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Amsterdam Light Festival

Posted on Dec 18, 2012 by

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Winter months are the darkest of the year, especially in the Netherlands: the days are shorter, the Sun is rarely seen, and rain seems to be always present. To make it easier to bear in Amsterdam, besides the Christmas lights that were already turned on at the beginning of the month, a beautiful light festival will take place from 7 December 2012 until 20 January 2013. It will illuminate the city even more than usual and hopefully bring some extra joy to its inhabitants and tourists, helping them to get over the winter blues.

The Light Festival is the first one in Amsterdam, although Christmas boat parades have been present in the city since 2009. The most important moments of the festival are:

  • The Illuminade — a walking route through the historic center of Amsterdam, between the Amstel and the Maritime museum, which can be enjoyed after dark and is composed of 20 inspiring light art objects (I especially like the one that looks like the Northern Lights and is located close to Waterlooplein)
  • The Boulevard of Light along the river Amstel, which consists of a series of glowing buildings and bridges between the Amstel Hotel and Muntplein; it also includes some of the art objects that are part of Illuminade
  • The Socialight programme — a few projects involving Amsterdamians of all ages and various districts in the development of the festival, from children creating their own lampshades to a contest organised by students to find the most beautifully decorated bicycle (with lights, of course!)
  • The Canal Festival Winter Special: special concerts performed under candle light only
  • The culminating point: a Christmas Canal Parade.

All these events are taking place during the entire festival period except for the parade, which only happened during the night of 15 December. The festival programme extends to include more activities for it’s entire duration like workshops, concerts and canal cruises, so check the official website for more information about what can be seen and done in order to keep the light close to you this winter: Amsterdam Light Festival — full programme.

The photos below show the canal parade and two artworks along the Illuminade — the 1.26 Amsterdam which looks like an Aurora over water and the Ovo (“egg”) in front of the Hermitage museum. A row of about 40 sparkling boats made up the parade, floating on Amsterdam’s canals — from Prinsengracht all the way to the Amstel and Oosterdok. They carried on the water cheerful theater, a squirting fountain, live music and lasers. Somehow I was expecting the parade to be more spectacular, to have more lights, more music and more pizzazz, to be more dramatic than this, but the atmosphere resembled more the one of a cozy family Christmas, with lights that were not overwhelming and action that was warmer rather than extraordinary. That didn’t make it any less magical — lights floating on water are always ethereal, and in this cold winter time they’ve warmed up the atmosphere, especially accompanied by a sip of gluhwijn (mulled wine) while waiting for entertainment to arrive.

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