Amsterdam nightlife is a 24 hour (scratch that, 48 hour) experience, and Rembrandtplein is right at the centre of it. This huge square and hive of activity is packed full in the day, and even busier at night – home to the city’s most famous bars, restaurants and terraces. It’s only a 15 minute walk from Centraal Station itself, but it’s a world away from the red lights and windows. It’s a lot swankier than any other nightlife district in the capital, and even spills out into the actual square during summer. Wicker furniture and alfresco drinkers fill the street, and enjoy that famous ‘café culture’…
Air Amsterdam is what this city was built on; a house/dance club that is slick, state-of-the-art and has seen the world’s best DJs. Tiesto, Skrillex, Damian Lazarus and the Martinez Brothers have all played in the colossal split-level club, with a capacity of 1,300. Similarly, Escape is one of the biggest clubs to sit on these mean streets. Spread over five different areas – it doesn’t compromise on size. In fact, it’s a challenge to ‘escape’ the Escape Club and main hall and Escape deLux – a club in a club on the first floor (and real life inception). That’s before getting through the Escape Studio and Escape Caffe next door… Once you’ve ‘broken free’, it’s time for Club Smokey… a huge venue dedicated to club nights throughout the week. And, this is what we mean by experience – every Monday night you’ve got Smokey Vibes, as well as midweek specials and Fasten Your Seatbelts at the weekend.
The city of culture, canals and cobbles has a suave side to it, and there’s no venue more upmarket than Club ABE. Set in a former bank and even named after the fella that used to run it, Abraham Carel Wertheim, ABE is different to every other club in the Netherlands. The bar thinks like a bank, but with booze. You enter through a gold staircase, passing 19th century paintings, with huge vault doors to the club or lounge – modified with gold leaf. If that’s not a big enough stretch of the imagination (you’re hard to please), chill out in the XtraCold Ice Bar. Survive the hardship of the extreme cold and make like an Inuit (a sentence we never thought we would say) amongst 60 ton of natural ice. For those missing a slice of home (or bitter), Mulligan’s Irish Bar is calling. Whilst there may be more Guinness flowing in Amsterdam than you would believe, Mulligan’s is one of the originals – boasting drinks with ex-pats and open music sessions for your stag do.
Leidseplein leads you into hipster and alternative territory in Amsterdam. It’s underground, urban and edgy – particularly in comparison to its older brother, Rembrandtplein. There’s no difference in crowds day and night, as it’s a huge tourist centre and practically lined with ‘coffee shops’ for that sweet Mary J, restaurants and bars. The square and surrounding clubs are typically open past 5am – just in time for that emergency Full English.
Melkweg is the biggest name in the city, even bigger than Red Light District. In fact, it’s one of the most famous venues in Europe. The former milk factory, so named after the Milky Way (not dairy), is a sprawling building, set over five rooms. As well as a nightclub and live music venue, it also hosts film events and theatrical performance, as well as a café at the back (a running theme in Amsterdam). This is where you reminisce over those 18-30 holidays to Ibiza, with the likes of Tiesto playing in the background. On the other side of the road, Paradiso sits confident as a massive club with a huge history. Established in a former church, this club has seen squatters in the 60s, the rock and punk music takeover, as well as The Rolling Stones, Adele, The Killers, Nirvana, Arctic Monkeys, Daft Punk and Guns ‘n’ Roses. Sugar Factory may be smaller than its big and bold cousins, but it’s got a personality that packs a serious punch. The less obvious gem is all about performance and art, with the occasional trapeze artist flying over the crowd. It’s like Moulin Rouge has gone on a stag do and got smashed… Moving underground, Club Up is the unpolished, rough, urban and edgy destination of the young crowd (and you lot). Its attraction is in its unpretentiousness, but it also plays top house, hip hop, funk and commercial, all alongside a comfy mezzanine for that all-important rest (you’re not getting any younger). Lastly, but by no means least, you’ve got Jimmy Woo (the challenge is not to be offensive after a few drinks…). This is one of the only clubs in Amsterdam with international allure – a luxurious club that is known to keep the guestlist for only the most stylish. Every night is unique at Woo, and it can hold a massive 650 people in tuxes and ball gowns (just kidding…).
De Wallen, also known as the Red Light District, is what you’re really in Amsterdam for. Don’t kid a kidder, lads. This all-encompassing district is the brightest (literally) and most attractive (again, literally) spot in the capital for stags. It’s packed full of women, booze and Rock ‘n’ Roll – it’s, basically, a Sex Pistols video in real life. And, if that doesn’t attract you…
The Red Light District, split into three zones but with De Wallen the most famous, is at the centre of Amsterdam’s infamy – with ‘coffee shops’, theatres and windows (over 290) lining the streets, and is said to make more than €500 million per year. The warren of medieval alleys – originally established for passing sailors – is centred around an old church, aptly-title Oude Kerk (old church). This is where sailors would confess the sins after window shopping… But, enough of history – the atmosphere is buzzing, day and night. The streets may seem a bit of a minefield, but you can find out all about the district at brothel-turned-prostitute museum, Red Light Secrets, boasting eye-watering bondage exhibits. Casa Rosso is a certain stop on your tour – a world-famous, canal-side venue that displays live sex acts before your very eyes. It couldn’t get any more X-rated… unless you visit the Banana Bar. Another of the capital’s big attractions, Banana Bar, recognisable due to the neon banana above the door, is an adult bar with a difference. The difference being the performances with fruit, oils, massages and even vibrators. ‘Coffee shops’ are also high in concentration in De Wallen – you can puff on the sweet Mary J, but tobacco is a strict no. They’ve got those priorities just right.
As a general rule of thumb, be careful when taking pictures in and around the Red Light District – particularly of windows. Enforcers have been known to throw phones, cameras (and, possibly, you) in the water.
As you've decided Amsterdam is for you, have a look at our Amsterdam stag weekends page. Or, you can read up on even more reasons to choose the Dutch capital for your big celebration.