LNOF Guide to Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a city that misbehaves, and stag groups have long been enticed by its hedonistic spirit, lack of inhibition, liberal sex scene and legal highs. The infamous Red Light District is a carnival of vice - filled with raucous bars, hazy coffeeshops, outrageous strip shows and astonishing sex museums, as well as the notorious 290 red-lit windows of seductive Sirens waiting to lure you in.
Nevertheless, there is more to the Red Light District than its salaciousness – De Wallen (home of the main red light area) is a warren of medieval alleyways that intersperses erotica with bars, coffeeshops, clubs and performance venues.
There is also more to the nightlife than the Red Light District, and Amsterdam’s nightlife is one of the wildest in Europe - if not the world. Rembrandtplein and Leidseplein, both set in the Southern Canal Ring neighbourhood, are the city’s two premier places to party, with megaclubs and a dance scene that rivals that of Berlin.
In many ways, Amsterdam is a city of two halves, its nocturnal mayhem contrasted by a relaxed personality and a gentle pace. Amsterdam is famously ‘gezellig’ (a Dutch quality that translates as ‘cosy’), and it is often described as ‘a place where time stands still’. The café culture is a major contributor to this cool, calm atmosphere and cafés and bars spill onto the streets, where you can watch the world go by.
However, there are big differences between what we know to be cafés on English turf. Don’t get mixed up between a koffiehuis (espresso bar) and a coffeeshop – you might get a coffee in the latter, but these places are much more about smoking sweet Mary J. Smoking tobacco, on the other hand, is actually illegal indoors in Amsterdam (the Dutch have prioritised well!). Brown Cafés are not cafés, but traditional pubs, named after their nicotine-stained walls – and although they shouldn’t be getting browner these days, new establishments are often decorated to give this lived-in feel.
Many of the Amsterdam stereotypes reign true: Amsterdam is a picture postcard city and there are indeed windmills, flowers, 17th century splendour and bicycles galore – though we imagine that you’re there for more than the tulips and the canal boats. Amsterdam is a place where pure, unadulterated pleasure is the priority – go and join the party.