Netherlands: the ice skaters’ paradise

In the last post I was talking a bit about the joy of European winters and how much pleasure I personally—and others like me—get from Europe’s Christmas markets and the outdoor sports that we indulge in every time the weather turns cold and the we get a chance to get out there on the ice and snow. Of course all the continents have their own winters and there is no continent on the planet that doesn’t get snow at some point, but it the countries and cultures of Europe probably have the longest winters and as a result have really developed a proper winter culture.

However, in my opinion, one of the best places to go ice skating and to embrace that winter spirit is the Netherlands. Ice skating in the Netherlands is probably one of the most rewarding winter sports that I personally have ever done.

What makes the country so great for ice skating is the fact that there are so many waterways throughout the whole country. With climate change and global warming some of the canals, known to the locals by the Dutch word of gracht, don’t freeze over quite as much as they used to. In the past the canals froze every winter and during the Golden Age of Dutch Painting the Dutch Masters, as they are known, painted scenes of frozen canals, celebrating the winter culture of the Netherlands.

It’s not so easy to plan a holiday to coincide with the frozen canals, but if you’re lucky enough to be in the Netherlands in winter and the canals are frozen over (on multiple trips to Amsterdam during the winter I’ve only been lucky enough to experience it once), you’re in for the treat of a lifetime.

In my opinion Dutch cities are already incredibly beautiful and in the winter doubly so. Being able to get onto the canals and use those waterways as ice skating paths is one of the most beautiful and rewarding ways to experience a city. I must confess that when it happened to me I couldn’t help myself from imagining that I was in a painting by Vermeer, Van Gogh or Bruegel.

The experience was full of Christmas magic and something that you’ll never forget if you’re lucky enough to experience it.