Live Music in Amsterdam

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Kees Lynch
June 2, 2024

Amsterdam is home to a great array of live music, ranging from some of the biggest names in the world to new bands performing for the first time in someone’s basement. As a music lover and musician myself, I frequented this diverse spread of musical performance. Here are some of my best recommendations for seeing live music in Amsterdam.


There are many concert venues that are well established but small, hosting bands that are playing for the first time to some slightly bigger names, but never anything world famous. These are perfect for a night out; the music is (sometimes) of course great, but it’s also a perfect place to get drinks and socialize because there’s not necessarily a pressure to take in the whole performance in its entirety. One of my favorite such venues is Toekomstmuziek (future music), which happens to be a five minute walk from Student Experience Minervahaven. The venue is really cool looking, with a big dance floor, fun lights, and a nice outdoor area. Some Thursdays they have free shows that end fairly early––perfect for a Thursday. Another great bar/concert venue is called De Nieuwe Anita. I only went there once this past year, but it was great when I did. It’s a very cute bar with a downstairs stage area. I saw the Amsterdam-based student band Chrysalis play at both Toekomstmuziek and De Niuewe Anita––for those studying in Amsterdam this summer or next semester, you should seek them out. They make what I would loosely call alternative rock, blending both bluesy and funky elements with heavier and larger shoegaze sounds as well. Bands like Chrysalis thrive at these small, intimate venues.


There are two remaining ends of the spectrum. On one end are the super small, intimate, underground venues––that is, not in a restaurant, bar, or legitimate concert venue. The one I went to the most is called Vondelbunker. Located in Amsterdam’s wonderful Vondelpark (I wrote a blog post about Amsterdam’s green spaces if you’re interested), an abandoned room under one of the bridges in the park has been turned into an anarchist underground venue. There is graffiti all over the walls and the ceiling can’t be higher than 7 feet. It is free of charge and the shows vary wildly in their genre, ranging from death metal to rap, alternative rock (I saw Chrysalis here as well) to dark, spacey electronic music. As it is in a park, there is plenty of space to hang out outside; because it gets so hot in the bunker, everyone flocks outside in between sets to cool off and prepare for the next band. There are several other sort underground venues, as there is a culture of squatting in abandoned buildings in Amsterdam and turning them into community spaces.


The other end of the spectrum consists of the venues that show bigger bands. My favorite, and an Amsterdam staple, is Paradiso. Located on Leidseplein, Paradiso was a favorite of my mom’s when she lived in Amsterdam in the 90s. Some of the biggest artists in the world there, and many up-and-coming artists still sell the venue out. I saw a great alt-rock/country band called Wednesday at a two-day long festival, and I recently say the emo rapper Lil Tracy. Paradiso also hosts club nights––one of my favorite moments in Amsterdam was going to Paradiso’s 80s themed night and dancing with old ladies. The main floor is huge, and the building itself is a renovated SOMETHING, so it looks beautiful inside. Paradiso has a second, smaller venue in Amsterdam Noord called Tolhuistuin, which is less glamorous than Paradiso but still a great time––I saw rapper/comedian Zack Fox perform there. 


Lastly––for me at least––there are jazz venues. Live jazz is just perfect. For myself as a jazz pianist, I often find myself closing my eyes and following along with what the musicians are playing. On the other hand, there is no better background music for a night out than some nice jazz. One of my favorite places is Café Alto, also located in Leidseplein. Admission is free before a certain time, which is somewhere around 10 p.m.; after that it’s not more than 10 euros to get in. It is a typical Amsterdam brown bar, meaning that it is very small and completely wooden. It is usually quite hectic trying to squeeze past the people and make it to somewhere where you can see. There are tables that go right up to the stage, and I mean right up to it––the musicians could kiss you on your forehead before playing a solo. It is a great atmosphere and generally great music. There is another jazz club with free admission that allows all the conservatorium students to perform, which is always fun to see. The main jazz venue in Amsterdam is Bimhuis, which also hosts some of the biggest and best jazz artists in the entire world. I would call it the Paradiso of jazz, but Paradiso hosts the Supersonic Jazz Festival several times per year, which also draws in some huge names as well as rising stars.


I’ve only scratched the surface of the live music opportunities in Amsterdam. All it takes is a little searching, both out in the wild perusing the canals as well as searching online or on Instagram. Enjoy! 

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Kees Lynch

Despite being a history major and studying history at the UvA this year, I am a passionate musician. I have been playing piano for over a decade, focusing largely on jazz, but I love to play guitar, banjo, and mandolin in my free time!

2023 Fall
Home University:
Skidmore College
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