A Cultural Guide to Amsterdam

Amsterdam 3

I lived in Amsterdam between the autumn of 2012 and the autumn of 2013, with an apartment in the Oud-Zuid neighbourhood; and have visited the city on several occasions, most recently last week. During my year in Amsterdam, I maintained an almost-daily blog at amsterdamarm.com, featuring photography, concert guides, exhibition and restaurant reviews, festival and event information, Dutch recipes, the occasional painting or cartoon, and other assorted pieces on the city’s cultural life.

This guide is based on some of the work undertaken towards amsterdamarm.com, revised and updated in tune with recent developments and experiences upon my latest visits. It is a guide to Amsterdam’s art galleries and museums; to its music venues; and to its numerous cinemas.

Amsterdam is packed with art spaces, showcasing everything from contemporary art, performance and photography; to some of the greatest works of the Old Masters and Impressionists; to programmes of sculpture in outdoor settings. Amsterdam’s galleries and museums are some of the most visited in Europe. Both the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum receive more than two million visitors each year, with the Anne Frank Huis and the Stedelijk not far behind. This wealth of options means that you scarcely miss out even when faced with the renovation work and attendant closures which have characterised Amsterdam’s museum scene over the past ten years.

The city boasts two major concert halls in the Concertgebouw – with its world-renowned Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra – and Muziekgebouw. There are a wealth of places in which to witness the latest popular music and jazz. And Amsterdam possesses an equal array of cinemas, excelling when it comes to the variety of venue on offer – from modern multiplexes, to a Modernist movie house overlooking Amsterdam’s waterfront, and a cinema housed within a landmark testament to Art Nouveau – but with sufficient screenings of foreign and classic films to satiate the most ardent movie lover. Filmladder.nl provides comprehensive weekly film listings. More, Amsterdam is host to several film festivals, most notably the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, which takes place each year about November.

Art Galleries and Museums

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Van Gogh Museum


Vincent van Gogh thought of himself as a stranger in this world; the Van Gogh museum endeavours to provide a home for his art at least. Its main building houses a permanent collection of 200 Van Gogh paintings from throughout his career, plus numerous drawings and letters; and in addition to these there are important works by contemporaries, including Gauguin, Monet and Seurat. A second building, designed by Kisho Kurokawa and completed in 1999, serves as the Museum’s Exhibition Wing.

The Van Gogh Museum reopened after the best part of a year in May 2013, renovated owing to new fire and safety regulations in the Netherlands, and with a special exhibition entitled ‘Van Gogh at Work’. Across 2015 the museum is marking 125 years since Van Gogh’s death. Work is currently ongoing – scheduled to be completed by the summer – to convert the Exhibition Wing into the museum’s new entrance.

Directions: Paulus Potterstraat 7, Amsterdam. On the Museumplein.


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Stedelijk Museum


The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam’s museum for modern and contemporary art and design, reopened in September 2012 after being closed for an extensive eight-year redesign and renovation. The museum’s collection spreads across two large floors.

The ground floor is divided into two parts. One half features paintings from the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, Pissarro, Van Gogh and Cézanne, and continues on through the art movements of the first half of the 20th Century; including significant collections of Suprematist, De Stijl and Pop art; and featuring artists from Picasso, Kandinsky, Malevich, Chagall, Mondrian, and Calder. The second half is devoted to design, furniture, and applied art, with large collections of pieces by Tapio Wirkkala and Hans Coper.

The first floor focuses on art from the second half of the 20th Century, in a diverse and expansive collection including paintings by Willem de Kooning; pieces by Lucio Fontana, Sol LeWitt and Bruce Nauman; videos from a broad holding of works by Vito Acconci, Marina Abramović, Gary Hill, and Joan Jonas; sculptures, installations and photographs.

The Stedelijk also holds a regular programme of exhibitions and events. Its basement serves as a temporary exhibition space. The museum is presently host to ‘The Oasis of Matisse’, the largest exhibition of Henri Matisse ever in the Netherlands. This has seen much of the ground floor reconfigured to provide a contextual overview of Matisse’s art.

Directions: Museumplein 10, 1071 DJ, Amsterdam. The Museumplein, right next to the Van Gogh Museum.


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Hermitage Amsterdam


The Hermitage Amsterdam is the Hermitage Museum’s main branch outside of Saint Petersburg. The two wings of the museum frequently host major exhibitions, lasting around six months; and in between display from a permanent collection linking Russian and Dutch art.

Between 2012 and 2013, the Hermitage Amsterdam served as home to Van Gogh while the Van Gogh Museum underwent restoration work. The Hermitage Amsterdam has since held exhibitions on Impressionism; Peter the Great; Dutch Golden Age large-scale portraiture; and the relationship between Alexander I, Napoleon, and Josephine. Towards the end of 2015 it will open a new exhibition on Spanish art, featuring works by El Greco, Diego Velázquez, and Francisco Goya.

