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. Café de Sluyswacht

    Nieuwmarkt | Bars/Pubs

    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

  • 2. Café Hesp

    Amsterdam-Oost | Bars/Pubs

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

  • 3. De Zotte

    Leidseplein | Bars/Pubs

    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

  • 4. Lokaal 't Loosje

    Nieuwmarkt | Cafés

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

  • 5. Melkweg

    Leidseplein | Live Music

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

  • 6. Wynand Fockink

    Centrum | Bars/Pubs

    This is Amsterdam's most famous—and miraculously its least hyped— proeflokaal (tasting room). Opened in 1679, this dimly lighted, blithely...Read More

  • 7. Café Chris

    Jordaan | Bars/Pubs

    Having a drink at this corner cafe is reminiscent of the Golden Age, which makes sense since this quaint bar has been pouring beverages since...Read More

  • 8. Café Nol

    Jordaan | Bars/Pubs

    A family business since 1966, Café Nol has a cozy living room feel where four generations of owners have welcomed guests for a biertje and...Read More

  • 9. Café Oosterling

    Rembrandtplein | Bars/Pubs

    The fourth generation of Oosterlings still runs this corner bar with its original 1735 stone floor and barrels of jenever way up high. Popular...Read More

  • 10. De Dokter

    Centrum | Bars/Pubs

    Wine and whiskey are just what patrons of De Dokter (The Doctor) have been ordering for centuries. Founded by a surgeon in 1798 to serve the...Read More

  • 11. De Engelse Reet

    Centrum | Bars/Pubs

    Also referred to as "the Pilsner Club," this unmistakably brown venue, which celebrated its quasquicentennial in 2018, seems to belong to some...Read More

  • 12. De Twee Zwaantjes

    Jordaan | Cafés

    Stop by this intimate canalside café for a traditional Jordaan feel. Singing is encouraged, and (tipsy) patrons are known to belt out a song or two. ...Read More

  • 13. Shiraz @ The College

    Museum District | Wine Bars

    Looking to educate yourself in the art of drinking fine wines? Stop by the Netherlands' Wine Bar of the Year 2019 at this 19-century school...Read More

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