The Complete Guide to Amsterdam Nightlife
Where to find the best Amsterdam bars and clubs…
Leidseplein is one of the most well-known areas for a night out in Amsterdam. Unlike the Red Light District, which is more-or-less an area in which the bars cater solely to tourists, Leidseplein is more mixed. On any given day of the week there is something going on in the area and, although Friday and Saturday are undoubtedly the busiest and most buzzing nights, with clubs like Melkweg offering their ever-popular weekday events such as Cheeky Monday (home of the city’s best Drum and Bass parties) and Techno Tuesdays, Leidseplein is also a week-round location for great parties.
Leidseplein really does have something for everyone and a variety of excellent Amsterdam bars and clubs in close proximity of one another. This famous square has everything from traditional brown cafes like Café De Spuyt or De Krul (offering the perfect place to get a relaxed beer or two) to a great selection of livelier bars like Chupitos (this well-loved bar has more than 150 different shots on offer!) and Amsterdamned (a popular spot throughout the week, with some pretty cheap drinks deals). In addition to a wide variety of bars, Leidseplein is also home to world-famous venues such as Paradiso and the aforementioned Melkweg.
The great thing about Leidseplein is its vibe. The area is one of the few in the city where you can find a mixture of tourists, locals and expats mingling and partying hard together! With such a variety of bars within a five-minute walk of the square, Leidseplein has all the ingredients for a perfect night out in Amsterdam. And if you’re wanting to see as many of these bars as possible, there is even a Leidseplein pub crawl, starting at Candela Bar where, in addition to 30 minutes of unlimited shots, and a free drink in each of the 6 bars, free entry is provided into some of the best Amsterdam bars and clubs!
For those preferring to check out some more local haunts, Cooldown Café and Bubbles on the Lange Leidsedwarsstraat are always popular with young Amsterdammers – think cheap beers and Dutch sing-along pop music. These bars can be a little pickier on entry and understandably want to keep their unique vibe so they are not recommended for big groups of lads or rowdy tourists.
Although the square itself is dotted with numerous bars whose terraces spread across the centre of Leidseplein, these are best described as overpriced tourist traps and the really good bars are all situated just off the square on streets like Lange Leidsedwarsstraat and Korte Leidsedwarsstraat.
The beauty of Leidseplein is that it’s so perfectly located. Although the area’s clubs lack the underground feel of some of the venues located outside of the city centre, it’s popular for a reason – its central location and brilliant bars! If you want to party with a wide mix of people, and you’re looking for a night out in Amsterdam, without travelling out of the centre, Leidseplein is your best bet!
Rembrandtplein, like Leidseplein, is another square in the city which is well known for its nightlife and has a wide selection of great Amsterdam bars and clubs. With big names like Escape, Club Air and Claire, Rembrandtplein is a good place to party in some of the city’s best-known spots. Equally, bars like Coco’s Outback, Club Smokey (with the adjacent Smokey Coffeeshop) and Prime are always popular. The Reguliersdwarsstraat which is home to Amsterdam’s best gay clubs and bars is next to Rembrandtplein, with Club Nyx (check out the club’s ‘3xNyx till 9am’ events if you really want to party!) and Café Exit hosting daily club nights and events.
Red Light District
The Red-Light District is Amsterdam’s most infamous neighbourhood and is home to a range of bars in addition to the iconic red windows and coffee shops that have become synonymous with this part of the city. The Red-Light District is one of the most popular places to go at night in Amsterdam for tourists visiting the city.
Although the majority of bars in the area are slightly seedy tourist traps, there are also some really cool spots in the Red-Light District. Belushi’s (the bar of the popular St Christopher’s Inn Hostel) has some good-value drinks deals and is always a great place to start the night off and meet fellow travellers. For those wanting to watch a bit of sport, Belushi’s has several screens showing the big games and, and just along the Warmoesstraat is Players bar – another popular sports bar, and the starting bar for the Red-Light District Pub Crawl.
Further along the same street you can find Hill Street Blues. This is a really cool little spot with an alternative feel, and one of the few bars in the immediate area with a big crowd of locals. With good music and a chilled-out vibe, this is a graffiti-covered bar where cannabis smoke fills the air and is somewhere you can enjoy a cocktail or local beer alongside your joint – many visitors describe the bar as being what they expected to find in the city, but so rarely do!
For those looking for an old traditional bar, look no further than ‘t Aepjen, a brown café on the Zeedijk – this bar, one of the oldest surviving wooden buildings in the whole city (built in 1546!), has a fascinating history and you really do feel like you’re stepping back in time when you pop in for a drink. This chilled out, traditional and very historic café feels a world away from the boozy stag parties, loud music and sex shops that fill the surrounding streets.
Outside of the city centre…
In recent times, the club scene outside of the city centre has really exploded (largely thanks to the provision of 24-hour licencing to some venues!), with underground techno clubs, like De School or Marktkantine, the squatter village Ruigoord’s monthly full moon raves and weekly parties at Thuishaven on Sundays (these parties are like mini festivals and by far the best option on a Sunday – especially through the warm summer months). If you want to get a real Amsterdam experience and party like the locals do, getting out of the city centre and heading to these venues is a great way to see a different side to the city (and some of the best bars in Amsterdam!) which is often missed by tourists.
