5 tips for safely navigating Amsterdam’s party scene (without spending too much)

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Melkweg Amsterdam
The lively crowd at popular music venue Melkweg. Photo: RoelandP

Amsterdam has a thriving nightlife scene, with a “something for every Cheapo” mentality. There are hundreds of bars and coffeeshops, great nightclubs and music venues plus a long list of festivals in the summer. But if you’re not careful, charges can add up quickly for everything from drink prices and cover charges to taxi fares back to your hotel. To keep your tab low, here are 5 pointers that will help Cheapos save when heading out for a night on the town.

1. Wine and beer, have no fear

Much like the rest of Europe from Berlin to London, cocktail culture is a new phenomenon in Amsterdam and pricey at a typical cafe. Beer and wine are the usual orders and only cost a few euros.

If you are a beer person, stay away from pint orders. Bigger is not better in Amsterdam drinking, and the average Dutch pilsner will lose its freshness after any size above .33cl. If you’re going for vino order the house wine, that’s usually a nice French or Spanish pick that’s smooth and easy to drink.

2. Trams before taxis

Trams and daytime buses stop running at around midnight—even on weekends. This makes taxis your only option when returning from a night out. Night buses are also available, but not very practical for visitors staying in the city center.

If you can brave bicycling back to your hotel or hostel, be careful and cautious. Otherwise know a walkable route before you let a sobriety slip. In any case, getting a tram back means an early night out. Nightlife in Amsterdam can begin relatively early however, so calling it quits around midnight isn’t the end of the world.

3. The clubs less traveled

Amsterdam’s party hubs are Rembrandtplein, Leidseplein and the Red Light district. Here you will find many small clubs, most of them beckoning in the passersby with drink specials and a flashy storm of lights inside.

Here’s my big tip for clubs in Amsterdam: you look for the club, the club doesn’t look for you. The better clubs of Amsterdam, like Trouw, are on the outskirts of both the party squares and the city center. Be ready to drop about €20 for entrance, and once inside beer and wine are around €3 to €4, cocktails twice as much. And plan to cab it back home for another €20, as clubs in Amsterdam close around 5am on weekends.

4. Live music lovers should think small

Amsterdam has an amazing aura that draws national and international artists to the city on an nightly basis. If you’re lucky, Paradiso or Melkweg will be hosting your favorite band at a smaller price and in a more intimate setting than back home.

Smaller venues like Winston Kingdom, Bitterzoet and Sugar Factory also carry impressive monthly programs at a lower cost, but of course the city has its fair share of free entertainment. Venues like Mulligan’s Irish pub at Rembrandtplein, Jazz Cafe Alto at Leidseplein, and Cafe Skek near Central Station offer free music almost on a nightly basis.

5. Don’t mix coffeeshops with cafes and clubs

Let’s be honest, it’s easy to go overboard with partying in Amsterdam. From the strong Belgian beers to the heavy marijuana joints and magic mushrooms, your vice(s) can run amok here. To keep a night out fun and safe, don’t mix your party picks.

Know the basics. First, beers in Amsterdam start at 5 percent alcohol by volume and can easily hit 9 percent when dipping into Belgian ales. Be moderate with your partying, and you’ll be able to enjoy Amsterdam pub culture more extensively (and vividly).

Second, smoking weed when you’re intoxicated leads to black outs and vomiting for many many people. We all know that many dumb ideas sound great when you’ve been drinking, and that’s one of them.

Third, consume cannabis with caution. Space cake potency is equivalent to four or five joints, and the highs can last for over 24 hours. Those wanting to purchase cannabis at a coffeeshop should inspect carefully what they buy. Many coffeeshops in Amsterdam have been caught lacing their products with chemicals and other substances to seem like a better deal.

Last, know that any hard drug that finds its way inside the clubs of The Netherlands are illegal, not regulated by the government, and the repercussions are serious. Have fun, but stay safe!

About the author

About the author: Audrey Sykes hopped across the pond from the US eight years ago for a Masters degree in global journalism. Since then, she’s lived all over Europe, reporting and editing for music sites, snowboard mags, and travel media. She’s also the Amsterdam author for Party Earth, a guide to nightlife across Europe.

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