Tucked away from the leery crowds prowling around nearby Leidseplein, this clandestine club can be spotted only by the long queues outside its discreet and narrow two-storey building. An intimate space with a great sound system, the club is also associated with the exclusive artists’ society De Kring, which is based on the floor below. It all sounds very secretive, but the vibe inside is remarkably laid-back and friendly. On certain nights, such as the eclectic Kiss Escort parties, De Kring opens its doors to the public and the venue effectively becomes a two-in-one club, where DJs are spread across the two floors and play a mixture of underground hip-hop, deep house and soul.
• Korte Leidsedwarsstraat 26-1, clubup.nl
Who said the printing press was dead? It’s alive in this part of town, but not as you might know it. Located in the former printing plant of the Dutch newspaper Trouw, this renovated industrial space has been transformed into one of the city’s best clubbing venues. Stark concrete walls, industrial lighting rigs and defunct machinery only enhance the atmosphere created by pulsing minimal electro, while the shreds and remains of old newspapers – scattered all around the venue – make for interesting eye candy in between dancing. More recently, Trouw has become home to the legendary Amsterdam club night Rauw, with the likes of Erol Alkan, Larry Tee and Crookers all making appearances in the past few months.
• Wibautstraat 131, trouwamsterdam.nl/en
This is a breeding ground for upcoming electro talent, and the main hangout of bespectacled hipsters, arty types and gay fashionistas in Amsterdam. Despite being stowed between a couple of largely uninteresting bars on the touristy Rembrandtplein, Studio 80’s dimly lit interior, innovative DJs and charismatic clientele make it one of the hippest clubs in the city. Minimal techno is primarily the music of choice, with camp clubbers often donning fluorescent eye-make up and glittery garments as they take to the podiums scattered around the dancefloor. Expect an open-minded atmosphere, some serious techno heads , kohl-eyed divas and a good dose of androgyny.
• Rembrandtplein 17, studio-80.nl
OT301 may now be recognised as an official cultural centre, but it’s still easy to recognise the anarchic roots of this former squatted film school. Entering the club involves being escorted by a rather boorish doorman down a graffiti-laden corridor and into a large, slightly derelict-looking building. Once inside, the ferocity of the sound system soon takes hold of the crowd as they lap up cheap bottled beer and enjoy the freedom to smoke anywhere in the building (often much to the annoyance of non-smokers). Despite its "official" status, OT301 remains a decidedly underground club night, where the music usually veers towards dubstep, old-school acid house and drum’n’bass.
• Overtoom 301, ot301.nl
In a city saturated with electro clubs and fist-pounding techno heads, Bitterzoet offers a respite for those who prefer to embrace the urban, jazzy and soulful side of clubbing. The cosy, crimson-lit bar area has a casual but effortlessly sexy vibe, and the dance floor soon fills up with hip-grinding soul cats on selected club nights. The weekly Struttin’ party (Fridays) is the longest-running funk and soul night in the city, with DJs Alviz, Bart Fader and Taco Fett spinning on a strictly vinyl-only policy. According to Alviz, it’s "simply about having a good time: dancing, drinking, flirting and enjoying quality soul 45s".
• Spuistraat 2, bitterzoet.com
After more than 20 years, this internationally renowned club continues to successfully combine wining, dining and dancing in a stylish and sophisticated atmosphere. While Supperclub has always prided itself on being an ambassador for freedom, art and expression, it unwillingly developed a reputation as being exclusively for "beautiful people", and became overrun with rich tourists who had little sense of rhythm or fun. However, in recent months a few more gritty parties, hosted by some of Amsterdam’s brightest young DJs, are re-establishing the club as a purveyor of cutting-edge music. The Sunday night Slave parties draw a particularly young, arty crowd and are held in the bright white restaurant, where guests enjoy mingling before moving the tables aside for an evening of unrelenting dancing.
• Jonge Roelensteeg 21, supperclub.com
Self-described as a "cutting-edge multi-disciplinary night theatre", Sugar Factory has found its niche as a platform where performance meets clubbing. New Media events are often paired with techno acts and live performance artists usually feature alongside DJs on club nights. Formerly a theatre, it has a large stage peering over the main dancefloor, where scantily clad performers often encourage the crowd to cut a rug of their own. Wicked Jazz Sounds hosts weekly parties where DJs, live musicians, singers and actors do improv live, while the Electronation night offers some of Amsterdam’s finest electro talent, with the likes of Max Cooper and Mason holding regular slots. Sweet it most certainly is.
• Lijnbaansgracht 238, sugarfactory.nl
Nestled among a crop of new cafes, bars and creative enterprises in the Westergasfabriek (a former gasworks turned city park and cultural hub) this spacious club feels a bit like a classic American diner that’s been hired out for an art school reunion. The crowd here is made up of mature arty types reliving their hedonistic youth, ogling one another and quite often playing air guitar on the tables. On paper, it sounds like a bit of a nightmare, but the anything-goes atmosphere and hormone-fueled flirtations between the clientele make this a thoroughly entertaining night out. The music is a fun mix of northern soul, surf rock and 1970s disco; basically every genre that has a tendency to make people electric slide their way to the bar. The lack of entrance charge is an added bonus.
• Polonceaukade 23, pacificparc.nl
In a city that’s not exactly renowned for tall buildings, it’s rare that you have to go up seven floors to reach a club venue. Luckily, there’s a lift for those who’ve had a tipple too many for the winding stairs that lead up to this hip and creative hangout. Located in the former home of the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant, Canvas is an all-in-one cocktail bar, club and art gallery that’s perched high enough to give you a panoramic view of the city. Local artists regularly exhibit new work while DJs usually play a blend of underground hip-hop, reggae and dancehall. Though the small space fills up fast at weekends, there’s a generous smoking terrace outside where you can either gaze up at the stars or get dizzy by looking down.
• Wibautstraat 150, canvasopde7e.com
A swanky joint with a decidedly cosmopolitan feel, Jimmy Woo attracts swarms of glamorous young socialites clad in decadent clothing and wearing shiny jewellery. Skinny supermodels pout nonchalantly in dimly lit corners, Dutch celebrities mingle with visiting VIPs and bottles of Moët are casually passed around like communal hip flasks. While it all might sound a tad superficial, the music – an eclectic mix of hip-hop, Baltimore club and house – makes up for the occasional discomfort caused by the troupes of self-loving young pretty things.
• Korte Leidsedwarsstraat 18, jimmywoo.com
• Arun Sood writes for Amsterdam Magazine