Directions: Amstel 51, Amsterdam. In a nice building, after a courtyard, towards the top of the Amstel.


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The Rijksmuseum is the Dutch State Museum of history and art, and reopened in full in April 2013 after almost ten years of building work.

The museum has a significant collection of works by the Dutch painters Rembrandt, Vermeer, Jan Steen, Frans Hals and Jacob van Ruysdael; alongside thousands of other paintings, and historical and applied art objects. The renovation, under the architects Cruz y Ortiz, opened up the museum’s inner courtyards to create an expansive atrium, full of light; and produced in addition an Asian Pavilion, surrounded by water, which brings together the museum’s collection of Asiatic art.

Directions: Jan Luijkenstraat 1, 1071 CJ, Amsterdam. At the very top of the Museumplein.


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Rembrandt lived at this house from 1639 until 1656, in which time it saw the birth of his son, Titus; the death of his wife Saskia; and the creation of a number of his most famous works. Rembrandt’s debts – a product of his heavy spending, particularly on pieces of art – forced him to sell off many of his possessions in order to avoid bankruptcy, and he ultimately had to move home. A list of the items he sold off helped in the reconstruction of his house and studio.

The Rembrandthuis also holds an almost-complete collection of Rembrandt’s remarkable etchings. Temporary exhibitions occasionally show other pieces by the artist, and by contemporaneous Dutch painters.

Directions: Jodenbreestraat 4, 1011 NK, Amsterdam. The Jodenbreestraat (‘Jewish broad street’) was, in Rembrandt’s time, part of Sint Antoniesbreestraat. Through the 17th Century it developed as the centre of an affluent Jewish neighbourhood (Baruch Spinoza was born on the street in 1632), and so eventually adopted its current name.


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Foam is an organisation, based in Amsterdam, which strives to support and promote international photography. It does this primarily through its museum on Keizersgracht, which shows both major retrospectives and a rich cycle of smaller exhibitions, frequently featuring young or emerging photographers.

Foam also produces a thrice-yearly photography magazine; there is a good café in the museum’s basement; and &Foam, Foam’s shop, stocking a wide range of books, magazines and prints, is round the corner at Vijzelstraat 78.

Directions: Keizersgracht 609, 1017 DS, Amsterdam.


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Huis Marseille


The Huis Marseille is a large and particularly beautiful canal house along Keizersgracht, with several floors, stained glass windows and a garden, which hosts major international photography exhibitions. Exhibitions typically run quarterly. In early 2013, the Huis Marseille hosted ‘Power’, featuring the winner and nominees of the 2012 Prix Pictet. The gallery has since shown the photography of Walker Evans, Eddo Hartmann, and Cor Jaring.

There is a concise shop selling photography books in the entrance of the museum; and on the first floor an excellent library updated frequently with the latest publications, with a fireplace, a niche, and a view onto the garden below.

Directions: Keizersgracht 401, 1016 EK, Amsterdam.


Music Venues

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Popular Music

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Ziggo Dome


The Ziggo Dome, opened in 2012, is a 17,000-capacity indoor arena that plays host to some of the biggest names in popular music.

Exemplifying acts: Radiohead, Lionel Richie, Beyoncé, Rihanna

Directions: De Passage 100, 1101 AZ, Amsterdam. The Ziggo Dome is near the Amsterdam Arena, and therefore close by the Bijlmer ArenA metro station.


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Heineken Music Hall


With a capacity of 5,500, the Heineken Music Hall is a venue for major musical acts (and occasional shows and comedians) who either aren’t quite firmly entrenched in the mainstream, or else desire a slightly more intimate arena in which to perform.

Exemplifying acts: Sigur Rós, Kanye West, The xx, Lana Del Rey

Directions: ArenA Boulevard 59, 1101 DS, Amsterdam Zuidoost. Again, this one is right outside the Bijlmer ArenA metro station.


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The Melkweg – the Milky Way – is a cultural centre which shows films, and hosts theatre performances, art exhibitions and weekly club nights. Live music is performed on most evenings by established independent artists across a range of genres. This is my favourite place to see live popular music in Amsterdam. Its main room, The Max, holds about 1,500 people.

Exemplifying acts: Ariel Pink, Jessie Ware, Animal Collective, ASAP Rocky

Directions: Lijnbaansgracht 234a, 1017 PH, Amsterdam. Just off the Leidseplein.


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There is perhaps a little more of an emphasis at Paradiso on electronic and techno music, but broadly the venue parallels Melkweg’s focus on independent musicians; and is located in a converted church. Paradiso’s programme is extensive, often with several performances a night across their Great Hall (hosing 1,500), Small Hall and Club.

