Nightlife in Amsterdam, like an Indonesian rijsttafel, is a bit of this and a bit of that. The cultural calendar is full, but not jammed. There's a strong jazz scene, good music clubs, and enjoyable English-language shows at the little cabarets and theaters along the canals.
The club and bar scene can be entertaining if not outrageous; the dance clubs may indeed seem quiet and small to anyone used to the flash of clubs in New York City, Los Angeles, or London. However, the brown cafes -- the typical Amsterdam pubs -- have never been better. And there are always the movies: You can watch first-run U.S. blockbuster hits with their English soundtracks intact.
Hot and cool at the same time, Leidseplein is the center of Amsterdam's nightlife, with some of the city's most popular restaurants, bars, and nightspots all within dancing distance of each other around the square. Leidseplein never really closes, so you can greet the dawn and start again. Rembrandtplein is a brash and brassy square that really comes alive at night, when it's awash with neon. Although it has a more downscale reputation than Leidseplein, this area often seems even more intent on having fun, and there are enough hip, sophisticated places to go around. These two areas are connected by Reguliersdwarsstraat, which has some good cafes, including a few gay ones, and also several fine clubs and restaurants. The Rosse Buurt (Red Light District) serves up its own unique brand of nightlife, and adjoining this is Nieuwmarkt, which has become a popular alternative hangout.
Your best source of information in English for nightlife and cultural events is the monthly magazine Time Out Amsterdam, which costs 2.95€. It provides a complete cultural guide to Amsterdam, with listings for concerts and recitals, theater, cabaret, opera, dance performances, rock concerts, art films, film festivals, special museum and art gallery exhibitions, and lots more. There's also the free monthly listings magazine De Uitkrant from the Amsterdams Uitburo , which you can pick up at many performance venues; it's in Dutch, but it isn't difficult to understand the listings information.
If you want to attend any of Amsterdam's theatrical or musical events (including rock concerts), make it your first task on arrival to get tickets. The Amsterdams Uitburo (AUB) Ticketshop, Leidseplein 26 (tel. 0900/0191 or 31-20/621-1288 from outside the Netherlands; www.uitburo.nl; tram: 1, 2, 5, 7, or 10), can reserve tickets online, in person, or by phone, for almost every venue in town, for a reservations charge of 2€-4.65€ per ticket. Discounted last-minute tickets may be available. Using this service instead of chasing down tickets on your own can save you precious hours. The office is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 7:30pm, and Sunday from noon to 6pm.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.