Top music venues in Amsterdam

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Matt J Brown guides you through the top music venues in Amsterdam and offers a taste of what's on this month.

You can't beat the atmosphere of a live concert. The roar of the crowd, the chills down your spine, the stomach churning bass frequencies.... In Amsterdam, you can see top-drawer performers in better spaces than many other European cities. Here is a summary of some of the best known music venues in Amsterdam.

The Paradiso - Weteringschans 6-8, 1017 SG Amsterdam -

The lowdown: A converted church that has become the pop temple of the land. Anyone who's anyone has been here since it inherited its current purpose in 1967. It has the main Grote Zaal and the smaller Kleine Zaal upstairs (which used to be the belfry), a starting point for many up and coming acts. Due to the open nature of the venue's halls, a ticket for one band may get you to see two or more in an evening.

Sound quality:  As you may expect in a church, it can be annoyingly 'echoey' at times and the sound engineers sometimes take a few songs before they sort the mush out. Avoid the balconies if you're an audio purist.

Previous performers: Rolling Stones, Nirvana, Coldplay, Joy Division, Arcade Fire, Kraftwerk...if they haven't played the Paradiso, then they are planning to.

Coming up: Noah and the Whale (3/10), The Wombats (17/11), James Blake (22/11)

Venue factoid: Glenn Matlock played his final gig for the Sex Pistols here.


The Melkweg - Lijnbaansgracht 234a , 1017 PH Amsterdam -

The lowdown: A converted dairy which opened its doors in 1970 as a music venue. Since then the Melkweg seems to have bred various halls which today leaves you with the Max, Oude Zaal, a theatre, cinema, café and the new shiny Rabozaal. Like the Paradiso, they use the inexplicable lidmaatschaap (membership) system which is basically a €3.50 surcharge on top of your ticket.

Sound quality: In the Max zaal it's a good, new sound system, but standing at the sides won't do you any favours. The Oude Zaal is small enough for you to be suitably assaulted by the rig. The Rabozaal is acoustically built to make you feel like you're in a giant audio showroom.

Previous performers:  Artic Monkeys, Public Enemy,  The Strokes, Elbow.

Coming up: British Sea Power (5/10), Digitalism (27/10), Wild Beasts (7/11), Elvis Costello (10/11)

Venue factoid:  Cor Schlosser, the director and founder of the Melkweg has just retired after 40 years at the helm.


The Concertgebouw - Concertgebouwplein 10,  1071 LN Amsterdam -

The lowdown: Rated as the one of the best venues in the world for classical music, due to its meticulously considered acoustics and for being the home of the globally esteemed Concertgebouw Orchestra. The stunning, imposing building was opened in 1888 and though some of the ticket prices may give you a seizure, a night out at the Concertgebouw is a true event. Within is a world of manners and protocol that you will rarely see elsewhere.

Sound quality: Like being wrapped in a cotton blanket of sound and being fed aural bonbons.

Previous performances: from Bach to Beethoven, Brahms to Bartok, you'll see it all performed by the likes of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, Netherlands Chamber Orchestra and many other international orchestras.

Coming up: Lang Lang plays Grieg's Pianoconcert with the Concertgebouw Orkest (29/9), The Classical Proms with the Bach Orchestra of the Netherlands (22/10)

Venue factoid: Gustav Mahler was a fairly unknown composer until the Concertgebouw Orchestra supported him by having a festival for his symphonies in 1920. To this day, the Concertgebouw Orchestra in the Concertgebouw is the definitive way to experience Mahler.


Heineken Music Hall - ArenA Boulevard 590, 1101 DS Amsterdam Zuidoost -

The lowdown: With all the aesthetic charm of an over-sized nuclear bunker, the HMH sits right next to the ArenA stadium and bridges the gap for bands who are too big for the traditional city centre-based concert halls but aren't quite ready for the big league stadium gigs. What it may not have in charm, it tries to make up for in concert-going functionality. However, with the queuing to get past security, the queue to put your jacket in the garderobe before you queue to buy the munten that you need to purchase a (Heineken, of course) beer can mean you to miss half of the show before you get there.

Sound quality: As a general purpose music venue, the sound is superb. It may be ugly as hell, but the sonics are heavenly.

Previous performers: Muse, The Gorillaz, Radiohead, The Chemical Brothers.

Coming up: Beady Eye (18/10), The Kaiser Chiefs (9/11), Elbow (14/11), Fleet Foxes (29/11)

Venue factoid: Rather conveniently in a large 5500 capacity venue, you don't have to move from your spot to get a beer. A handy fellow with a beer dispenser strapped to his back wonders throughout the crowd to service your refreshment needs.


Bimhuis - Piet Heinkade 3, 1019 BR Amsterdam -

The lowdown - Amsterdam's finest jazz venue has the appearance of a black box hastily glued to the side of the Muziekgebouw aan't Ij like some type of architectural after-thought.  However, inside you have a beautifully crafted modern venue with great views over the water right behind the stage. Its interior design gives a substantial nod to the original Bimhuis which used to be on the Oude Schans in the centre of town. Though primarily programmed for jazz, you'll find world music, avant garde and other left-field styles of music.

Sound quality: Built in 2005, the current Bimhuis manages to produce an intimate atmosphere and sound in a relaxed, spacious area.

Previous performers: Charles Mingus, Archie Shepp, Cecil Taylor, Pharoah Sanders and Sun Ra.

Coming Up: John Scofield Group (28/9), Teresa Cristina (16/10), Geri Allen and Time Line (30/11)

Venue factoid: Apparently the original Bimhuis was closed due to complaints about the noise from new residents moving into the area.

Bitterzoet - Spuistraat 2, 1012 TS Amsterdam -

The lowdown: A fairly small hall holding a few hundred which always comes with an intimate atmosphere for the wide varying programme.  Everything from hip hop battles to Afrobeat parties, VJ-ing events to poetry readings. The clientele is generally young and on the cool side and often they will be there just because it's the Bitterzoet rather than for what is going on that night.

Sound quality: Can get really loud (which is not a bad thing) and sometimes distorted (never a good thing).

Previous performers: Fink, Miles Kane, Eliza Dolittle, Josh Ritter, Peter, Bjorn and John.

Coming up: Casio Kids (16/11), Portugal The Man (24/11)

Venue factoid: Fun Loving Criminals played an unannounced gig here during a stop in the Netherlands.


Written by Matt J Brown -


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1 Comment To This Article

  • Boudewijn posted:

    on 5th October 2011, 12:03:21 - Reply

    I realise the focus is on the venues but it's worth noting that another disadvantage of HMH and the Bimhuis is that they are miles away from anywhere else worth going to for a pre or post concert drink or meal