Exemplifying acts: Holy Other, Beach House, Yo La Tengo, The Knife

Directions: Weteringschans 6-8, 1017 SG, Amsterdam. Just off the other side of the Leidseplein.


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Sugar Factory


Sugar Factory is an endeavour which describes itself as a ‘Night Theatre’, whose manifesto cites André Breton and the Surrealists, and whose venue hosts experimental music, theatre and art, with a dance floor which can bear about 550.

Exemplifying acts: Lunice, Bring Me The Horizon

Directions: Lijnbaansgracht 238, 1017 PH, Amsterdam. Just across the street from the Melkweg


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Trouw, which described itself as a ‘temporary venue’, combined a restaurant with a dance club and record label with inclinations towards electronic music. Trouw typically hosted two or three shows a week, usually across weekends; however, the venue closed down, apparently for good, at the start of 2015.

Exemplifying acts: Purity Ring, Hercules and Love Affair, Disclosure

Directions: Wibautstraat 131, 1091 GL, Amsterdam. Trouw is situated in the east of the city, just across the Amstel from the De Pijp area and Sarphatipark.


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De Nieuwe Anita


De Nieuwe Anita is a small but diverse venue, with a stage and balcony and a bar at the front of the building, which shows films and hosts live music. Subbacultcha! – a wide ranging, independent, multidisciplinary cultural venture based in Amsterdam, with events across the Netherlands – hosts many of its live music performances here.

Exemplifying acts: Blood Diamonds, Doldrums

Directions: Frederik Hendrikstraat 115, 1052 HN, Amsterdam. Just beyond the canal belt and the Jordaan, to the west of the centre.


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Formed in 1999 when a group of artists began squatting in the building, OT301 – after the building’s address on Overtoom – is a non-profit organisation which, alongside live music performances, hosts art exhibitions and residencies, shows films and contemporary dance, and arranges cultural meetings and workshops. The live music programme is especially rich, featuring regularly all sorts of experimental music from across the world; occasionally in conjunction with Subbacultcha!.

Exemplifying acts: KK Null, Bergljot, Widowspeak

Directions: Overtoom 301, 1054 HW, Amsterdam. Overtoom is a major street running just west of the Vondelpark; OT301 is halfway along the street.


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Het Concertgebouw


The Concertgebouw is one of the most renowned concert halls in Europe, noted particularly for the quality of its acoustics. It is home to the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, led by Mariss Jansons, in the conductor’s final year, for the remainder of 2015; and puts on an extensive programme of classical music (with occasional forays into jazz and early electronic compositions), with several performances a day on weekends, and a free lunchtime concert each Wednesday. The Great Hall seats 2037; the Small Hall 478.

Directions: Concertgebouwplein 10, 1071 LN, Amsterdam. It sits in its own little square, on Van Baerlestraat, just across from the Museumplein and the Stedelijk Museum.


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Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ


The Muziekgebouw is Amsterdam’s venue for contemporary classical music. In a building designed by Danish architectural firm 3XN, which looks across the IJ waterfront, the Muziekgebouw’s versatile Great Hall sits 725, and its Small Hall, with Fokker organ, 120. Visually and acoustically it is a wonderful venue for listening to music. The Muziekgebouw’s restaurant specialises in seafood.

Directions: Piet Heinkade 1, 1019 BR, Amsterdam. On the IJ waterfront, to the north of the centre, just east from Amsterdam Centraal.


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The Bimhuis is, all in all, Amsterdam’s main venue for jazz; and calls itself ‘a concert hall for jazz and improvised music’. Beginning in 1973, it moved in 2005 into a building adjoining the Muziekgebouw. It hosts several concerts each week, in a hall with a capacity of 375.

Directions: Piet Heinkade 3, 1019 BR, Amsterdam. The Bimhuis is enjoined, as a building and as an enterprise, with the Muziekgebouw.


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North Sea Jazz Club

The North Sea Jazz Club is an international jazz venue with regular weekend programming. On weekends, there are about 170 seats available, at which you can eat a three-course menu; and there is more room for standing. Each Thursday the venue hosts a dance night.

Directions: Pazzanistraat 1, 1014 DB, Amsterdam. To the west of the city, just beyond the Westerpark, part of a series of cafés and cultural spaces.


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Jazz Café Alto

Café Alto is a longstanding jazz venue in the centre of Amsterdam, with doors opening each evening at 9pm and the music continuing on into the depths of the night. The venue hosts both well-established international acts and a regular group of local performers. It was refurbished in 2013.

Directions: Korte Leidsedwarsstraat 115, 1017 PX, Amsterdam. A street or two along from the Leidseplein.


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This a blues and jazz venue with the same sort of routine as at Alto: music every night starting sometime after 9pm. Patti Smith played here a few years ago, which must have been something given the venue’s size.

Directions: Lijnbaansgracht 163, 1016 VX, Amsterdam. Towards the Jordaan, just after Elandsstraat.



