On November 13, Sinterklaas arrives in the Netherlands, an event that marks the beginning of the Dutch festive season.
The 13th is celebrated throughout the country and coincides with several street parties that honor Sinterklaas. In Amsterdam, this jovial figure makes his way along the river Amstel on a rustic steamboat that is accompanied by an enormous flotilla of Christmassy dinghies. Thousands of Amsterdammers gather on the banks of the river to watch him pass by or wait for Sinterklaas and his entourage to disembark in the city center. After landing, Sinterklaas mounts his white horse Amerigoand then joins a parade that marches through Amsterdam’s main thoroughfares.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Although Sinterklaas resembles Father Christmas or Santa Claus he possesses several distinctive traits that differentiate him from his peers. Firstly, he is usually portrayed as a slim gentleman with a towering physique- a characteristic that reflects the Dutch population’s remarkable stature. And, unlike anglicised versions of Saint Nicolas, Sinterklaas dresses in clerical garments that are associated with the higher echelons of the Protestant church.
After his official arrival, Sinterklaas is believed to remain in the Netherlands until the evening of December 5 when he delivers gifts to families. This occasion is known as Sinterklaasavond, or Pakjesavond, and is comparable to Christmas day. During this holiday, families gather together for dinner before opening their presents. Many People enjoy hiding gifts and write cryptic poems that hint at their whereabouts, leading to small indoor treasure hunts.
From mid-November onwards, the Netherlands changes its national diet and its residents begin to consume massive quantities of sugary snacks. Speculaas cookies are among the country’s most beloved festive treats and have a distinctive, spicy taste that contains subtle traces of cinnamon, anise and nutmeg. Oliebollen stands start to appear across the country encouraging Dutch people to stuff themselves with greasy, lumps of fried dough. Other sweets include a thick, crispy, bread filled with delicious marzipan, called Kerststol and tiny, penny sized cookies named pepernoten, that are guzzled down by the hand full.
Traditional Christmas food is readily available throughout the Netherlands and is among the main draws of Dutch Christmas markets. Many vendors make their goods on site, consequently filling towns and cities with enticing wafts of freshly baked speculaas.
Like the rest of Western Europe, the Netherlands transforms into a winter wonderland during the festive season. Major cities usually turn on their lights before the end of November and the Bijenkorf on Dam Square kicks off the season with a massive lights show on November 17.
The Dutch are passionate ice skaters and eagerly await the colder weather. Occasionally, the country’s iconic canals will freeze over creating ready-made ice rinks. Although this doesn’t happen every year, most cities set up temporary outdoor skating facilities during winter. Likely, the most famous of their number is located on Museumplein- a particularly photogenic ice rink that borders the Rijksmuseum and the famous I amsterdam letters.
On Christmas Eve Dutch people once again exchange gifts, but this time without the guidance of Sinterklaas. Beforehand, many households set up Christmas trees and cover their living rooms in kitsch decorations. Smaller gifts are usually given during the holiday and it is generally a low-key affair that revolves around a cosy family dinner. Many restaurants and bars remain open on Christmas day and it is becoming increasingly common for young people to spend the holiday with their friends rather than relatives.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.