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


    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


    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

  • 3. 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

  • 4. 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

  • 5. Amstelhoeck


    Jutting out of the music theater Stopera, this grand café is the perfect point for a pre- or post-performance drink or bar snack with views...Read More

  • 6. Café de Jaren


    This light and airy multilevel café offers reasonably priced food and a lovely terrace overlooking the Amstel. It is popular with a big cross section...Read More

  • 7. Canvas


    Housed in a former newspaper building rechristened the Volkshotel, or People's Hotel, Canvas offers splendid views over the city from its seventh-floor perch. The restaurant...Read More

  • 8. De Prins


    This mainstay along the Prinsengracht is blessed with a canalside patio and a perfect view of the Westerkerk tower and adjacent canal. While a bruincafé...Read More

  • 9. La Tertulia

    Western Canal Ring

    Easily identified by the Vincent van Gogh mural outside, this has been a family business since 1983, and now, a mother-daughter team is in charge....Read More

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