The city of Deventer in the Netherlands is known for its Charles Dickens Festival in December, where locals and actors dress up in period costume to bring to life “A Christmas Carol”.
It’s also widely considered to be one of the best Christmas markets and events in the Netherlands, especially as it takes place in the beautiful Hanseatic city of Deventer.
We first visited this Christmas event in 2017 and loved feeling like we’d been transported back to the time of Dickens.
Looking to learn more about Deventer Dickens Festival, or perhaps need some guidance on planning your own trip there?
In this post, we’ll be covering…
- Practical Info for Deventer Dickens Festival
- A Brief History of Deventer Dickens Festival
- Why Visit Deventer Dickens Festival?
- Christmas Markets at the Deventer Dickens Festival
- More Photos of Deventer Dickens Festival
We hope you find it helpful and interesting!
Practical Info for Deventer Dickens Festival
Here are some quick must-knows for Deventer Dickens Festival this year:
- Dates: Dec 16 – 17, 2023
- Official website: Click here
In need of a place to stay? Here are some quick hotel recommendations:
- Budget: Check prices and availability
- Mid-Range: Check prices and availability
- Luxury: Check prices and availability
A Brief History of Deventer Dickens Festival
2023 marks the 32nd year of the Dickens Festijn, since it began in 1991. It was initiated by Emmy Strik, a Dutch lady who owns the Charles Dickens Cabinet, a small museum in Deventer showcasing the life and works of Charles Dickens.
Most of the shops in the historic Bergkwartier take part in the event, with festive window displays and often actors or locals sitting in the windows to interact with passersby.
There are are also many pop-up stalls/carts throughout the walking route selling delicious snacks and drinks, like waffles, roasted chestnuts, soup, hot chocolate or mulled wine.
The event usually takes place over the weekend before Christmas (a bit earlier this year though), and on the Sunday there is also a large Christmas market held in the Brink – the main square of the city.
Since the first event in 1991 the Dickens Festival has since grown to be an annual staple of the Dutch Christmas calendar, with over 125,00 visitors attending every single year!
Why Visit Deventer Dickens Festival?
Wondering whether Deventer Dickens Festival is worth a trip? Here are some reasons to visit:
Deventer is a gorgeous Dutch city
Deventer is one of seven Dutch towns situated on the river IJssel that formed a trader’s union called the Hanseatic League during the 14th and 15th centuries. This union led to enormous prosperity and wealth, so it’s not surprising that these cities are still very beautiful.
One of the reasons Deventer is so magical when transformed for the Dickens Festival is because so many original buildings remain in the historic quarter, so the old-fashioned costumes and Christmas decorations look right at home.
The festival is very immersive
The festival is based around a set walking route, which takes you through the historic quarter past shops, cafés and a church.
But as you walk along, looking at the shop displays, popping in to buy something or stopping to get something to eat at a cart, you are constantly seeing locals and actors in costume bringing to life scenes from Dickens’ books, carolling or riding down the street on penny farthing bicycles!
Sometimes the characters are looking out of windows and calling out to the crowd, or standing on the roof.
We saw Ebeneezer Scrooge being mobbed by children, and refusing to give them any money. Local school children get in on the act and pretend to beg.
We also saw multiple groups of people in costume singing Christmas carols, as well as a re-enactment of a royal procession, complete with bagpipe players and Queen Victoria in a small coach.
It really makes you feel like you have been transported to Victorian England.
So much to see and do
As well as just walking around to see the actors or doing some Christmas shopping, there are plenty of other things to do during the Dickens Festival.
Outside the St. Nicholas Church we saw children performing “you’ve got to pick a pocket or two” from the Oliver Twist musical, and then a herd of real sheep were brought over that you could pet. Inside the church a group of nobles were having their very posh Christmas dinner.
There are many cafés and restaurants open if you need a break to sit down during the walk, plus the Dickens Cabinet museum is open if you’re interested in seeing more about him.
Christmas Markets/Events in Deventer to Visit
Wondering where to find Christmas market stalls in Deventer? Here are the main locations of Deventer Christmas Market:
Dickens Festival Route in the Bergkwartier
The main event of the Dickens Festival is the walking route through Deventer’s historic Bergkwartier neighborhood.
This is where all the most traditional (and pretty) buildings are located, filled with shops to spend money at in between seeing everything going on.
The walking route is free to attend, but the line to get in can be quite long, particularly between 11am and 1pm.
We arrived just after 1pm and only had to queue for about ten minutes. The festival route is open on both the Saturday and the Sunday from 11am until 5pm.
Christmas Market in the Brink
On the Sunday of the Dickens Festival weekend there is also an additional, large Christmas market on the main square after the walking route ends, called the Brink.
If you haven’t managed to get all your Christmas shopping done at the shops in the Bergkwartier then there are around 75 stalls selling gifts here.
The Brink is also lined with more cafés and restaurants if you need a rest first!
The main church of Deventer, called Lebuinuskerk, is located a few streets away from the Brink and Bergkwartier.
An indoor Christmas market is also held here, usually from the Thursday before the festival up to and including the Sunday.
Around 70 stalls are set up inside the church, making it a very atmospheric market, with the decorations and lighting.
This market offers more handmade gifts like decorations, jewelry, scarves, candles, as well as various culinary (regional) products and delicacies.
More Photos of Deventer Dickens Festival
Looking for some more Deventer Dickens Festival eye candy? Here are some additional photos we captured during our visit:
We hope you enjoyed this Deventer Dickens Festival Guide!
Let us know in the comments if you have any more questions about your trip – we’re always happy to help.