Probably Amsterdam's most famous music venue, Paradiso is a former church that was squatted in the 1960s and grew into a renowned performance space where all the greats have played. While evolving and embracing modern sound and light technology, Paradiso holds onto its religious history 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. You can always find the spot that's perfect for you in the main room (capacity 1,500). Upstairs are smaller rooms where newer or lesser-known bands typically play. In the basement there's an additional café and a smaller stage. Paradiso is irrevocably the pop temple of Amsterdam.
Famous acts: David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Prince, Madonna, Adele, The Sex Pistols, Nirvana, Amy Winehouse, Lady Gaga, Coldplay, Herman Brood, The Police, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and many, many more.
Paradiso // Weteringschans 6-8
Melkweg takes its name from the Milky Way galaxy – but the name also reflects the building's history as a former dairy factory. 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; 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 both The Max and Old Hall are darker, boxy spaces designed to showcase the live performance.
Famous acts: U2, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Prince, Lady Gaga.
Melkweg // Lijnbaansgracht 234A
Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ
Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ is an internationally leading stage in Amsterdam that excels in concerts of contemporary music and the related genres of classical, jazz, electronic pop music and world music. The ultramodern Muziekgebouw offers more than 250 concerts per year with a seating capacity for 700 people and a standing capacity for 1,300 people. The adjacent BIMHUIS, the most important stage for jazz in the Netherlands, has space for 300 guests.
Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ // Piet Heinkade 1
When the biggest pop, rock and dance names stop in Amsterdam they require the biggest arenas. Fortunately, the city is home to three major newer locations – all situated in Amsterdam Zuidoost. Formerly known as the Heineken Music Hall, AFAS Live opened in 2001 with a capacity of 5,500. 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. AFAS Live can be configured for standing or theatre seating, meaning it also hosts a wide variety of comedy, theatre and family-friendly performances.
AFAS Live // Arena boulevard 590
Opened in 2012, the Ziggo Dome is the city's largest multi-purpose entertainment location. Two large balconies swoop around the boxy arena, with the stalls either all-standing or all-seated (depending on the event). Throughout the venue are a wide variety of bars and eateries, ensuring the thousands of visitors are satisfied before, during and after the performances.
Famous acts: One Direction, Beyonce, Calvin Harris, Metallica, Ariana Grande and Pearl Jam.
Ziggo Dome // Arena boulevard 61
Johan Cruijff Arena
And then there's the Amsterdam ArenA, now named the Johan Cruijff Arena, home to local football club Ajax. This iconic stadium typically plays host to 5 to 10 major concerts and dance music festivals a year, boasting a whopping capacity of 40,000-50,000.
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 some smaller 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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