I spent 3 months in Amsterdam working for Party with a Local in October 2015 – January 2016. During this time, I checked out 13 dance music clubs – still only the tip of the iceberg in the electronic dance music capital of Amsterdam! Amsterdam’s night scene is bustling with a wide range of styles of electronic dance music and the Dutchies are some of my favorite people to party with. This post is about the clubs I visited as well as tips for clubbing in the beautiful city of Amsterdam.
How to Find Cool Parties
Clubs in Amsterdam generally do not stick with one genre of music; most will host different types of parties on different nights. I rely on Partyflock every weekend to find the hottest dance music parties in town. Not only does it contain a comprehensive list of events, I love that it also tells you the genre of music in the club that night. As someone who values the specific genre of music over the artist names (I don’t necessarily know the names of the artists and am always down to explore new music), it’s a tremendously useful feature! Partyflock also tells you the estimated number of people attending and links to tickets & Facebook event pages. You can even find events by genre (i.e. Hardstyle parties). Sometimes they even have guestlist raffles. Partyflock works all over the Netherlands.
If you truly want to Party like a local in Amsterdam, then there’s no other way to get to and from the club than on a bike. Doesn’t matter if it’s raining, windy, cold, or just far away, the Dutch way is always by bike. You’ll always see a stack of bicycles outside of clubs on weekend nights! For those that don’t have a bike, you can hop on the back of your friend’s bike. If you’re too drunk, you should probably take a taxi home and come back for your bike tomorrow, unless you want end up in a canal!
I’ll have to say that Dutchies are some of my favorite people to party with. They certainly know how to party and love talking to strangers. At the same time, the men do not hit on women aggressively; and male friends have reported that women actually actively talk to men. The Dutch are fun can party all night and you’ll find that clubs are usually still packed at closing time (normally 5am).
The worst thing about partying in the Netherlands is probably the token system. You often have to buy “tokens” for alcohol. Not only does this mean that you have to line up twice to make purchases, you’re also often left with leftover tokens that you can’t exchange for cash. Usually, 10 euros buys you around 3.5 tokens, and a beer is worth 1 token (~3 euros). A mixed drink is usually worth 2.5 or 3 tokens. Many parties don’t even serve shots of hard liquor; mixed drinks only. Sometimes you even got to pay to go to the bathroom. Tokens are probably the worst thing about clubbing in NL.
Venues to Check Out
If you ask me to give you the name of my favorite club in Amsterdam, I’d have to think pretty hard before giving you an answer – they’re all so different!
If I had to choose, my favorite venues / parties would be: Warehouse Elementenstraat, Thuishaven, Radion, Marktkantine, and Paradiso.
I find that the style of clubs in Amsterdam seem to differ by the region they’re in: West, North, Central, or East. I’d say my favorites are clubs in the West and North – read on to find out why.
West clubs tend to have alternative vibes. I’d say that clubs in the West are more my style!
- Warehouse Elementenstraat – This warehouse only hosts parties (festivals, rather) a couple times in a year, but I love the venue! Very eclectic, one of the coolest venues in the city. I went the Welcome to the Future festival; there were 3 stages/rooms. It is at an old factory/warehouse and the decor is really interesting. There was a wooden hut/treehouse. One of the rooms was covered with wooden crates. Another had like a jungle in front of the stage. The smallest stage had laser beams on crack. Check it out if you have the chance.
- Thuishaven – This is a daytime party (from 1pm-11pm), happening every Sunday. It’s a circus-themed techno party that brings in the best DJs in techno, rain or shine. Serious music, hippie vibes, popular party. There’s even an arts and crafts table for people to make little party trinkets or paint their faces. A must-go for those who like underground parties.
- Radion – a good 20-30 minute bike ride out southwest, into the proper suburbs of Amsterdam. Went there on Halloween night.
- Marktkantine – Large club with two dance floors. Underground vibes. Climb up behind the DJ in the main room and you will have a cool view of the crowd, you can also find a secret lounge up top!
- The Box – Large club out West. Went to a Chuckie (mainstream EDM) and Trance party out here. Crowd was odd for Amsterdam – people came dressed up in short skirts and heels both times I was there. For the Chuckie party there was a large Dutch black population (maybe because Chuckie is black)? And for the trance party the people were OLD – as in 40+… No idea why. Even though it is big, the stages are quite tacky and the club is really basic (and you have to pay to pee). One of my least favorite venues in Amsterdam. Avoid.
