Art runs in the Netherlands’ DNA, from Rembrandt and the old masters through Van Gogh all the way to an exciting contemporary art scene. Amsterdam is home to a variety of world-famous museums: the Rijksmuseum and the Rembrandt House Museum are a must for those wanting to delve into the artistic wealth of the Golden Age. The Van Gogh Museum houses a beautiful and touching collection of the works of one of the most famous Dutch painters. And the Stedelijk Museum takes the visitor on a journey through the last 150 years of art, offering a great overview of modern and contemporary art, design and architecture.
The contemporary art scene is bustling, too. A visit to one of Amsterdam's many art galleries is a great way to spend an afternoon. And at art fairs such as the Amsterdam Art Fair, the Affordable Art Fair, Realisme and Art in Redlight, visitors can discover the newest developments in the Dutch and international art scene.
Classical and contemporary music
With world-class performances, Amsterdam strikes all the right notes with classical music lovers, who’ll find everything from symphony orchestras, choral music and ensembles to chamber music and opera in inspiring venues of all sizes.
The Royal Concertgebouw is world-renowned for its acoustics and grand halls hosting world-class orchestras and performers as well as its very own Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. The Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ is a spectacular waterside building with an innovative, diverse contemporary programme. Opera lovers should make sure to take a look at the productions by the Dutch National Opera, which also collaborates with leading international companies. In addition, there is an abundance of smaller venues and churches regularly hosting classical concerts. The annual Grachtenfestival is another fantastic opportunity for enjoying classical music, putting on concerts by and on the canals.
Theatre and dance
Amsterdam is packed with options for theatre lovers – even if you don't speak any Dutch. The first port of call should be the Stadsschouwburg, where the very best of Dutch theatre productions are often shown with English surtitles. Amsterdam’s main theatre also hosts international productions and festivals such as the annual Holland Festival, which (despite its name) has an international outlook. In addition, Amsterdam's opera and ballet talents are renowned around Europe. The city is also a playground for experts in the field of contemporary dance – look out for productions by the Nederlands Dans Theater and Rosas Ensemble.
Pop, rock and jazz
Legendary venues such as Paradiso and Melkweg make Amsterdam a popular stop for almost all major touring pop and rock bands and acts, and the city offers a wide variety of intimate clubs and the bigger arenas such as Heineken Music Hall to boot. The Dutch also have a clear passion for jazz, world and blues music, as evidenced by world-class international players that continually return to Amsterdam and its variety of jazz venues such as Bimhuis, the North Sea Jazz Club and Café Alto.
Amsterdam has a thriving film festival scene, hosting a huge variety of events including the Imagine Film Festival, Cinekid, the KLIK! Amsterdam Animation Festival, the Roze Filmdagen, the World Cinema Amsterdam festival and the acclaimed International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA). The city also has a wealth of both mainstream and independent cinemas on offer – the most spectacular ones being the historic Pathé Tuschinski and the strikingly modern EYE Filmmuseum. Add an extensive summer programme of open-air screenings, and Amsterdam is truly a city of film year-round.
The city is home to several premier photography museums and galleries, including Foam and Huis Marseille, both of which museums that exhibit all genres of photography in beautiful canal-side settings. Photography lovers should also watch out for fairs and exhibitions such as the Unseen Photo Fair and World Press Photo.
From its intimate comedy theatres dedicated to the art of improv and stand-up to the grand arena productions of touring comics, you're never far from a good laugh in Amsterdam. A number of the city’s clubs and performance groups specialise in English-language comedy, while Amsterdam has also gained recognition as an essential stop on major stand-up tours.
Including more than 300 festivals every year, Amsterdam’s festival agenda spans all tastes and genres: the range of festivals is broad, powerful and diverse. The festival calendar is packed with everything from outdoor film extravaganzas to (multi-day) dance music parties, from kid’s festivals to art and fashion events and from culinary fêtes to chamber music in Golden Age canal-side houses.
The City of Amsterdam values the arts as a way to bind communities together, stimulating cultural development in its own right. Cultural policy doesn’t only rely on the historical culture embedded in the city’s surroundings, but also supports current cultural developments, and the city grants subsidies and funding to museums, theatres, concert halls and other cultural establishments. The arts sector provides employment for more than 12,000 people in Amsterdam; some 2,000 artists live in the city, and more than 3,000 students follow courses at the art and music academies.