A typical Dutch winter
Let's get one thing straight: there is no such thing as a typical Dutch winter. We swing from bright sunny days to bitter freezing temperatures. That's why our winter activities range from relaxing on the outdoor terrace of cafes and bars to building snowmen. We wish for an Elfstedentocht (our world-famous skating tour) every year, and we’ve remained faithful to our typical Dutch winter food for centuries.
Traditional Dutch winter fare
Dutch veggie mash delight
When you say Dutch winter food, you say ‘stamppot’, a veggie mash. Super simple to make, tummy-filling and heartwarming. If you like potatoes, that is. Otherwise, you can mash all you want, but stamppot is not for you. The real classics are endive and potato mash, kale and potato mash, sauerkraut and potato mash, and hutspot (carrot and potato mash). Essentially, you can mix any vegetable and potato into a mash. The real pro builds a little mash-volcano for the gravy, and throws in some (vegetarian) bacon and smoked sausage (rookworst!) or meatballs. In an adventurous mood? Then try ‘hete bliksem’: hot lightning. This is a potato mash with apples (and black pudding, if you’re into that sort of thing). Nothing spicy about it, but the apples are notorious for burning your tongue, hence the name!
Dutch pea soup
A second Dutch winter classic is pea soup or 'snert'. Not a meek little soup, but a hearty meal. Traditionally crafted from split peas—ordinary peas that are dried and stripped of their skins—snert is a rich concoction that also features the undeniable presence of potatoes (apologies to the potato skeptics). In addition, you will often find celeriac, carrots, and leeks in our pea soup. We also like to throw in some smoked sausages. Or on, to be precise, because if the sausage sinks, your soup isn't thick enough. Don't feel like cooking? You can buy excellent pea soup at the supermarket. The smoked sausage is often included, but we don't blame you for getting extra.
Hearty veggie soup
Do you have leftover vegetables from all those stamppots and pea soups? Use them to make an authentic Dutch winter vegetable soup. The recipe? Throw everything you can find into a pan with a nice broth. Add some tiny meatballs, and you're done. Potatoes not obligatory.
Navigating Dutch winter weather
Winter temperatures in the Netherlands
Do you have a minute? Because it can go either way with Dutch winter weather. On average, it is about four degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit), but with peaks of minus ten to plus fifteen, we know how to keep things exciting. In essence, packing for a winter vacation in the Netherlands requires a dash of luck and a knack for adaptability.
Dutch winter rain
We have good news and bad news regarding winter rain in the Netherlands. The good news is that it often rains a lot less in the winter than in the fall. The bad news is that there is not necessarily less rain coming down from the sky, it just takes longer. That's why you get that kind of precipitation where you feel like a drama queen if you open your umbrella, but get suspiciously wet if you don't. Fortunately, we also have plenty of days with bright blue skies and sunshine in the Netherlands. Although the sun is mostly there for show, because sunny days during the winter are often freezing cold.
Usually, it freezes about 35 days a year in the Netherlands. When the first layer of ice appears on the creeks and ditches, we all google "Giet it oan?", which is Frisian for ‘Will it happen?’. Will what happen, you may ask? The Elfstedentocht. A 200-kilometer long ice-skating tour that passes eleven cities in Friesland, a northern province in the Netherlands. Even though the last Elfstedentocht was over 25 years ago, and you know, global warming, we continue hoping that this legendary ice-skating tour will make a comeback.
That hope was mainly nourished by the world's most optimistic weatherman, the late Piet Paulusma, who annually stated that the probability of an Elfstedentocht is most definitely very significant. This is the same guy who always predicted a white Christmas. Never happens, but we still think of Piet every winter.
Typical Dutch winter activities
We already mentioned skating on wild ice. With a bit of luck, we can pull our skates out of the grease for a few days every winter. There are many places to go ice-skating in Eindhoven, for example at the Genneper Parken, the Stadswandelpark, and the Karpendonkse Plas. On Ekkel.com you can check if wild ice is thick enough to skate on. We also have outdoor ice rinks in many places in the country. These are fields of grass with a layer of frozen water, so it is not such a disaster if someone falls through the ice. A big plus of such places is that there is often a stall selling hot chocolate and mulled wine. Even when it isn’t freezing, you can always skate at IJssportcentrum Eindhoven. They also sell glühwein, so what more could you want?
Sledding and other snow-fun
Despite the fact that we are a flat country, we still love sledding. In the absence of mountains, we sled from any hill we can find. The slopes of a viaduct, for example. Park Meerhoven and the Genneper Parken offer excellent sledding hills. Although you are rarely the only one with that idea, so go early or bring earplugs. Fortunately, racing your sled through the street is also great fun. Just like building snowmen and having snowball fights. When it snows or freezes, we make the most of it.
On gray days with diabolical drizzle, we stay at home or we hide in a museum or a movie theater. But at the first rays of sunshine, you will find us on the terrace of cafes and bars. Snug beneath the heat lamps or a fleece blanket. Actually, as far as our winter activities are concerned, the Dutch are not all that special. But that shouldn't spoil the winter fun! Happy winter!