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Beyond the Red Light: Discovering Nightlife in Amsterdam

Molded by juicy stories of the Red Light District, Amsterdam’s reputation for hedonism brings in partygoers from all over the world, but legalized vice is only a narrow sliver of what this bustling city has to offer. The variety of things to do in Amsterdam can provide something for all types. So whether you want somewhere to relax or want to go absolutely wild, this city has mastered both. From 400-year-old traditional Dutch bars rich with local culture to decadent clubs that go all night, this city of canals has opportunities far beyond its stereotypes of sex shows and the infamous red-lit windows.

But before you go get yourself lost along the maze of Amsterdam’s waterways, make sure you read this first. We at Party Earth want to help you discover all that Amsterdam has to offer, so here’s our compilation of essential places to visit during your weekend in the Dutch party capital.

Café Hoppe
One of the city’s many “brown bars” (known for their antiquated wooden decor), Café Hoppe is a historical landmark in its own right, dating all the way back to 1670. Once a popular drinking hole for politicians and thinkers looking to debate current events, the pub continues its reputation for highbrow clientele. This authentic spot is divided into two spaces; the smaller bar attracting quieter conversation while the larger area brings in a lively bunch of young drinkers and people-watchers. Whether it’s history or banter that you’re after, Café Hoppe is one of the best bars in Amsterdam for a beer and a non-stereotypical start to your night.

Transformed from a spectacular 19th century church in the center of the city, Paradiso is arguably one of the best music venues in Amsterdam. This beautiful basilica brings in top bands and artists from around the world so don’t miss out on a once in a lifetime musical experience. Imagine rocking out in an old cathedral with thousands of fans while the flashing lights reflect off the ancient stained glass; it’s one of the most unique venues in Amsterdam. And after the last encore Paradiso turns into an all-night club with dancing and drinking that will leave the most energetic partiers satisfied.

Wynand Fockink
To prepare for your next exciting night on the town, head to another authentic Dutch establishment dating back to the 17th century, Wynand Fockink. Located in Dam Square, this old liqueur distillery brings a totally unique take on drinking. This bar specializes in the Dutch tradition of leaning over and drinking shots with no hands, rather than lifting them up off the table. Extensive arrays of liqueur are available, from sweet to bitter and light to strong, and the bartenders are always happy to help new patrons embark on the fun with some expert advice. So order up a few shots of fine liqueur, prepare to spill your glass at least once, and get ready to drink like a Dutchman.

Hotel Arena
The last night in every traveler’s destination should end with a bang and Hotel Arena is Amsterdam’s smoking gun. It’s a massive nightclub that, much like Paradiso, is housed in what was once a beautiful chapel. Tall Renaissance murals are still painted on the cavernous semi-circular dome. The chapel’s nave has been transformed into a massive dance floor with archways and marble pillars running down both sides. With multiple bars, floors, and A-list DJs, you can jump into the sweaty madness of beautiful dancers, people-watch from the second story balconies, or head to the cozy dance space on the upper level. Superstitious folks should be careful, because Hotel Arena is one of the craziest clubs in Amsterdam with a reputation for rowdiness that quickly becomes a den of sin – at least they took out the confession booths.

By Party Earth