- Gashoulder. I went for the famed Awakenings party on New Years day, with Len Faki, who is one of my techno heroes. I’m not a fan of the venue though. The set up is nothing special (a stage in a big dome), and really too hot! One thing that was cool was that for this party, there were massage tables set up.
Some of the most long-standing names of Amsterdam nightlife are in the city center, though I am not a big fan of these clubs, as they tend to be more packed and more commercial.
- Paradiso – Paradiso is a famous live music venue in Amsterdam. I went there during Amsterdam Dance Event, to a party by Oliver Heldens, the man of year who popularized “future house”. They were supported by Chocolate Puma, who’s one of my favorite house DJs. It is a large theater, so it has a large pit (without the chairs) and spectator areas on the second floor. There’s also a second stage on the second floor. A recommended venue to check out.
- Melkweg – Melkweg is another famous live music venue. It has two main rooms and is quite spacious. Unfortunately, I went on a drum & bass night and the crowd was really young (like in their teens) and belligerent (mosh pits all night long). Not to mention there was an hour-long line even though everyone had purchased tickets online. I wouldn’t blame Melkweg for having a bad night, I think it was the particular genre & crowd it attracted. Melkweg hosts a diverse lineup of artists, anywhere from house to hardstyle, so you should definitely check out what’s on before you go.
- Chicago Social Club – in a great location by Leidesplein, next to the heavyweights of Paradiso and Melkweg. It usually has techno or disco house on, and is quite a small club. I’d pick other clubs over this one, it’s nothing special!
- AIR – AIR is also a well-known Amsterdam club. Music here errs more towards the commercial side. I went for a “trap” night, but the music turned out to be more hip-hop. It’s the type of club with a “posher” decor, the only upscale club that I’ve been to in Amsterdam, in fact.
- Studio 80 (closed) – Another famous name in Amsterdam nightlife, always playing underground music, with a Berlin-esque door policy (bouncer asks you if you know who’s on tonight and asks you to leave if you say the wrong thing!). As of January 2016 it’s been shut down. One cool thing about the club is that it has an absinthe bar between the male and female bathrooms – love random little things like this in clubs!
The Nord region of Amsterdam can be reached by a short, free boat ride from Amsterdam Centraal train station. Due to the problem of lack of housing and rising prices in the city of Amsterdam, the government is trying to develop the North region, across the river, into a new residential and cultural area. In this area, there are some very alternative and cool clubs. The best way to reach these clubs is by boat, and it’s best if you have your bike with you. If you haven’t been to Amsterdam Nord, it’s worth visiting one of these clubs just to check it out!
- Undercurrent – A club with two rooms, and an outside area on top of the river. Probably really nice in the summer, but hella cold in the winter!
- Dhoem Daam – Warehouse club in Nord, I went for a trance party there. It has one big main room, and a smaller room that I did not visit as it was the second stage/smoking area. Not a bad venue!
- NDSM Warehouse – A bare-bones kind of warehouse club. I went for a techno party here. Worth visiting!
I admittedly haven’t partied much in the East side, and the two venues here listed are not clubs.
- Ziggo Dome – A huge stadium / event space that hosts the biggest parties in Amsterdam. I went here for Freaqshow, a hardstyle New Years Eve event. There was FREE COAT CHECK!! In my years of party stomping, I’ve never seen that before! It’s also really well-ventilated, despite being among thousands of bodies I was never once hot. The bleachers area was a really nice space to be able to sit and take a breather, while admiring the stage effects. The sound system was great throughout the venue. If you like large events, I highly recommend seeing a show at the Ziggo Dome!
- Amsterdam Studios – I went here for the Verknipt party, which was a techno party in a compound with 3 warehouses/stages. The vibe was minimal and cool. A great party at a great venue.
To summarize, there are a bunch of great parties and venues for all types of tastes in Amsterdam. If you’re serious about dance music, it’s definitely worth spending a couple weeks in Amsterdam exploring the nightlife scene! You will not be disappointed!
To read about festivals in the Netherlands and life in Holland in general, click here.