Nightlife & the Arts in Amsterdam


Amsterdam Nightlife

Everybody knows that The Night Watch is the name of Rembrandt's most famous painting but not everyone remembers that, back in the early 2000s, it was also the nickname of a bunch of "Night Mayors." This group of cultural leaders saw their role as fighters against the frumpiness that had cast a shadow over Amsterdam's night scene, thanks to the fact that the city fathers had cleared away the "squats"—the deserted buildings that were the settings for city's wildest nighttime events and raves. Now, ten years later, Amsterdam is happily experiencing a renaissance in its reputation as a true nightlife capital.

The city is still rich with inspired folk who are willing to organize a video arts festival in a cruise ship terminal, a gentle Bach recital in an ancient church, an arts festival in an abandoned factory, a house party in a football stadium, or some heart-stopping spectacle in a park. So get ready to savor Amsterdam's giant cultural wallop through its numerous venues—from former churches and industrial monuments to the acoustical supremacy of the legendary hall of the Concertgebouw. And the beautiful thing about the Netherlands is that if by the smallest—and we do mean smallest—of chances Amsterdam is slow one night, a short train trip to Rotterdam or the Hague will undoubtedly have you at the center of some cultural storm.

Amsterdam's nightlife can have you careening between smoky coffee shops, chic wine bars, mellow jazz joints, laid-back lounges, and clubs either intimate or raucous. The Dutch are extremely sociable people who enjoy going out, so don't hesitate to join the revelry. It will definitely make for a memorable trip.

The bona fide local flavor can perhaps best be tasted in one of the city's ubiquitous brown café-bars—called "brown" because of their woody walls and nicotine-stained ceilings. Here, both young and old, the mohawked and the merely balding, come to relax, rave, and revel in every variety of coffee and alcohol.

Thankfully, the city's club scene has been picking up after a long lull that began in the '90s, when some of the most established venues closed their doors for good.

New clubs such as Trouw, Studio 80, and Club Up and Air are programming cutting-edge acts and DJs, and old standbys like Paradiso, Melkweg, and Bitterzoet still pull in big names on a weekly basis. Amsterdam is also home to several important electronic music festivals: the Amsterdam Dance Event ( and 5 Days Off ( are the biggest.

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