Beyond the smoke and red-lighted windows, Amsterdam is a city teeming with music, dance, theater, and art, which has given it the epithet "nightlife capital of the world." Think outside the box—even outside the Grachtengordel—and you'll be amazed at what this city that (almost) never sleeps has to offer.

Many people know 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 since the city fathers cleared away the "squats"—the deserted buildings that were the settings for city’s wildest nighttime events and raves. Now, 15 years later, Amsterdam has happily reclaimed its reputation as a true nightlife capital. The city is a must-stop on the international DJ circuit, and new pop-up clubs and dance venues, plus a plethora of homegrown festivals, keep all walks of life shaking until the wee hours of the morning. The city is rich with inspired folk who are willing to organize a video-arts festival in a cruise-ship terminal, a gentle Bach recital on a canal, 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.

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  • 1. Bar Bukowski


    This local hot spot in the most gentrified part of East has a sunny corner terrace facing the Oosterpark and a weekend cocktail spot, Henry's...Read More

  • 2. Bimhuis


    The best-known jazz place in town occupies the utterly awesome Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ. Everyone from fans of the old legends to those of the...Read More

  • 3. Cafe 't Smalle


    Complete with Golden Age chandeliers, leaded-glass windows, and the centuries-old wooden ceiling, this corner café is one of Amsterdam's most charming spots. Once home to...Read More

  • 4. Café de Sluyswacht


    Beware: the slant of this oldie-but-goodie may leave you a little unsteady on your feet after one too many beers on the patio. A quintessential...Read More

  • 5. Café Hesp


    A neighborhood classic since 1890, this inviting brown café with a huge terrace on the Amstel has an amazing selection of beer—including 20 on tap—and...Read More

  • 6. Café Krom


    Bruno the bartender is as much a fixture at this local brown café as its lovingly restored Art Deco features. High ceilings give a more...Read More

  • 7. Café Tabac


    One of the best cafés in the Jordaan commands a charming corner between Brouwersgracht and Prinsengracht. The staff are friendly, have a funky taste in...Read More

  • 8. De Nieuwe Anita


    The quirky Nieuwe Anita, darling of the alternative crowd, is home to screenings of cult classics, spoken-word nights, and live gigs put on by underground...Read More

  • 9. De Zotte


    This intimate pub just around the corner from Leidseplein is a local favorite. With a name that translates to "the drunk" in Flemish, the pub...Read More

  • 10. Hannekes Boom


    This hippie hot spot offers a waterfront terrace, boat access, and live music some nights....Read More

  • 11. Het Blauwe Theehuis

    Museum District

    The Vondelpark's quietly pulsating epicenter is a blue flying saucer–shape "teahouse" dating back to 1937. In step with the style of Nieuwe Bouwen (the Dutch...Read More

  • 12. Het Elfde Gebod

    Red Light District

    Right in the heart of the Red Light District, this cozy specialty beer bar has 14 beers on tap and more than 120 bottled brews....Read More

  • 13. Hiding in Plain Sight (HPS)


    The speakeasy-esque HPS is a properly indie cocktail mecca whose infamous rum-based concoction, "The Walking Dead," has indeed left many locals limping away. Cocktails are...Read More

  • 14. Jazz Cafe Alto


    Hear top-notch local ensembles in the jam-packed and ultraintimate environment of one of Amsterdam's oldest jazz joints. Along with live jazz every night, a little...Read More

  • 15. Lokaal 't Loosje


    Artists, students, and businesspeople unite in this popular brown café installed in a building from 1900 that used to be a waiting room for the...Read More

  • 16. Melkweg


    In a former dairy factory—hence the name, "Milky Way"—is one of Amsterdam's foremost entertainment venues, attracting over 540,000 visitors a year. Here, you'll find a...Read More

  • 17. Paradiso


    This former church—vaulted ceilings and stained glass still intact—has become the country's most famous "pop temple," an epic venue for legendary musicians, new bands, and...Read More

  • 18. PRIK


    This highly popular pink bar is situated rather off-the-beaten-path (for the gay scene, that is)—which was exactly the intention of its founding gay couple, as...Read More

  • 19. Proeflokaal Gollem


    Popular with locals and visitors alike, this tasting room has dozens of imported beers on offer along with a variety of local brews including Two...Read More

  • 20. Pulitzer's Bar

    Western Canal Ring

    For well-crafted cocktails with canal views, intimate fireplace nooks, and an Art Deco–style bar, Pulitzer's Bar is one of the best in the city. In...Read More

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