Even a beautiful city like Amsterdam needs a little help in the winter. The sun disappears for days on end, and what little light there is fades to black as 3 or 4 p.m. I need a good incentive to brave the cold and dark, to go out and see the city—and I know I’m not the only one. Thankfully, there’s the Amsterdam Light Festival.
Now on its third year, the Amsterdam Light Festival turns the city into an open-air gallery of public art: sculptures, installations, and projections from artists all over the world, all made with light. From over 260 submissions, 39 artworks were chosen to lend Amsterdam a bit of color and brightness in the dark winter months.
There are three ways to enjoy the Amsterdam Light Festival. To go on foot or by bicycle, you can book a guided tour called Illuminade. There’s also a boat route called Water Colors, which is offered by several canal cruise companies from several departure points in the city center.
I went on a Water Colors boat tour and loved it! I didn’t get to take pictures of all the installations (and honestly, some were better than others), but here are some of my favorite artworks from the tour. The first is Light Bridge, an ode to the bridges of Amsterdam by local design studio Tjep. It’s interactive and reacts to movements on the street and on the water.
Rising from the dark canals like a ghostly mangrove forest, Arborescence by Loop.pH (UK) looks both futuristic and organic.
Everyone on the boat fell silent as we sailed beneath the floating circles of Effervescence by Geraud Periole. Simple yet stunning.
Inspired by the Mobius strip, Circle of Life by Amsterdam-based architect Rob van Houten turns a symbol of eternity into an entryway for the rush of people flowing into the city.
Seeing this man and woman together on the bridge, I couldn’t help but think: mood lighting, the romantic Amsterdam canals, and a ring? All the ingredients for a perfect proposal. I sense a missed opportunity here!
See more masterpieces of light after the jump, plus a few tips for enjoying the Amsterdam Light Festival this winter.