“Luckily, we had temperatures below zero for a whole week, resulting in a very fun weekend”
The second week of February 2021 was a very special week for us living in the Netherlands, starting with the white snowy first Sunday, and finishing with frozen canals one week afterward. We have had very low temperatures and Amsterdam was covered in snow. I had a lot of fun at the frozen lakes in the Vondelpark, ice skating in the Amsterdanse Bos, and finishing up at the so expected frozen canals in the city center.
You may be asking yourself why we are so excited about this winter. Well, although the Netherlands is a Northern European country, it does not get so cold that often, as in other Nordic countries such as Sweden and Norway. Here, it does snow almost every year, but not a lot, and neither for so long. Low temperatures, reaching 7 or 10 degrees below zero are rare – you can read more about this in my blog about the winter in The Netherlands, link in bio.
Frozen canals are even a rarer because it depends on a couple of factors combined: wind, temperature, and no snow/rain. The last time we had this was in 2018, my first winter here. Lucky me! After that, we have had very mild winters, barely getting to zero degrees. This is of course, also related to global warming. The earth is getting warmer every year, so cold winters are becoming less and less common.
Luckily, we had temperatures below zero for a whole week, resulting in a very fun weekend in the end. We were all very tired of the strict lockdown, and this was a refreshing time for everybody I guess. A fun outdoor activity, keeping a safe distance from each other: ice skating in the frozen canals and lakes! The locals got their dusty skates (or Schaatsen, in Dutch) from their closets! For those who did not have a pair yet, including me, it was the time to look for used ones on Marktplaas and be the fastest one to give a good bid!
Each type of ice sports requires a different type of skates with a variety of styles and sizes. Three of the most common types of ice skates are figure ice skates, hockey ice skates, and speed ice skates. For more detailed information, check this chart.
Once having your pair of ice skates in hand, it was time to find a good – and not so crowded – spot! An app that helped me a lot to see what canals or lakes had a safe layer of ice, was the “Ijsmeester”. On the app, you could see the green spots on the map and also read the comments from other people that have been skating there before. Very useful! The Amsterdam central canals, such as the Prinsengracht, were safe to skate on Sunday only, and already in the afternoon, they started melting because of the temperatures above zero.
Important to point out that many accidents happened during the weekend, including ice breaking and people falling into the water. It is very important to check the thickness of the ice, and be always aware! Falling into the water is very dangerous and more common than you may think.
Below I am sharing some nice places to buy ice skates and to skate – all accessible by bike and/or public transport! Note: the locations may vary due to weather conditions!
Bosbaan, a originally 2-kilomter rowing lake situated in the Amsterdamse Bos in Amstelveen that can get completely frozen during very cold winters.
Public Parks (Vondelpark, Westerpark, Rembrandtpark, and Beatrixpark)
City Canals (Prinsengracht, Keisengracht, Bloemgracht, Lauriergracht, etc)
Ice skating Rinks (the temporary, such as the ones on the Museumplein or Leidseplein – which did not happen in the Winter 2020/21 due to the lockdown, and the permanent one at Jaap Eden Ice Rink)
Some online Shops and Stores: