A guide to Amsterdam’s Light Festival

Each December towns and cities around the world put up their own display of sparkling lights to celebrate the festive season. But in Amsterdam something more is happening, as in the last month of each year the city is not just decorated with Christmas lights but also with an exhibition of light art installations to make the streets shine even more brightly after dark. This is the Amsterdam Light Festival.

Bunch of Tulips Peter Koros Amsterdam Light Festival

Bunch of Tulips, Peter Koros

What exactly is the Amsterdam Light Festival?

The Amsterdam Light Festival is an outdoor art exhibition featuring a collection of large scale light art installations from (non)international artists set across the city’s network of canals. As light is the main visual medium the exhibition only really comes alive at night, with the positioning of the artwork either near or on the Amsterdam’s waterways further amplifying its multitude of light through the water’s reflections. This year there are two themes to the festival for which there are two different exhibitions on two different routes; the Water Colours route which can be seen by boat, and the Illuminade route which can be seen on foot. The Water Colours theme, A view to Amsterdam, examines the different artists connections with the city, with topics including tourism, history, society and architecture. Where as the Illuminade theme is called Biomimicry, which explores the science of how structures from the natural world can be positively applied to our own man made world. From these very divergent themes comes a collection of imaginative and ambitious installations which works harmoniously together with their common use LED lights to create a stunning works of art                                                                      

Bridge of the Rainbow Gilbert Moity Amsterdam Light Festival
Bridge of a Rainbow, Gilbert Moity

Where is the Amsterdam Light Festival?

Although the positioning of the different artworks may look a bit random if you spot them on the off chance in the city, the two routes the different installations are set along ware actually really well structured. You can take a boat around the Water Colours route which starts at Amsterdam Centraal and takes you on a circular path along the canal network with the trip taking around 75 minutes in total. Alternatively you can go on the Illuminade walking route which is a smaller course sandwiched along the Water Colours route. There are installations that are unique to both routes, and some which sit across both, so it’s definitely worth doing some research to see which one would suit you best.

Or why not even do both. You can also easily follow the Water Colours route on foot with maps available to buy from tourist information that show the circuit and where all the different art installations are along the way. This way you could combine your walk with the Illuminade route which sits in the middle of it all, and that way get to see all the artwork in one go! Although there are some interactive installations on the Water Colours route that are better experienced on the boat tour, the installations that are on both routes are better to seen on foot, plus walking it means you can go at your own pace and stop for as long as you like to explore the work and take some great photos.

Rhizome House, DP Architects 

When is the Amsterdam Light Festival?

The festival starts on 1st December 2016 and lasts through to 22nd January 2017. The Water Colours route is open from 1st December to 22nd January 2017, and the Illuminade Route is open from 15th December to 8th January, giving you plenty of time to go and explore both exhibitions.

Together Luigi Console & Valentina Novembre Amsterdam Light Festival
Together Luigi Console & Valentina Novembre 

Why should you go?

You definitely don’t have to be an art critic to appreciate and enjoy the festival, with the majority of concepts behind the installations being relatable to a wide audience, and even if you aren’t bothered about the meanings of the work, it’s still wonderful to look at from a simply visual point of view. The festival is also a great way to explore Amsterdam better, whether seeing the city from the unique perspective of the waterways or exploring the streets on foot, the festival will definitely make you discover areas of the city centre you probably wouldn’t have otherwise. In addition to that the Water Colours allows you to see the city through different peoples perspectives, and learn something about its history and culture along the way.

So if you are looking for something a little unusual to do in Amsterdam then this is definitely one for you, as a unique festival that lets you explore a different side to the city.

Artwork 2016


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