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In a building on the north bank of the IJ opened in 2012, EYE is the Film Institute of the Netherlands. The Institute has a rich collection of old films, which can be visited and viewed; works extensively on restoration and digitisation projects; and maintains a piece of architecture housing four cinemas of different sizes and styles, a temporary exhibition space, and a restaurant. EYE is excellent for film programmes and series. Its temporary exhibition space has held major retrospectives on the animator Oskar Fischinger and the director Federico Fellini.

Directions: IJpromenade 1, 1031 KT, Amsterdam. A ferry, for ‘Buiksloterweg’, runs at regular intervals between Amsterdam Centraal and the north bank of the IJ river, just a couple of minutes walk from EYE.


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Theatre Tuschinski


The Tuschinski Theatre, now called the Pathé Tuschinski, was built in 1921, and stands as a monument to Art Nouveau and its successor, Art Deco. The façade, foyer and corridors around the main auditorium are profoundly entertaining to view; and the main auditorium itself has a balcony, love-seats, and private boxes to which you can order food and champagne. It seats around 740. There are two smaller screens as part of the original building; and an extension offers three more.

Directions: Reguliersbreestraat 26, 1017 CN, Amsterdam. Between the Muntplein and Rembrandtplein.


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De Uitkijk


The Uitkijk is a central cinema and one of the best in Amsterdam, its single screen offering a consistent programme with classic films every weekend, and frequent series on French and Italian cinema. Films are shown in the Uitkijk’s café at 11pm each Friday.

Directions: Prinsengracht 452, 1017 KE, Amsterdam. Along the Prinsengracht canal, one street along from the Leidseplein.


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The Rialto is situated towards De Pijp, has three screens, and a diverse film agenda, with interests in French and World cinema. Aside from being an excellent cinema, it also has a good bar.

Directions: Ceintuurbaan 338, 1072 GN, Amsterdam. Just before the Sarphatipark.


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Pathé Arena


A multiplex IMAX cinema with 14 screens and over 3,000 seats in total, situated by the Amsterdam Arena, and with a foyer for amassing snacks.

Directions: Arena Boulevard 600, 1101 DS, Amsterdam. By the Bijlmer ArenA metro station.


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Pathé De Munt


The largest multiplex in the centre of Amsterdam, with 13 screens, the largest of which can seat 382 cinema-goers. This is another Pathé cinema, just a few minutes from the Tuschinski, opened in 2000; and its almost Brutalist architecture contrasts interestingly with the older venue.

Directions: Vijzelstraat 15, 1017 HD, Amsterdam. Along Vijzelstraat, just down from the Muntplein.


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The Movies

A well-liked multi-screen independent cinema, which bills itself as ‘art-house’ and doesn’t quite attain that label; yet it is in a nice old building, with a restaurant, and its a good place to go and see films.

Directions: Haarlemmerdijk 161, Amsterdam. At the far end of one of the main streets in the very north-west of the centre.


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An art-house cinema with with several screens and routinely strong programming; the screens are, however, beneath ground, and perhaps a little cramped for some.

Directions: Lijnbaansgracht 236, 1017 PH, Amsterdam. Off the Leidseplein, just across from the Melkweg.


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Het Ketelhuis

A cinema with three screens, each with bold red walls, and featuring a solid and particularly diverse programme of films. The cinema is part of the Westergasfabriek culture park, and also contains a café.

Directions: Pazzanistraat 4, Culture Park Westergasfabriek, 1014 DB, Amsterdam. Beyond the canal belt to the west of the centre, just after the Westerpark.


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Pathé City

The last of the Pathé cinemas in Amsterdam, very central, with seven well-sized screens.

Directions: Kleine Gartmanplantsoen 15, 1017 RP, Amsterdam. Off the Leidseplein.


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De Balie

A cultural centre just off the Leidseplein with a Grand Café; a large hall and a salon which host seminars, debates and theatre performances; and a single-screen showing a selection of world cinema often unique in the city.

Directions: Kleine Gartmanplantsoen 10, 1017 RR, Amsterdam. Again, just off to one side of the Leidseplein.


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Cafe 16CC

A cultural venue centring round a comfortable café and a single-screen cinema, which also hosts literary readings and live music, and exhibits art. The cinema shows a string of well-selected foreign films, sometimes premiering them within the Netherlands.

Directions: Kadjiksplein 16, 1018 AC, Amsterdam. To the north-east of the centre, just above the Hortus Botanicus, Amsterdam’s botanical gardens.


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With a two-screen cinema, a restaurant, and a club. Studio/K offers a rounded and consistent programme of films; with film series, premieres, and dinner-plus-movie nights. The centre is home to Amsterdam’s annual Food Film Festival.

Directions: Timorplein 62, 1094 CC, Amsterdam. In the Eastern Docklands area of the city.


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