Amsterdam Noord (a short ride from Central Station by ferry or by Metro on the Noord-Zuid line) also has a number of brilliant bars and clubs – Shelter is fast becoming one of the best-loved techno clubs and is closer to the centre than other similar options. Noord is also home to a couple of cosy waterside ‘beach bars’ which are perfect for a few drinks on a sunny evening – Roest is a perfect spot for those who don’t have time to head to the coast, but want to feel the sea breeze with a cold drink in hand! Another fantastic waterside bar (offering delicious Surinamese-inspired food in addition to drinks) is Waterkant, located just outside of the city centre and a short walk from Leidseplein. On a sunny day, this bar often becomes the busiest in the city and is popular for good reason, with its laidback vibe and great canal-side view.
For those who are just looking for bars rather than nightclubs south of the River Ij, De Pijp and the Jordaan have some fantastic laidback cafes and bars and both of these areas are well worth checking out. Oud-West is another area with some really cool bars and a strong café culture, with locals sitting out on the terraces which line the canals to enjoy a drink or two. Westerpark is another hotspot, with its selection of bars, cafes and music venues, all nestled in the beautiful surroundings of the park – with the area becoming extremely popular with young professionals and students, the park’s bars and venues always draw a nice crowd.
Our top 5 Amsterdam Nightlife tips!
Enjoy pre-drinks on the cheap
Although happy hours aren’t commonplace in the city, some of the best bars in Amsterdam have become wise to the idea. Coco’s Outback in Rembrandtplein, Waterhole in Leidseplein (home of some great live music) and Belushi’s in the Red-Light District all have long happy hours. For the ultimate pre-drinks experience, however, an Amsterdam booze cruise is definitely the best option. Booking a booze-fuelled Amsterdam boat rental and checking out the city whilst you enjoy unlimited (yes, unlimited!) beer or wine is probably the most cost-efficient option if your group wants to enjoy plenty of drinks and see the city in style.
Ignore Street Dealers
Best avoided, especially in the Red Light District – best case scenario, you waste 50 euros on powder sugar, flour or washing powder – worst case scenario, it’s something more dangerous…
Dress for the occasion
Amsterdam’s dress code varies a lot depending on the club or bar. Although the dress code is generally more casual than many European capitals (particularly London and Paris), in the vast majority of Amsterdam clubs and bars, tracksuit bottoms are an absolute no-no. On the other side of the spectrum, some clubs (particularly those where techno is a main feature such as De School) actively ban button-down shirts – for these places, dressing appropriately for the vibe is essential, and a black t-shirt and jeans is always safe. Be prepared to see plenty of people squeezing into some leather fetish wear – feel free to join them, Amsterdam is all about the freedom to be yourself, but if there’s no room for a leather jock strap in your hand luggage, a black t shirt will be fine. The key is to dress for the club you’re going to – there’s nothing worse than travelling all the way out to a club only to be denied entry for inappropriate dress. This is a particular problem for stag parties who want to go to bigger clubs but the stag is dressed as a giant penis. If you’re on this kind of stag do, your best bet is to join a pub crawl in full regalia (they’re used to it) or do something like a booze cruise in the evening before getting changed and hitting clubs.
Enjoy the drunk food of your dreams!
A few too many beers? Feeling a bit peckish or need to sober up a mate? Amsterdam’s selection of late-night eateries have the answer. They might not be haute-cuisine, but they are just perfect after a night out in Amsterdam! From the famous FEBO (a bizarre but wonderful cultural icon where hot junk food is bought from a sort of giant vending machine) to numerous kebab shops where a local delicacy can be found… the kapsalon! This gloriously unhealthy meal consists of a layer of fries, topped with kebab meat, covered with slices of Gouda cheese and melted in the oven before salad and sauce (garlic and sambal – a spicy condiment from Indonesia!) is added. A large portion can contain up to 1800 calories and, although you won’t find the recipe on the weightwatcher’s website, it is something that everyone should try after enjoying the best of Amsterdam nightlife!
Taxis… Avoid rip-off prices – use public transport or book an Uber!
Taxis in Amsterdam are pretty expensive. And although many are decent, honest people, it is not unusual for tourists in the city to be taken on a roundabout journey through the whole city before being taken to their destination at an extortionate cost. If you take a taxi, make sure they put on the meter, and ask beforehand if they accept card – many drivers will claim that their machine is broken and drive you an extra kilometre to find an ATM to withdraw cash, further increasing the fare.
Wherever you go during your visit to the city, be sure to enjoy the fantastic array of bars and clubs in Amsterdam – a city with a well-deserved reputation as a party capital of Europe. If you need assistance with booking VIP tables or entry for the city’s best clubs, nightlife tours such as pub crawls and rooftop bar tours, or want to get booked onto the best booze cruise in Amsterdam, don’t hesitate to contact us!