Music & Nightlife

Discover the best Amsterdam clubs, cabaret and places to see live music

Nightlife

The best nightlife in Amsterdam

From clubbing to classical concerts, pub gigs to mosh pits – get into Amsterdam’s music scene

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The best music venues in Amsterdam

Music

Paradiso

A cornerstone of the Amsterdam scene, this former church is in such high demand that it often hosts several events in one day. The main hall has a rare sense of grandeur, with multiple balconies and stained-glass windows peering down upon the performers. The smaller hall upstairs is a great place to catch new talent before the big time. Both are wonderfully intimate; bands feed off the surroundings, making for some special nights. What's more, the security is surprisingly relaxed: you can often even wander between halls to check out the differing vibes before settling in to watch the show that's best suited to your own tastes.

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Music

Heineken Music Hall

A surprisingly cosy musical arena in the ArenA complex, the Heineken Music Hall regularly plays host to pop, rock and dance acts who are too big for the more central venues. Its modern design lacks character but makes up for it in acoustics. It isn't hard to get up close to your musical heroes.

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Music

Bimhuis

Jazz musicians from far and wide queue up for a chance to grace the stage at the Bimhuis, even after its relatively recent transplant to the Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ complex. The eye-catching building and familiar interior layout has more or less guaranteed the Bimhuis a healthy future; it's no longer a smoky jazz café, but the fantastic music remains.

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Music

Concertgebouw

With its beautiful architecture and clear acoustics, the Concertgebouw is a favourite venue of many of the world's top musicians, and is home to the world famous Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. As you'd expect, the sound in the Grote Zaal (Great Hall) is excellent. The Kleine Zaal (Recital Hall) is perhaps less comfortable, but is the perfect size for chamber groups and soloists. Visiting stars push up the prices, but if you avoid the big names, the concerts are very affordable: the Robeco Summer Concerts (July, Aug) are a particular bargain. For a taster, pop into a free Wednesday-lunchtime concert: they often offer a trimmed-down recital from one of the week's key performances, and sometimes even feature the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra with a guest conductor. Visitors under 27 can arrive 45 minutes before the show to see if there are any remaining seats, which are then sold for €7.50; for information, call 573 0511). For a full night of culture, precede your concert with a meal at the posh, pricey but wonderful Bodega de Keyzer (Van Baerlestraat 96, 675 1866) or Chinese fusion cuisine temple Chang-I (JW Brouwersstraat 7, 470 1700, www.chang-i.nl). Then, after the show, round things off at the unpretentious and convivial brown bar Café Welling (JW Brouwersstraat 32, 662 0155).

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Where to go for cabaret, LGBT and alternative nightlife

Clubs

Bitterzoet

This busy, comfy and casual bar triples as a venue for theatre and music. Both bands and DJs tend to embrace the jazzy, world and urban side of sound, as demonstrated by once-a-monther Crime Jazz: words, poetry and beyond. DJ Maestro has set up camp, sampling Blue Note classics.

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Bars and pubs

Saarein

Never in fashion, so never out of it, this hardy perennial of the lesbian scene is particularly popular at weekends. The women it attracts tend to be slightly older, but young bucks certainly make an appearance. The only lesbian pool table in town resides in the basement.

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Theatre

Meervaart

Its modern architecture and peripheral location do nothing for its ambience, but the Meervaart does offer an interesting mix of cabaret and theatre shows, along with a mish-mash of musical styles.

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Clubs

Club NYX

Gay Street stalwart Club Exit has been reborn as mixed Club NYX, named for the Greek Goddess of the Night. Three floors offer distinct vibes – making liberal use of graffiti, glitter and concrete – and a toilet DJ keeps the party going while you wash your hands at a giant pink phallus.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Bars and pubs

Queen's Head

The Queen’s is a fun and attitude-free gay bar with a similarly minded clientele, plus a great view over a canal at the back. It holds regular special nights, with drag acts and DJs. It also hosts parties on King’s Day, plus bear nights, football nights (during the cup season), Eurovision Song Contest nights and so on.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Amsterdam’s best clubs

Clubs

Jimmy Woo's

Amsterdam has never seen anything quite so luxuriously cosmopolitan as Jimmy Woo's. You, too, can marvel at the lounge area filled with a mixture of modern and antique furniture and then confirm for yourself the merits of its bootylicious light design and sound system. At times, the place looks just like a music video - and that includes musicians and actors. If you have problems getting in, cool off across the street at sister cocktail bar, Suzy Wong (Korte Leidsedwarsstraat 45, 626 6769).

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Clubs

Panama

A steady force in Amsterdam nightlife, former power station turned restaurant/theatre/nightclub Panama overlooks the IJ in one of the city's most booming areas. A deserted strip back in 2000 when it opened, the neighbourhood has now been transformed with high-rise offices, steep rents and a shiny Muziekgebouw. Regular club nights bring the best in national DJs to Panama, while huge international artists such as Tiësto and Armand Van Helden also find their way here.

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Clubs

Odeon

This three-storey, 1662-built venue comes complete with restaurant, cocktail bar, café (with great canal-side terrace), disco and cultural activities. It's hot with the students on Thursdays, and weekends see various local electro DJs. Don't be intimidated by the lush interior, and find a chair with a view during Friday's fabulous cocktail hour.

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Clubs

Winston International

An intimate venue that attracts a mixed crowd with its alternative rock and indie-tronica. Winston's yearly Popprijs gives hope to many student rock bands and entertainment to unsuspecting civilians. Cheeky Mondays bring relief to yet another working week with jungle and drum 'n' bass, while other nights see daily live music from garage and folk to funky hip hop and ska, followed by alternative DJs. When relieving yourself, look out for the enigmatic toilet art gallery.

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Clubs

Church

The more extrovert end of the gay spectrum is well represented by cruising club Church. It has it all plus more: a bar with Greek-style columns, a stage perfect for drag-queen acts, a great sound and light system and various dark, dark chambers... Cheeky theme nights abound.

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Clubs

Nachttheater Sugar Factory

This 'night theatre' has found its niche as a place where performance meets clubbing. Every night brings a show of some kind, be it photos, classical dancers, MCs in various shapes and sizes, or actors mixing with the crowds. Monthly Vreemd ('Weird') nights see surprise acts, DJs stepping beyond the usual genre boundaries and classy decorations. WickedJazzSounds hosts a Sunday evening, and the cutting-edge Electronation brings top acts from the worlds of '80s synthesizer electro to current day minimal techno. Sweet it most certainly is.

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