Ice skate on the frozen canals in Amsterdam

6th of March, 2018 by Juliette

Last weekend in Amsterdam was amazing! From Friday 2nd of March to the 4th of March we could ice skate on the frozen canals of the Dutch capital. What an incredible and historical day!

1. HOW is it possible that the canals in Amsterdam freeze?

An icy continental weather from the far Siberia has brought temperatures to Europe as low as -28 degrees Celsius. In Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, they never experienced such a cold weather since 50 years. As populary know as « the Beast from the East », the winds from Siberia reached Amsterdam too. During 5 nights in a row, the temperatures during the night were below -10 degrees Celsius. I would imagine people starting to be depressed and staying at home in Amsterdam. But everybody was actually super happy about this big news cause the Dutch hoped that they could ice skate on the canals.

Amsterdam under a blanket of snow, the week before we could ice skate

The municipality of Amsterdam hoped that too. Waternet chose to help the ice grow thicker to by closing the sluices in the city center and on some canals a boating-ban was employed. This made the ice thick enough for people to enjoy it.

The ice growing at Prinsengracht

2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME you could ice skate IN AMSTERDAM?

The last time people could ice skate on the canals was 6 years ago. During the winter of 2012 the ice on the Keizersgracht got thicker than 15cm. In that historical year, the city organised a Keizersrace, just for fun! The winner of this race is called the « Keizer of Amsterdam » which means the emperor.

Friday morning, first people ice skating on the Prinsengracht

So, for many of the young inhabitants of Amsterdam, it was the first time they could see their city with frozen canals and experience ice skating. Because it happened on a Friday and a Saturday, many tourists who were here for a city trip could also enjoyed this amazing time.


Some parts of the Keizersgracht and the Prinsengracht canals froze hard enough to support the weight of the ice skaters. On Saturday, the Egelantiersgracht and several smaller canals were also frozen so many people came to the Jordan District.

Sun set on one of the Jordan District canals


Dozens of sightseers, locals and ice skaters came to Amsterdam this weekend for having fun on the ice!
Many tourists were on the bridges to take pictures but of course, everybody wanted to go on the ice. What a different feeling to walk on what is normally flowing water! Amsterdam looked like a completly different city. People were walking on the street with their ice skate!

People walking on the streets with their ice skates on

With or without ice skates, people were recording videos, sending pictures to all their friends and asking to join them on the ice. Everybody looked so happy and amazed by the situation! The small brown cafes opened their terrasses for the locals who were braving the cold.

A cafe on the side of the Prinsengracht canal

5. WAS IT ALLOWed FOR CHILDREN to get on the ice in amsterdam?

Yes! Many children were on the ice with their parents. This little girl was there to learn how to ice skate with her Dad and we have seen many cars full of little ones parked around the canals.

It’s time to learn how to ice skate!

It was THE activity to do on a Saturday. Moreover, this happened during the Dutch school holidays, such lucky children! They were not at school on Friday but on the ice all day long!

Let’s get on the ice friends

6. WAS IT DANGEROUS for people to go on the ice in amsterdam?

It was pretty safe on Friday and Saturday. The ice quality was good enough to stand on and at some places the ice got to 10 centimeters. But on Sunday, the ice started to melt cause the temperature reached again 1 degree above zero, so some people fell into the broken ice. But, enough people were there to rescue them in time. No worries.

Ice skating on the Prinsengracht

7. So many fun things to do on the ice!

Small shops popped up on the ice to warm up the crazy ice skaters and offered them a local soup or a hot chocolate.

Hot chocolate milk on the ice for 2 euros!

I have seen an entire family playing hockey on Saturday morning with their children. They looked to have so much fun!

Family playing ice hockey

Some people were with their dog to go for a walk on the ice, others went to do grocery shopping on their ice skates. They were carring their big plastic bags from local grocery stores Albert Hein.
Someone even tried to cycle on the canals, you know the Dutch are kind of addicted to their bike. It looked pretty hard tough, but I could take a good picture!

Crazy guy trying to cycle on the frozen canals


Yes. On the Herengracht, Waternet decided to break the ice so tourists could still go boating around the city. But as I could see, boats were pretty empty because everybody was on the ice, of course!

A canal cruises going through ice floes

9. WINTER of 2018-2019

Are you going to plan to go to Amsterdam during the winter of 2019? I hope you have got your ice skates ready for the next time when the canals freeze!

He looks to have so much fun!


When you are having a layover of 4,5 hours in Amsterdam it’s already possible to see a big deal of Amsterdam. Make sure to optimise your time and book a tour. Together we will walk, cycle, boat around the beautiful historic city, and of course we’ll show you more hidden gems. Watch our impression video below for more information, or book here.

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