Amsterdam at night is like a human zoo, with all sorts of weird and wonderful activities on offer. The city can be the venue for a romantic stroll with the lights of the bridges and old houses reflected in the canals, or a night bar hopping from buzzing bar to bar before partying until dawn in one of Europe's top clubs or even a nefarious evening dipping into the dirty underbelly of a city with few inhibitions.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of bars dotted around and it can be just as pleasant to idle away a few hours in a neighbourhood bar, as it is to spend the night in one of the trendier bars in the centre of the city. If, however, you are interested in listening to live bands and/or dancing the night away, then you should head for the Rembrantsplein-Leidseplein area. If you want seedy, then head for Walletjes and indulge.
Bars: Bars, often called cafйs, are a wide range of establishments, including traditional brown cafйs, modern designer bars and proeflokalen (literally 'tasting rooms') where punters could sample a distillery's wares before buying a bottle. The main areas for bar/cafйs in central Amsterdam are Spui, Spuistraat, Rembrandtplein and Leidseplein. They are open until about 0100 or 0200.The latest trend amongst the city's younger moneyed types is for Grand Cafes, which tend to be spacious and light, with a large reading table stacked with glossy international titles. The art deco Du Lac, Haarlemmerstraat 118, is one of the best. Other modern drinking haunts include the brand new Noa, Leidesgracht, with its comfy furnishings and designer beers and Cafe West Pacific, Haarlemmerweg 8-10, with its own dancefloor and free entry until 2300. At the other end of the spectrum In't Aepjen, Zeedijk 1, is an atmospheric old drinking den where the locals enjoy the live sea shanties.
Casinos: Two places to win or lose money are Holland Casino Amsterdam, Max Euweplein 62, open daily 1330-0300 (last entry at 0200), and Holland Casino Schiphol Airport, in Terminal West at Schiphol Airport, open daily 0600-1930. Only those over 18 years are admitted.
Clubs: Over the last decade Amsterdam's reputation as a clubbing centre has attracted a host of big name DJ's. Amsterdam's clubs usually open around 1000 and, by law, must close promptly at 0400 during the week and 0500 at the weekend. The best nights to go out tend to be Thursday and Saturday. Expect to pay an admission charge, plus a tip to the doorman (Ђ 1,00) and Ђ 0,50 to use the toilets. Drinks cost in the region of Ђ 3,00 and up.
The most popular club is Mazzo, Rozengracht 114, its dress code is quite relaxed (but avoid wearing trainers). Escape, Rembrantplein 11, is the biggest venue in town with up to 2,000 revellers on their busy Saturday Chemistry nights. All sorts of music, from hard rock to rap, R&B to world music, can be found at the small cosy venues of Melkweg, Lijnbaansgracht 234A, and Paradiso, Weteringschans 6-8, both close to Leidseplein. The legendary Paradiso has been pulling into partygoers for three decades, but the hippies have now largely been replaced by techno devotees.
Live music: Jazz has always been popular in Amsterdam: many of the jazz greats have lived in the city, including Chet Baker, who died here. Head for Bourbon Street Jazz and Blues Club, Leidsekruisstraat 6-8, or the main jazz venue of Bimhuis, Oude Schans 73-77, in the Old Centre, where the Dutch Jazz Orchestra plays on Wednesday and musicians from all over Europe perform on the other days of the week. Paradiso and Melkweg (see clubs) often have rock gigs and sets by alternative acts.
A lot of people come to Amsterdam for a little drugs experimentation. Contrary to what most visitors seem to think, drugs are far from legal in Amsterdam. Amsterdam tolerates the sale and use of soft drugs, which centre around smoking cafйs or coffee shops; they are easy to recognise as their names normally include words like 'free', 'high', 'happy' and 'space', and, of course, you can smell them too.
In the Netherlands there’s a distinction made between so-called soft drugs and hard drugs. Hard drugs are Cocaine and Heroine, LSD Ecstasy etc. Possession and use is strictly forbidden. Soft drugs basically mean Hash and Marihuana. There are strict rules concerning possession and marketing of these soft drugs.
Buying drugs on the street is about the biggest tourist traps in Amsterdam. From the first step out of the central station you will be offered drugs. Don’t buy it, the stuff you get offered can contain anything from vitamin c to washing powder or Rat poison. Also often the costumer gets robbed or harassed.
If you’re over 18 you can visit a coffee shop to buy a small amount of soft drugs for your own personal use(you may buy max 5 gram, and you may posses 30 grams max). You’re not allowed to enter if you’re under aged. Here, the people behind the bar can give you advice and answer your questions. Don’t feel ashamed to ask them. Here you can also experiment a little. Don’t smoke marihuana in ordinary bars or other public places. Most people are offended by it.
Drugs consumption is not without risk. If you’re feeling sick after eating space cake or smoking, drink lots of water with sugar. Something sweet will straighten you out in most cases. Be very careful mixing drugs with other drugs like alcohol.
Most coffee shops are easily recognized by their green leaf symbols or anything reggae-like, or by their name like the Rookies, De Dampkring or The Grasshopper. Apart from all the exotic Marihuana combinations, there is quite a lot of homegrown stuff around, or like the locals call it: 'Nederwiet'. The combination of drug tolerance and a strong tradition in plant improvement have led to some very strong versions of Marihuana. Take care. For a comprehensive guide on Amsterdam coffee shops go to: http://www.coffeeshop.freeuk.com/