Amsterdam's Pubs, Clubs & Brown Cafes
The Leidseplein, Rembrandtsplein & More
It's always a party in Amsterdam, IF you know where to find the best bars.
Going out in Amsterdam can be a 24-hour experience. Which, of course, is a big part of its party attraction.
PubClub.com has it all right here, so read all about all the party possibilities Amsterdam has to offer:
Beer prices are 3-5 Euros in the pubs (the beers are small, what PubClub refers to as "tiny Hineys"), and more expensive in the clubs.
To get started, here's where you can find the action in Amsterdam:
• Happy Hour
• The University
• The Leidseplein
• The Rembrandtsplein
• After Hours and Private Parties
Queen's Day – Amsterdam's Biggest Party
People party on boats in the canals for Queen's Day. Photo: Amsterdam.com
The best time to party in Amsterdam is for Queen's Day. Nearly a million people fll the city,partying boat will the canals and DJs play in the city's squares and there's live music in the streets.
It goes all day and is the same day every year, April 30. Be sure and wear orange!
After work and Sunday afternoons, Cafe Luxenbourg is where the locals party.
If there is one thing the Dutch enjoy, it's discussing the day's activities over a drink. Feel free to join them, although your day may have only consisted of taking in a museum or recovering from yesterday's hangover.
The happy hour hangout is in the Spui. Its landmark is one of the best bars in town, regardless of the time of day, Cafe Luxembourg. A perfect example of the Dutch "brown cafe," where years of smoke have turned the walls brown, Cafe Luxembourg has a crowded patio, a long dogleg bar and tables with Dutch newspapers for the culturally inclined. Sunday afternoons, it's THE place to be in town. You can also bookmark Luxembourg for a good meal.
One block up Spuistraat is a newer bar (with a newer clientele) called Dante's (below photo). It attracts a younger professional crowd which packs around the bar by the door. Down a small set of stairs is a quieter bar and a restaurant offering quality eats.
Dante's attracts a young, hip happy hour crowd.
The unchallenged Kaiser of the Spui is the Hoppe. It's the oldest bar in town, which in this place is really saying something. The crowd is a mix of young, old and older, all mixing it up with lively conversation.
Yes, Virginia, there is a university in Amsterdam. It is located adjacent to the Spui and has a couple of bars good for hanging out with foreign students.
After dark, most students head to the Leidseplein or the Jordaan area. The Jordaan is a quiet, residential area with a few bars where locals tend to stick to themselves. Tourists are not exactly discouraged, but are rarely welcomed with open arms in the pubs. The situation is different in the clubs (for more on the Jordaan, see the After Hours And Private Parties section).
PubClub bonds behind the bar in an Amsterdam spot in the Leidseplein.
If all the coffeeshops and space cakes have dulled your senses, the Leidseplein will bring them back to life, perhaps even send them into overdrive.
This section of town, which consists of a town square fed by a pair of main streets, is lined with pubs, clubs, restaurants and street entertainers. On a sunny afternoon, cafe tables pack the area; at night, people fill the role. In the summer, youthful and eager tourists flock here like pigeons.
So, if you wanna flock in Amsterdam, this is the place.
On the corner is an imposing-looking four-level British-style pub which is worth a visit just to take a tour of the place. But the real action occurs elsewhere. One of those places is Le Berry. It's hit-or-miss with the crowd, but when it's on, it's as good as any place in town. Le Berry serves beer in large, frothy mugs in addition to the tiny Hineys and during happy hour (4-9 p.m.) they are 2-for-1.
The aroma of Amsterdam can be enjoyed at The Bulldog coffeeshop, which sits prominently in the square. It's a better hangout than its cousin in the Red Light District because it attracts a more hip crowd. There's a bar next to the coffeshop which makes it convenient to go back and forth between the two.
Around the corner from The Bulldog, just past the movie theater, are two small pubs. One is almost always empty and is hardly worth noting. The other treats every day like it's Bastille Day. In fac, that's its name! Cafe Bastille is wildly popular among locals and is packed six days a week (Monday is the only day you can see the walls in the place). Be sure to arrive before 10 and find a good place to perch.
Cafe Bastille isn't empty for long, for locals pour into the place after 10.
Soon it will be elbow-to-elbow, with people seemingly stacked in rows from the bar to the wall. It's also one of the few popular pubs in town with no doorman. Our photo of is of a nearly empty Cafe Bastille for two reasons: One, we wanted to show what the inside of the place actually looks like and two, it was so crowded later in the evening that we couldn't find the elbow room to even snap a picture.
For a pleasant surprise, go around the corner to Cafe Surprise. It is loaded with young Dutch singles, but gaining entrance takes a bit of resourcefulness. To sneak past the two doormen – yes, it has two – arrive before they do, maybe an hour after the pub opens. Once inside, you are treated like a Kaiser. When you leave, tip the doorman two Euros instead of one so he is sure to remember you. On Sunday nights the place is absolutely SRO.
