Amsterdam

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. PRIK

    Centrum | Bars/Pubs

    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...Read More

  • 2. Queen's Head

    Red Light District | Bars/Pubs

    You won't find Her Majesty the Queen here, but a mainstream crowd, fun-loving princes enjoying DJ beats, theme nights, drag bingo, and parties...Read More

  • 3. Amstel Fifty Four

    Rembrandtplein | Bars/Pubs

    Formerly known as Amstel Taveerne, this is still a gay-friendly bruine kroeg . Tankards and brass pots hanging from the ceiling reflect the...Read More

  • 4. Cafe Saarein

    Jordaan | Bars/Pubs

    Open to all “queer minded” people but catoring mostly to lesbians, this traditional bruincafé has a modern interior, complete with pool tables...Read More

  • 5. Club Church

    Leidseplein | Dance Clubs

    Three floors of play-and-dance space offer changing theme nights six times a week. If you're looking to cruise, this is a good bet. ...Read More

  • 6. COC

    Jordaan | Gathering Places

    Founded in 1946, this center of the Dutch Association for the Integration of Homosexuality is the oldest organization of its kind in the world...Read More

  • 7. Cuckoo's Nest

    Centrum | Bars/Pubs

    Back in 1984, this bar was so leather-lined it put San Francisco's Folsom Street to shame. Today it attracts a more diverse crowd, many of whom...Read More

  • 8. De Trut

    Oud-West | Bars/Pubs

    Every Sunday night, the basement of an old squat in an unmarked building opens its doors to the queer crowd. All staff are volunteers, and all...Read More

  • 9. Dirty Dick's

    Red Light District | Bars/Pubs

    Founded in 1974, this must be the oldest fetish bar in Amsterdam. Today, this self-proclaimed "sleaze pit" offers a darkroom on two floors,...Read More

  • 10. Flirtation

    Oosterdok | Dance Clubs

    This highly successful women-only dance event for young lesbians and bi-curious girls occasionally takes over dance club Panama (and hosts summer...Read More

  • 11. Getto

    Centrum | Bars/Pubs

    Founded in 1996, this truly mellow place welcomes everyone: gay, lesbian, bi, queer, or straight. They have an appetizing cocktail menu and...Read More

  • 12. Lellebel

    Rembrandtplein | Bars/Pubs

    This decade-old drag-show bar is renowned for its extravagant weekend performances. The monthly agenda includes Tuesday-night karaoke, Saturday...Read More

  • 13. Lovelee

    Leidseplein | Dance Clubs

    Tucked away on a side street off of Leidseplein, this unique night club caters to an opened-minded, eclectic crowd that’s LGBTQ+ friendly. The...Read More

  • 14. Montmartre

    Rembrandtplein | Bars/Pubs

    This kitschy gay pub attracts an outgoing, all-ages crowd, who stop in for a drink and perhaps a sing-along before heading out to the club. ...Read More

  • 15. Nieuwezijds Gay Sauna

    Centrum | Gathering Places

    Stylish and cruisy with a Finnish sauna, a Turkish bath, a bar, and private cabins, the award-winning NZ Sauna, brought to you by the team behind...Read More

  • 16. Saarein

    Jordaan | Bars/Pubs

    Amsterdam's best lesbian bar, as it's been labeled, started out in the 1920s as a brown café in the Jordaan and has since been modernized; today...Read More

  • 17. The Web

    Centrum | Bars/Pubs

    Leather, piercings, and tattoos predominate, but meeting one's soul mate at this cruise bar is not out of the question. There's a downstairs...Read More

  • 18. Vive-la-Vie

    Rembrandtplein | Bars/Pubs

    For more than three decades, pretty women have been vying for space in these petite quarters on the edge of Rembrandtplein. Today this cozy...Read More

  • 19. Garbo

    Dance Clubs

    This women-only dance night for lesbians and bisexuals takes place every fourth Saturday of the month at different locations around the city. ...Read More

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