Amsterdam Light Festival

/ Art, Travel / Amsterdam

For 51 days the beautiful city of Amsterdam hosts an amazing festival, the Amsterdam Light Festival. The festival takes place in winter and creates some much needed light into the city during the long winter nights.

The festival is great for all ages and is the perfect way to spend an evening walking around a cold, crisp Amsterdam and getting to see the city in a whole new light (we like a pun here at RED).

Where It All Started

The festival first began in Christmas 2009 when Henk Jan Buchel and Vincent Horbach wanted to inject some light into the city and did so by organizing a canal parade. The next year Felix Guttmann came on board and involved the famous light designer from Philips, Rogier van der Heiden. Rogier lit up the Magere Brug for a couple of weeks and canal boats put on decorative lights for December. Since the parade was growing in popularity and success each year the next logical step was to organize an actual festival around light installations, and the first official Amsterdam Light Festival was born in 2012.

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Paths Crossing - Ralf Westerhof (6)

Themed Lights

Each year the festival takes on a different theme. Last years theme was ‘A Bright City’, where artists had to create a tribute to life in the city, resulting in a creative and unique take of Amsterdam.

This year the theme is ‘Friendship’, so artists have interpreted what ‘friendship’ means to them and have expressed it in their own individual way via light.

Deciding which artists get to showcase their work in the festival is no easy job and a jury looks over 300 proposals from designers across the world. The jury when whittles it down to just 30 artists who become the chosen few to present their work in the festival. Having Philips Vice President and Chief Design Officer Rogier van der Heide involved with the festival of course means that dramatic and innovative energy savings are always at the very core of the light designs.

There are two ways that you can see the Amsterdam Light Festival: by boat or walking.

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Paths Crossing - Ralf Westerhof (3)

Water Colors

Probably one of the only light art festivals that you can enjoy from the water. Water Colors allows people to cruise along the canals and see Amsterdam in a unique and colorful way like never before, whilst also keeping nice and warm from the comfort of the boat. The tour is 75-minutes long and departs daily from 17.00 to 22.00. Several boat companies offer tickets that depart from different locations around town.

Water Colors: 28th November 2015 – 17th January 2016


This route allows you to walk past the light artworks, view projections on buildings, street installations and even light works that require participation. The route starts off at Amstel 3, takes about an hour to walk around the whole thing and the lights are illuminated between 17.00 and 22.00. If you do decide to go for this route we suggest wrapping up warm as the average temperature in Amsterdam in December is a chilly 42° F, don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Illuminade: 10th December 2015 – 3rd January 2016

The Amsterdam Light Festival perfectly celebrates winter with art, light and water and certainly brightens up this already beautiful city in the dark, cold winter months.

Images by Frank Karssing


More Information on the Amsterdam Light Festival


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