I always love the Amsterdam Light Festival and 2019 is the 8th edition of this spectacular and inspiring Dutch event. With all the lights up around the City it’s a fantastic time of year to visit and Amsterdam has a fab Christmas-sy feel about it. As for the festival itself, it seems to become bigger and better every year and this year is no exception. This year the route has been extended, taking in stops on the Eastern part of the city including Oosterdok, Oudeschans, Plantage Muidergracht and Entrepotdok.
The theme of the 2019 Amsterdam Light Festival is ‘DISRUPT!’ and 20 different artists and collectives from all around the world have produced work for the festival interpreting the word in their own individual ways.
Many of the pieces have been created with existing architecture, such ‘The Cracks’ by Karolina Howorko projected onto Montelbaan’s tower, while others have been placed either alongside or actually in the canals themselves.
Some of the works are playful and beautiful like the washing line ‘Neighborhood’ by Sergey Kim (above right) or ‘Butterfly Effect’ by Masamichi Shimada and some ask important questions about our role on the planet and the way we interact with it. Several of the pieces, like ‘Surface Tension’ by Tom Biddulph & Barbara Ryan (below) – that uses sinking ‘light’ vehicles as its commentary on rising sea levels and global warming take the definition of ‘Disrupt!’ to be the way we are changing the delicate ecological balance on planet Earth.
Elsewhere ‘Big Bang’ by Uxu Studio (below) offers a moment frozen in time, visualising the impending explosion of a bomb into the canal. It symbolises aggression, terror and destruction, but if you look closer you’ll see it’s actually covered in soft feathers and its blue hue gives it an almost romantic. quality. I wondered if its closeness to the water reflected hope and that a climate disaster wasn’t an inevitable event. I hope so anyway.
Running alongside the festival is SKALAR Situated in Gashouder, Westergas from Jan 10th to Feb 5th. It’s an über cool audio-visual kinetic art installation by Christopher Bauder and musician Kangding Ray. The combination of kinetic mirrors, perfectly synchronized moving lights and intense sonic soundscapes is certainly a sensory experience to remember (and that’s without any drugs).
Have you ever been to a Zoo at night? While the city is illuminated, throughout the festival Thur, Fri and Sat evenings from 5 to 8 until 18th January, the ARTIS Amsterdam Royal Zoo is opening its doors to enable visitors to experience nature in a different way – in the dark! Have you ever wondered how bats hunt, how flamingos sleep on one leg or even how some mushrooms glow in the dark? Join the 90 minute tour (which includes a visit to the awesome Micropia in the zoo grounds) and find the answers to these and many other questions in a uniquely atmospheric experience.
There are many Light Festival tours available both on foot and on the canals, we took a cruise with the awesome Stromma tours (click here to book), however, if you’re planning on taking in some additional culture the ‘I amsterdam City Card’ is a good way to save money on a lot of stuff.
The card offers either free or reduced entry to 70 museums in the city (including the Rjyksmusuem – check out there Velazquez / Rembrandt exhibition at the moment) not to mention city-wide transport on the metro, trams bus and ferry. They also include a regular 1-hour cruise on the canals too. You can skip lines and even get discounts at some restaurants and concerts. The price depends on the amount of time you want one for (24hrs €65, 48hrs €80, 72 €105 96 €120 and 120 hours for €130).
Click here to order online www.iamsterdam.com/en
Of all the places included in the Amsterdam card the Van Gogh museum is a must-see for any weekend adventure in Amsterdam (just make sure you book a slot before you go). Apart from the amazing, priceless, world-famous art you can read and study the many letters, many to his Brother Theo and learn about his posthumous rise to fame (don’t forget to buy a cuddly Van Gogh doll or a packet of Potato Eater crisps in the gift shop). Last year some 2.5 million people visited the Van Gogh museum, not bad for an artist who sold one piece in his lifetime.
Although you can’t guarantee snow, to me Amsterdam always feels a lot more Christmasy than many other cities and in Museumplein the park next to the Van Gogh museum and Rijksmuseum every year they set up ICE Amsterdam a really cool area with a proper ice rink where you can buy the best hot chocolate, waffles and apple pie along with some Christmas stalls selling clothes and accessories. Don’t worry if (like me) you’re not very good at skating, you can borrow a chair to hold onto around the rink.