Famed for its wild nightlife, Amsterdam offers visitors something quite unique when the sun goes down. Offering a mixture of all sorts of entertainment, Amsterdam is sure to have something for everyone, from the coffeeshops and soft drugs, to the clubs and pubs, not to mention the sex trade.
Amsterdam's nightlife wouldn't be what it is today if it weren't for the infamous Red Light District, which serves up its own unique brand of entertainment along the bustling canal-lined streets. Many tourists opt to simply wander through and gawk at the women posing in shop windows and insistent touts without stopping to sample their wares. Those who do this should stick to main streets and beware of pickpockets and other petty criminals. Women should avoid walking through the Red Light District alone at night, though pairs and groups will be fine. Travellers should understand that De Wallen, as the locals call the Red Light District, is a nightlife hub quite apart from the sex trade and it is quite possible to enjoy a night out pub hopping without intending to participate in the sex trade at all.
Amsterdam is also famous for its tolerant stance on marijuana use, which is available in coffeeshops. The shops, often instantly recognizable by their drug-related names, will sell small amounts of weed or hash for personal use, which may be smoked in the shops themselves or at some nightclubs, though officially not in public places. The coffeeshops do not serve alcohol. Tourists should note that the use of marijuana is tolerated, but not strictly legal and caution should be exercised.
Amsterdam has literally thousands of cafes, bars and nightclubs, which means there is something for every taste. A popular way to start the night is in a brown café, where you can unwind from the day with beers, snooker, and live music. Some of the best, centred around the Prinsengracht, have been there since the days of Rembrandt. The mainstream nightlife centres round Leidseplein, where you can find all the most popular bars, restaurants and clubs which, although not as big and flashy as their rivals in London and New York, are still the perfect place to showcase your dance moves. And since Leidseplein never really closes, revellers can literally dance the night away. The weekend starts on Thursday night in Amsterdam so make sure you get enough sleep in preparation for a big weekend. The trendier clubs usually impose a strict dress code; they open at about 10pm and close by law at 4am during the week, while on weekends, clubs close at 5am.
Amsterdam has a thriving gay and lesbian scene, with many clubs clustered along Halvemaansteeg, Reguliersdwarsstraat, and Kerkstraat.
Live music is very popular in Amsterdam and jazz is a favourite with the locals, as many of the world's great jazz legends have settled here. The city offers some fun jazz clubs and you can also catch world-class rock and pop acts in many venues, while bigger concerts take place at the Koninklijk Theater Carré, Heineken Music Hall, and the huge Amsterdam Arena.
For a more cultured night out in Amsterdam, there are a number of highly-regarded orchestras that perform in a number of venues. You can also catch performances by the National Ballet and Netherlands Opera. There are many theatres that perform shows in both English and Dutch, including De Balie, Felix Meritis, Theater Frascati, and the Vondelpark Open-Air Theater.
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