10 of the best gig venues in Amsterdam (2023)


This former church first became a music venue when it was squatted by hippies in the 60s, and it remains one of the city's most memorable and busiest venues for rock, pop and beyond. The main hall, with a capacity of 1,500, has a sense of grandeur, with stained-glass windows behind the band and two balconies overlooking the masses on the floor. Whether it's Brian Wilson on the stage or Queens of the Stone Age, you'll always feel close to the action, and if there is any remaining flower-power vibe it's that anyone can grab a spot in the front row or take any pew on the balcony. A smaller room upstairs hosts independents and breakthrough talents.
Weteringschans 6-8, +31 20 626 4521, paradiso.nl


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Three decades after this jazz venue was established by a group of musicians in a smoky former furniture salesroom by a canal, it moved into a cutting-edge custom-built hall jutting from the side of the Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ building. Bimhuis is not only the top jazz venue in Amsterdam, but it's also regarded by professionals as one of the best music rooms in the world. A brilliant live space – intimate (holding just 375), comfortable and acoustically perfect. These days the calendar is suitably diverse, mixing up local improvisation maestros such as drummer Han Bennink and pianist Misha Mengelberg, and international stars such as Marc Ribot and Joshua Redman, touching on every aspect of the jazz repertoire on the way.
Piet Heinkade 3, +31 20 788 2150, bimhuis.com

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Maloe Melo

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This family-run blues bar is internationally renowned, which is impressive for what is essentially a narrow, beer-stained cavern on the ground floor of an unassuming canal-side property. As you'd expect, the atmosphere is thick in this bar, which has welcomed everyone from Joe Cocker to the Blasters over the decades. Pictures of blues icons who have graced the stage still hang on the walls, but these days you're more likely to come across a roster of minor touring acts from the US and Europe, the dirtier side of the international rockabilly scene, rootsy singer-songwriters and punk poets.
Lijnbaansgracht 163, +31 20 420 4592, maloemelo.com


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This centrally-located cultural centre houses not only two concert halls (one holding 1,500, the other 700), but also a cinema, a cafe, an upstairs theatre, a photography gallery and a recently built, rather swanky hall that's used in collaboration with the adjacent Stadsschouwburg theatre. You'd be wrong to think of Melkweg as a multiplex, though – the black-walled concert halls still retain the rock'n'roll, beer-in-plastic-cups charm they acquired when the venue, then a disused dairy factory, was taken over in 1970 by a theatre collective to quickly become a centre of European hippydom. Rock, hip-hop and reggae are staples, but anything goes – its stages have seen everyone from Wu-Tang through the Libertines to the Prodigy.
Lijnbaansgracht 234a, +31 20 531 8181, melkweg.nl

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Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ

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When it opened in 2005, this riverside concert hall promised futuristic solutions to classical music performance, and it has lived up to the hype. Home to Amsterdam's top contemporary classical ensembles, it also hosts touring orchestras who specialise in the sounds of today, and international festivals dedicated to the likes of Reich and Stockhausen. The main hall is ultimately flexible: every detail can be altered for specific seating, acoustic and lighting requirements. The venue also welcomes non-classical guests, so long as they bring a twist to proceedings. In 2010, Faith No More's Mike Patton gave a blood vessel-bursting performance alongside Dutch jazz greats and a chamber choir, while this year the twins from The National recreated the Long Count, their multimedia-meets-classical-meets-rock opera.
Piet Heinkade 1, +31 20 788 2000, muziekgebouw.nl

De Nieuwe Anita

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A lounge scattered with secondhand armchairs and grandma's lamps plays second home to a hip (but friendly) crowd who buy their bottled beer at a round, low bar that sometimes doubles as a makeshift stage for some of the quieter shows. Walk through a door disguised as a bookshelf and you'll find yourself on a mezzanine looking down on the main stage. This is a place for small-scale gigs by local bands as well as international alternative greats such as Whiskey Rabbi Geoff Berner with his punk klezmer, or the lo-fi charm of Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti. On a Tuesday night you can even get a haircut while a band plays.
Frederik Hendrikstraat 111, denieuweanita.nl

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While many music rooms in Amsterdam reflect squat culture, few are still so openly squat-minded as this legalised art and noise complex at the end of Vondelpark. Besides the recently refurbished gig room (finally bringing the stage, sound system and toilets up to scratch), there are rehearsal studios, a children's theatre, a vegan cafe and a squatter library. Its programming is eclectic, playing host to the underground of the underground. Think queer punk nights, hardcore, glitchcore, new wave, experimental hip-hop, art rock and obscure jazz freak-out. Better-known outsiders such as Melt-Banana, Scout Niblett and the Sun Ra Arkestra occasionally pack the place out, but pick any of the old-school photocopied posters on the wall to find an interesting time.
Amstelveenseweg 134, +31 20 671 7778, occii.org


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Housed in a grand neo-renaissance building overlooking Oosterpark in the east of the city, the Tropentheater is the performance arm of the Tropeninstituut (Royal Tropical Institute), which also houses a large museum and research quarters dedicated to Dutch colonialism. Unsurprisingly, the programming remit of the theatre is music of international origin, with particular focus on artists from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Its two halls cater perfectly to such diversity, be it the delicate kora sounds of Mali's Toumani Diabaté or the rowdy Inner Mongolian folk punk of Hanggai. Shows are seated, however, so don't expect a dance-inducing atmosphere. At least not until the globally-infused after-party kicks in.
Mauritskade 63, +31 20 568 8500, tropentheater.nl

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Over the waters of the river IJ via a short (and free) ferry ride from Central Station, lies the best example of how to deal with the endless renovations, building sites and postponed reopening deadlines that have plagued Amsterdam in recent years. Tolhuistuin is a beautiful garden that plays host to gigs and other events throughout the summer. Situated around the former offices of the Amsterdam branch of Shell, the area is being regenerated as a grand cultural centre with a concert hall and two theatres. But for now, it's all about labyrinthine pathways, centuries-old trees, a bar, food stalls and a stage fit for both dreamy folk pop by Angus & Julia Stone and Destroyer's genre-shifting indie – plus a dancefloor in the evening sun!
Tolhuisweg 2, +31 20 486 2635, tolhuistuin.nl

Delicatessen Zeeburg

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Situated in a mellow multicultural residential street in the east of Amsterdam, this subtle little room is full of surprises. In the daytime it's a store and art gallery, barely attempting to sell its wares, including seven-inch singles, clothing, books and local art. By night the shop transforms into a charming, intimate space (capacity for 40-70) for acoustic performance and experimentation, serving cheap veggie food and even cheaper beer; its cosy tables-and-chairs layout surrounded by ever-changing rounds of art. Admittedly it's not as rock'n'roll as its owner Bas Jacobs, a musician and writer who has been active in the Amsterdam indie scene for a decade longer than he'd care to advertise. But it boasts exclusive programming of eclectic local and touring acts such as psych-pop songwriter Connan Mockasin (who spent an evening painting T-shirts here) and the Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra.
Sumatrastraat 32, 1094 ND, +31 6 41 813 490, delicatessenzeeburg.com



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