After hours, go across the street from Café Surprise to the Café Lang Leve de Lol to party to until the next morning. If you feel like rolling the dice with the nightlife, the Holland Casino offers American and French roulette, blackjack and other games of chance. It is one of Europe's largest casinos and caters to the well-dressed, proper crowd. There is a cover charge and no sneakers are allowed.
Out and happy to be out in a bar in the Rembrandstplein.
The Rembrandtsplein is surrounded by cafes that turn into fun bars by dark.
With the exceptions of Bastille, Surprise and the Jordaan area, when locals want to go out (which is often), they head to the Rembrandtsplein.
There are so many bars here, you will fall down dizzy if you try to notice them all.
It's best to begin your journey down the side streets. Just around the corner from the center area is Peter Beense and Cafe Bolle Jan on Korte Reguliersdwarsstraat. Peter Beense has the most intimidating-looking doorman in town but he's really a teddy bear. Inside is a lively young crowd. Peter Beense is typical of the small and cozy, yet rowdy, pubs around the Rembrandtsplein.
If you've arrived too late to get in one of these excellent but tiny local pubs, try the t'Pandje next door. It's not as busy and has a great staff and an accommodating doorman.
One street over (Reguliersbreestraat) Cafe Popular has no doorman but does have a local singer for entertainment. It is known for its rowdy, middle-aged crowd of regular customers. Many locals start here before heading elsewhere in the plein.
Three Sisters is an elegant cafe and bar for trendsetters.
Down another side street, the Bayside Beach Club brings a taste of the beach to the city. Its inviting atmosphere attracts a young, good-looking crowd and is better later in the evening. For those who want to be a little light in the loafers instead of in sandals, there are gay bars on both sides and across the alley.
Most of the post-midnight action is centered around the center of the plein. At Hof Van Holland, (a favorite of Mr. Amsterdam, by the way), locals sing out Dutch songs and elbow visitors until they, too, join in. Next door used to be a great place, Cafe Monaco but it's no longer there, darn it!
More upscale crowds can be found at the Ritz and 3 Sisters.
If you are still standing when these places close, follow the after-hours crowd to Jantjes V down one of the main street entrances to the plein. Be sure and befriend a local either as you leave one bar or on your way to this one, as it will considerably increase your chances for entry. Bribing the doorman works occasionally.
With all these choices, pub-hopping is a ritual, so be sure the doormen get to know your face.
Dance clubs in Amsterdam are loud, wild and huge. They don't open until midnight but stay open until 6 in the morning.
The most famous – indeed, perhaps the most renowned in all of Europe – is called iT! Located in the heart of the Rembrandtsplein, it has everything from the class of society to drag queens and bisexual Dutch girls with their good-looking male escorts. If the later is what you are seeking, go Saturday night. Its entrance policy, once nearly impossible to penetrate, is now almost open-door.
You may not even make it to iT because Sinners In Heaven practically blocks the entrance. The owner is the former boyfriend of Dutch TV star Leontine Ruiters. It's where the soccer stars go when they are in town and other celeb types. Thursdays are Hip-Hop nights. To get in, go early and dress well.
Wagenstraat 3-7 (630-13-75)
Time is Amsterdam's newest nightclub and is best on Sunday nights.
Club Melkweg is a former Hippie hangout that, while it still hosts the Cannibus Cup in November, is one of Amsterdam's most popular clubs. It stays on top of world music trends and attracts a mixed, fairly young crowd. A multi-functional facility, it also has a bar, restaurant, movies and top bands during the week.
Lijnbaansgracht 234 (531 81 81)
Arena is a hard-to-get-into club. Also a budget hotel and a restaurant, it's a bit out of town but hosts hot music groups and clubs nights on Saturdays.
S. Gravesandestraat 51 (850 24 20)
Mazzo is a small club with a relaxed door attitude with an" older" club crowd.
Rozengracht 14 (626 75 00)
For live music, Aknathon is has world music on weekends - African, Latin, etc. This is where people who spent their afternoons in the the coffee shops go at night.
Nieuwezijds Kolk 25 (624 33 96)
After Hours and Private Parties
Amsterdam has a thriving "special" party scene where you can dance until noon. Being "special," however, doesn't come cheap. Cover charges usually start at fl25 and can go up to, well, they name the price (so far, fl75 has the record for a remake of New York's Studio 54. The standard rate for the "in-crowd" parties is fl35-50).
On the plus side, these events attract crowds in the hundreds to thousands, so you won't be drinking alone.
A few clubs, such as Escape, are used for these bashes. For information and to buy tickets, visit Outland Records (Zeedijk 22) or Club Wear House (Herengracht 265). Lately, the normally placid Jordaan area has become a haven for the party/rave scene; look for flyers posted by the progressive music organization Circus Hoffman.