Find the best pop and rock music in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is one of Europe's live music capitals attracting almost every major artist when they head out on tour, as well as being an essential stop for bands and performers climbing their way up in the music ladder. A great part of the city's success is the ease of access to fantastic venues of all sizes. Two of the biggest names in the Amsterdam scene are Paradiso and Melkweg – two iconic pop halls with a lot of history. What's more, they're only a couple of minutes apart, separated by the square at Leidseplein in the city centre. For that reason, these two multidisciplinary venues aren't even competition but instead collaborate and support each other.

Paradiso in Amsterdam

Paradiso is a former church that was squatted in the 1960s and grew into a renowned performed space where all the greats have played. While evolving and embracing modern sound and light technology, Paradiso holds onto its religious background by way of the large stained glass panels that loom behind the performers, as well as two levels of balconies that transform any concert into a reverential affair. One of the most interesting facets of shows here is that you can always find the spot that's perfect for you in the Main Room (capacity 1,500). It's easy to get down to the very front of the stage and there are only ever crush barriers in place for the rowdiest of rock shows; there are seats on the first balcony level but these are first come, first served; while you can stand or sit on a bench on the very top level, getting a perfect view right down onto the stage – and you're free to move around between the levels as it suits you. Also upstairs is a smaller room where newer or lesser-known bands typically play, and in the basement there's an additional café and performance space. Thanks to this diversity, it isn't uncommon for Paradiso to host four or five events in one day.

Seeing stars in the Melkweg

Melkweg takes its name from the Milky Way galaxy – but the name also reflects the building's history as a former dairy. Like Paradiso, Melkweg is split into various performance spaces: The Max is the main concert hall (capacity 1,500); the Old Hall is a more intimate room (capacity 700); there's a cinema (capacity 90); a theatre hall, which is occasionally used for concerts or festivals; a multimedia room; a tea room; restaurant; and a gallery for exhibitions. The Melkweg also shares an ultra-modern performance space with the neighbouring Stadsschouwburg, known as the Rabozaal. Where Melkweg perhaps differs to Paradiso is that its spaces are all about the artist, not the room itself – both The Max and Old Hall are darker, boxy spaces designed to showcase the live performance.

Musical arenas in Amsterdam

When the biggest pop, rock and dance names stop in Amsterdam they require the biggest of arenas. Fortunately the city is home to three major locations, situated almost side by side in Amsterdam Zuidoost. Heineken Music Hall opened in 2001 and is the smallest of the three (the capacity is 5,500, or lower for all-seated events). While spacious and capable of hosting major multimedia productions, it's intimate compared to most European arenas. So whether you're standing at the very front or seated in the sloped, open seating at the back, it's easy to maintain focus on the artists on stage. The Ziggo Dome is a considerable step up, with a capacity jumping to 17,000 or so. Opened in 2012, unsurprisingly this is the kind of place where Lady Gaga, Madonna, Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam drop by. Two large balconies swoop around the boxy arena, with the stalls either all-standing or all-seated depending on the event. Out in the concourse, the Ziggo Dome is home to an incredible amount of concession stands and toilets, meaning you won't miss more than a song if you pop out to the loo. And then there's the Amsterdam ArenA, the home to local football club Ajax. This iconic stadium typically plays host to 5 to 10 major concerts and dance music festivals every year, boasting a capacity of 40,000-50,000.

Clubs and churches

Of course, it isn't all about pop heavyweights. One of the musical thrills in Amsterdam is that you can find a wide array of pop, rock, R&B, hip-hop, electronic and singer-songwriters performing on any given day. Check out venues like Bitterzoet, People's Place, Tolhuistuin, De Brakke Grond and OCCII to find a bit of everything, while churches like the Vondelkerk, Waalse Kerk and De Duif are beautiful spots for more delicate acoustic music.

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