The inthemix Guide to Amsterdam
This article is part of a new series of Music Tour City Guides put together with our partner Miller – for more inside info on clubbing in Amsterdam, visit the Miller Music Tour’s Amsterdam Hub.
While Berlin might receive the lion’s share of hype as the leading European dance music hotspot, the Dutch capital of Amsterdam represents equally as a global clubbing destination.
You only need to look at the stunning array of rammed parties that go down during the Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) every October. ADE is an annual industry gathering known just as much for its networking and roundtables as it is for the manic partying that descends on the city every night. It’s on par with Barcelona’s SÃ³nar festivities in terms of drawing international partygoers, though Dutch clubbers from all over the Netherlands also pour into the capital for events across nearly 100 venues.
ADE is also a perfect example of how dance culture is ingrained in the fabric of Amsterdam. The ubiquity of ADE signage across the city is the same as any large industry conference – the message is clear: dance music is not a counter-culture in the Netherlands. Tens of thousands of music lovers take over the city for a whole week, and Amsterdam barely bats an eye. This year ADE celebrates 25 years of dance in Amsterdam, with several big exhibitions to mark the occasion. Seminal club scene photographer Cleo Campert has a history that stretches back to Amsterdam’s original house club RoXY, and she’ll curate two different exhibitions in the Red Light District. You’ll also be able to check out a massive outdoor gallery at Museum Square; otherwise home of the Van Gogh and Dutch National museums.
Many of Amsterdam’s key clubs can be found alongside the gorgeous canals of the city’s centre. They’re often no more than a 15-minute walk from the central train station, with many scattered across key sightseeing points like the Dam, Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein squares. There’s also the massive calendar of festivals, which seems to swell in number every year, with many taking place over the summer in one of the green, flat plains not far out of the city; though there’s an impressive amount of spectacle-filled stadium parties too. The nearby city Utrecht used to represent heavily with its legendary Jaarbeurs convention centre, though the newly opened Ziggo Dome is drawing many of these events back to Amsterdam.
The Dutch, they love their dance music
Those with a diverse interest in the entire spectrum of dance music will take the most away from a clubbing holiday in Amsterdam – it’s a city that has just as much time for the underground side of dance as it does the cheesy, crowd-pleasing elements. The world-famous Dutch trance sound, responsible for leviathans like Armin van Buuren, Tiesto, Sander van Doorn and Ferry Corsten, barely even scratches the surface in terms of what you’ll find in the city, and arguably hasn’t represented the Dutch identity for quite a few years.
That said, Armin still holds enough sway to warrant two massive shows this November at Amsterdam’s Ziggo Dome, where he’ll be launching the next edition of his ‘Armin Only’ world tour. In its heyday, Amsterdam’s trance scene could boast the legendary Trance Energy parties that drew 40,000+ sellout crowds, though that eventually morphed into the more EDM-focused Energy brand, with the Electronic Family outdoor festival becoming one of the city’s last remaining bastions of the trance cause.
There’s little doubt, though, that the Dutch love, love, love their hardstyle. The three-day Defqon.1 Festival happens just 90 minutes outside of Amsterdam every June and draws a daily crowd of over 50,000 punters; it typically sells out within minutes. The Dutch affinity with hard dance goes way back to the infamous hardcore scene of the early ‘90s, and countless other similarly themed parties happen across the Netherlands every year. To offer an even clearer picture of Amsterdam’s hardstyle mania though, about a third of the 60,000 tickets sold every year for ID&T’s multi-genre Mysteryland are bought for the Qdance stage alone. And the euphoric energy at these parties has to be seen to be believed.
Arguably, though, it’s ‘serious business’ house and techno that is truly the sound of Amsterdam. Solomun and his Diynamic Music crew chose the city as the place to launch its very first festival this year, while the city’s Dekmantel crew also staged their first three-day festival in August to resounding success (and the very same weekend as Mysteryland, no less). These newcomers join the huge on-going success of brands like Awakenings and FORMAT, as well as the throngs of regular underground club nights and parties across the city. Notably, the Dutch throw just as much energy into their hard techno as they do into music on the more commercial end of the spectrum. There’s no room for pensive chin stroking, and the soaring energy at Amsterdam’s techno parties is also something that deserves to be witnessed in person.
If that’s all too serious for you, though, you’ll still be well catered for in Amsterdam. The motto of the GirlsLoveDJs crew is “hard pop with a nod to the girls,” while the gloriously silly Dirty Dutch brand, trail-blazed by the likes of Chuckie and Laidback Luke, regularly packs out festival tents and stadium arenas. Then you have the new wave of EDM heavyweights like Hardwell, Nicky Romero, Dyro and beyond who are storming festival main-stages around the world. In Amsterdam, there’s a whole lot of dance music love to go around. Feeling ready for a holiday? With ADE on the horizon, let us walk you through the perfect Amsterdam experience, the inthemix way.