celebrates the holidays for the entire month. Early in December, the focus is on Sinterklaas
, the local answer to Santa, whom legend says spends much of the year in Spain before returning to Holland in mid-November. Head there on December 5, the evening before the Feast of Saint Nicholas, to experience Sinterklaasavond
(Sinterklaas evening) or Pakjesavond
(gift evening), which is the main gift-giving event of the season: Expect lots of celebrations throughout the city, and opportunities to sample pepernoten (spiced cookies) and marzipan treats. If you miss that date, don’t worry, as there are more than two dozen Christmas markets dotted throughout Amsterdam
, from historic Haarlem to the Winter Village Stadshart, where there’s also an ice rink. Amsterdam’s center is also festooned with installations via the annual Light Festival—view the works on foot, by bike or even better, on a special nighttime cruise. Then there’s the 250-year-old World Christmas Circus, featuring acrobats, trapeze artists and other acts; it runs for three weeks at the Royal Theatre Carré. In fact, there’s so much going on this month here, consider booking a tour
to help you squeeze everything in.