the water. Almost all the canal boat companies offer special tours during the festival.
If you are an experienced photographer, familiar with nighttime photography, an open boat (or, indeed, a walking tour) would probably be your best choice since the windows in a regular tour boat would present a challenge — particularly in inclement weather.
Reviews often mention things like ‘dirty windows,’ ‘rain-splattered windows made it hard to see,’ or ‘the windows kept fogging over.’
So, walking or cycling might even be the better option. For instance, here’s a 1-day bike rental with hotel delivery and pickup. Alternatively you might want to take advantage of this Winter Light Art Guided Bike Tour.
Video: Amsterdam Light Festival 2022/2023 Aftermovie
What kind of light art installations can you expect? Watch this aftermovie from the 11th edition of the festival. That edition drew just under 1 million visitors.
Amsterdam Light Festival: Reviews and our Opinion
As Amsterdam locals we have seen most editions of the Amsterdam Light Festival since the first one in 2012.
The first one was a novelty. We visited the second one — and many subsequent editions — in order to review the festival for this website. At times we saw all or part of the route by boat or on foot while accompanying friends or family members from abroad.
Frankly, the festival always leaves us feeling underwhelmed, to say the least. So we finally decided that it wasn’t worth our time and money.
Mind you, none of us are really into contemporary art. Perhaps as a result most of the art installations left us puzzled, bemused, or both.
There were some notable exceptions, but they were far and few between.
Now, if you appreciate modern art installations, particularly when they involve light, your mileage may well differ.
But us Amsterdammers much prefer to take one of the regular evening canal cruises.
Amsterdam is a city of lights. In our opinion the illuminated bridges, the monuments lit up by spotlights, and the gezellige interiors of countless different houses along the way provide a much more entertaining light show than anything we have seen at the Amsterdam Light Festival.
Fewer Installations. Smaller Installations. Much More Commercialism
In the festival’s early years there were some 40 works of art — generally large installations. There was a boat route (you pay for a canal cruise that sails past each of the installations), and a walking/cycling route (guided by a free map).
Recent years have seen far fewer installations (as few as 20). The emphasis is on buying canal boat tickets from the festival organizers. And post-Covid, even the map showing the route can only be had at a price. [But usually private individuals post their version of the current Amsterdam Light Festival map online]
Amsterdam Light Festival Reviews
Tellingly, the festival reviews we have seen on Google through the years are rather bleak:
“Waste of time,” “boring,” “couldn’t wait to get off the boat,” “BIG disappointment,” “an embarrassment for the city,” “epic waste of time and money,” and “low budget light installations” are among the phrases we would use as well.
Since a few years ago reviews have gone missing from the business listing for the Amsterdam Light Festival Foundation on Google Map.
Tripadvisor: more than 27% of visitors say it’s ‘terrible’
However, the reviews on TripAdvisor, the largest “social travel website” in the world, tend to give pause for thought as well.
In 2019, 434 reviewers gave the festival an average of 3 out of 5 points. Fully 26% of the travelers rated the event as ‘Terrible.’ The site ranks the festival at “#707 out of 868 things to do in Amsterdam.”
In 2023, Tripadvisor visitor ratings for the Amsterdam Light Festival are even worse. The event dropped from 3 out of 5 stars to 2.5 out of 5 stars.
Now 27.39% of visitors rate the Amsterdam Light Festival as Terrible.
Our Suggested Alternative
For a much more enjoyable light show, tour the canals of Amsterdam at night!
After taking a December boat tour of the 2023/2024 edition, A poster on Reddit called the Amsterdam Light Festival, “Absolutely overrated. There’s nothing special about it. … a supreme letdown.”
On Tripadvisor, a family this year wrote, “I do hope that this is not public funded, not impressed, compared with Glow in Eindhoven it is really bad. I will not visit it again.”
Another poster who took a boat tour said, “Very nice people/crew but this event was so lame. Barely any lights, such weird art pieces, not Christmasy at all. Terrible.”
A couple: “We travelled from Cologne for a weekend especially for the Light Festival. If we had known that there was so little to see and that it was bad, we wouldn’t have travelled.“
Another couple on Tripadvisor: “Just terrible, save your money, this was a real low point in what was otherwise a great weekend away. “
Back on Reddit, Redditor MaxGaav wrote:
I bought the app (€8), we did it on foot, 5 people. Everybody was rather disappointed and at about 2/3 we quit.
Largest amount of installations is along the Herengracht and the Nieuwe Herengracht, roughly forming a circle.
Parts of the route are pretty difficult on foot. It is clear the route is especially made for canal boats (that’s where the money is earned).
But Amsterdam showed itself from it’s best side; loads of X-mas lights, terraces with fires etc.
The same user later added that the app does not work with GPS. That makes it necessary to keep switching between the app and Google maps. In addition, the app regularly jumps back to the overview, so that you again have to find out where you are. Not only that, but “The ‘explanations’ of the artworks are rather childisch and uninspiring.” [An alternative map is posted online]
Displeased visitors denounce the festival with terms like, “cheap looking art,” “we were expecting more,” “horrible rip off,” and “boring.”
Get the picture?
Suggested alternative: a much more enjoyable canal tour
For a much more enjoyable light show, tour the canals of Amsterdam at night — for instance with an Amsterdam Classic Boat Cruise with Cheese and Wine, a 2-hour 3-Course Dinner Cruise, or an Amsterdam Evening Cruise with Pizza and Drinks
These are tours we can heartily recommend — from our own, repeated experience:
Can you guess how many canals and bridges Amsterdam has?
More Amsterdam Tourist Information
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- Dam Square, Amsterdam
- I amsterdam City Card – Why it is Worth it!
- Public Transport to and from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
- Pick Your Own Tulips in Amsterdam on National Tulip Day 2025
- Keukenhof 2024: seven million tulips and other flowers
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