Nightlife in Amsterdam

Vice City

Words: Andreas Rottenschlager 
Photography: Dennis Branko

Club-hopping by bike, ritzy strip shows, live music in former churches, and a mayor determined to keep the party going… Clubland photographer Dennis Branko gives us his 10 tips for the perfect night out in the Dutch capital.

1. NIGHTLIFE LIKE NOWHERE ELSE

“Welcome to the city where you can be whoever you want to be. Amsterdam likes to celebrate its tolerance – that much I can tell you after 11 years as a nightlife photographer. It doesn’t matter if you’re a hip-hop kid, a punk or a tourist, whether you’re gay, straight or dressed ludicrously, you’re going to have fun in the 1,500-or-so clubs and bars that the city has to offer. Dress code is a foreign concept. The crowd comes from all over the world. And quite aside from the liberal drugs policy and the world-famous Red Light District, you can also rely on help from our Night Time Mayor, Mirik Milan. Yes, you read that right: in Amsterdam, there’s a Night Time Mayor to represent the interests of club owners. One of the things Milan fights for is your right to party longer into the night. So you want to stay out till 7am? No problem.”

amsterdam.info 

2. PARADISO: A MUST-SEE WHEN YOU’RE IN THE DUTCH CAPITAL 

“If you haven’t been to Paradiso, you don’t know Amsterdam. The club is near Leidseplein, a square in the city centre. It was a church until 1968 and then became a bastion of counterculture. The Sex Pistols and The Rolling Stones have played there. Hippies have smoked pot there. Now you can discover two scenes jostling for space on a single night at Paradiso: from 9pm, there are live acts, then at midnight the first DJs get going.
I recommend any set by Yellow Claw, whose dubstep tracks have had a huge impact on the sound of the city.”

paradiso.nl

Nightlife in Amsterdam

Dancing in Amsterdam: “Women here hate show-offs.”

3. WIN OVER AMSTERDAM’S WOMEN ON YOUR BIKE

“The women of Amsterdam hate show-offs. You’ll get further if you’ve got an exciting story to tell than if you try to be flash with your fast car. And as the bouncers usually let more women than men into the clubs, you’ll have several chances to try your luck. My tip is to make the most of your exoticism as a tourist and tell them something about your hometown. You should also hire a bike – it’s the classic way to get around Amsterdam at night. That way, you can chauffeur your belle to the next club at 3am. The police will only stop you if your light’s broken, so check your bike before you get going.”

rentabike.nl 

Nightlife in Amsterdam

Clubgoers at Jimmy Woo: “There’s no such thing as a dress code. Just be whoever you want to be.”

 4. A L’ELEPHANT: GO FOR AN EARLY DRINK

“I’m a regular at A L’Elephant du Congo, a newly done-up dance venue at Reguliersdwarsstraat 37, which used to be home to April, one of the city’s best-known gay bars. This is where Amsterdam’s in-crowd hang out. They’re a mid-20s set who love the intimate club atmosphere of the huge dance temples. And with its wood-panelled walls, the A L’Elephant is as cosy as your living room. The music it plays is stylish pop, anything from Pharrell Williams to Lykke Li. And this is the place to come if you want your first drink early – it opens at 4pm.”

elephantducongo.com 

5. EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX AND SMOKING JOINTS 

“Sooner or later, you’ll end up in the Red Light District, which has a surprisingly relaxed atmosphere, more like being in an open-air museum than in a dodgy area – the oldest church in Amsterdam is here, too. The female sex workers have trade unions, and the city battles against illegal prostitution. You can see the infamous live sex and striptease shows at Casa Rosso.

And yes, you can smoke joints in Amsterdam. You can do it at coffee shops, on the street or in parks, but not in public places, regular cafés or on the dancefloor in clubs – they have special smoking areas. Stick to these rules and you’ll be fine.”

casarosso.nl 

“HIRE YOURSELF A BIKE AND CHAUFFEUR YOUR BELLE TO THE next CLUB at 3am. THIS IS AMSTERDAM, AFTER ALL” 
Dennis Branko
Amsterdam

On the dancefloor at Jimmy Woo: the clubs are jam-packed from midnight.  

6. BITTERZOET, THE CLUB THAT SHOWCASES THE LATEST MUSIC TRENDS 

“Amsterdam’s music scene is divided into two large camps: house and hip-hop. For fans of rap, the Bassline party at Paradiso has been a must for more than 25 years. But I recommend Bitterzoet. Since 2007, the club has been playing the latest tracks from every sub-genre at its BBQ night, every first Saturday of the month. Often, when I go there, I have to switch on the Shazam app on my phone to identify the tracks. Whether it’s West Coast rap or the latest tracks from Amsterdam, there are always songs I haven’t heard before.” 

bitterzoet.com

Nightlife in Amsterdam

A hip-hop fan at Paradiso, Amsterdam’s nightlife temple. 

7. GREAT LATE-NIGHT EATING 

“The bad news is, the only thing available to eat in Amsterdam after midnight is bad fast food. So I recommend you have a late dinner at Cannibale Royale in Handboogstraat. You can’t beat the 600g ’Exceptionnel steak. And it’s right next to Disco Dolly, an address you’ll be needing later in the night.” 

cannibaleroyale.nl

8. FIND OUT ABOUT THE LOCAL TALENT

“Joost van Bellen is an icon of Amsterdam nightlife. The moustachioed veteran DJ made house music popular in the city with his sets at the RoXY in the late ’80s. Sadly, the RoXY burnt down in 1999. Joost now curates the Valtifest music festival, which is one of the highlights of the year.”

joostvanbellen.nl 

Nightlife Selfie

Clubgoers at Jimmy Woo: “There’s no such thing as a dress code. Just be whoever you want to be”

9. AFTER-HOURS: WHERE YOU CAN DANCE AFTER 5 AM

“Most clubs in Amsterdam close at 5am. If you want to carry on after that, you’ll have to go to Disco Dolly or Club NYX. These venues have special licences, meaning they can stay open till 7am. NYX is a multilevel club that mainly plays electronic music. At Disco Dolly, the DJs will play whatever keeps the party going. If you still haven’t had your fill by 7am, make friends with the people on the dancefloor – the after-hours parties are normally in people’s homes.” 

clubnyx.nl

Nightlife in Amsterdam

Nights at A L’Elephant du Congo: “Where the in-crowd goes out”

 10. LET THE NIGHT CHANGE YOU

“My career as a chronicler of Amsterdam’s nightlife began 11 years ago when a friend gave me his Sony DSC-F717 camera because I’d been using a cheap one up till then. I like the way people’s characters change when they’re out at night; quiet people let their hair down and show their emotions. I want to record those moments. Amsterdam’s nightlife will open you up if you let it. A few years back, a DJ dared me to jump off the stage at Paradiso and into the crowd. I used to panic at the thought of crowd-surfing. But I did it – and the people carried me.” 

dennisbranko.com 

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02 2016 The Red Bulletin

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