Amsterdam is a city packed with entertainment, and for many visitors, combining a gig with a mini-break can be the perfect weekend getaway.
Want to know more about the ins and outs of two of the city’s primary venues – well look no further, here you go…
Amsterdam’s biggest music venue is the Ziggo Dome. Opened just 6 years ago to provide a stage for major international artists it is already (astonishingly!) ranked as the 5th busiest music venue in the world. The 17,000 seater arena has hosted Lady Gaga, Madonna, Beyonce, Rihanna, Jay Z, U2 and Elton John amongst many others and it continues to attract a plethora of world class acts.
Named after the Dutch cable TV provider, it is located next to Ajax’s Amsterdam Arena in the South East of the city and is accessible by train, tram, car and of course bike (though it’s quite some way from the city centre on two wheels for the uninitiated)
Need to know:
- If you’re coming from town, the quickest route is to jump on Metro 50 or 54. Most people use the Bijlmer Arena stop for the Ziggo Dome, but Strandvliet is equidistant (arguably nearer) and one stop earlier on the line.
- Journey time is only about half an hour including a ten minute walk from the metro stop the arena itself.
- If you’re coming from further away, or direct from Schipol Airport or Amsterdam’s Central Station, catch a train to Duivendrecht or Bijlmer ArenA, again allow at least 10 minutes to walk from the station to the venue. Do check the last train times, most gigs finish by 11.00 at the latest
- If you come by car there is ample parking available at a variety of indoor event car parks and for certain events, Ticketmaster offer options to include parking vouchers in the purchase price
Arriving at the venue
- Sadly, as with every other major music venue these days, security is now being taken incredibly seriously. We queued with our tickets for quite some time in the rain on a recent visit and every guest was required to show photo ID along with their ticket before entering. Come prepared
- As well as this, many events at the venue now come with a restriction that “only handbags that are smaller than an A4 sheet of paper and thinner than 10cm will be allowed inside the venue” There is no option to check in anything bigger and people turning up with bags that are larger will simply be turned away. Don’t let this happen to you!
- Non-professional cameras are usually allowed although if an artist decides at the last minute they would prefer no photography, you can check in your camera and collect it after
- There is a free cloakroom in the foyer for guests who would like to check bags or coats
Food and Drink
- You are not able to bring food or drink from outside into the venue
- Onsite there are a few places to get snacks. The choice is pretty limited and the food is ok but nothing particularly impressive. In general you’ll find sandwiches and Dutch croquettes and chips as well a number of bar areas.
- Significantly, you cannot pay in cash. The venue have adopted a frustrating system of tokens. These are available from a number of token machines within the venue and start at a fairly outrageous 5 tokens for €15. The machines accept Visa, Mastercard, Maestro or Euro Notes. Leftover tokens can be exchanged back for cash at the service desks but only from half an hour before the end of the gig, meaning most visitors who eat or drink there end up spending at least €15. You have been warned!
- The auditorium layout is ‘box-style’ with most artists performing at one end rather in the round. There are two tiers of seating but even at the top you should get a good view from almost any seat
- You can find an interactive map of the venue on their website here or a more detailed and better version here
- Some concerts will have floor standing, others will be fully seated
- The closest blocks either side of the stage are Tier 1, blocks 111 and 102
For a very different experience, enjoy an intimate gig at not just my favourite Dutch venue, but one of my very favourite venues of all time.
Paradiso is housed in a former church building in the city centre, dating back to the nineteenth century. In 1965 it became a meeting hall for a liberal Dutch religious group before being taken over by hippie squatters in 1967 who wanted to convert the church to an entertainment and leisure club. Along with the nearby Melkweg (or Milky Way) it became synonymous with the hippie counter-culture of the time.
The venue itself is beautiful. The main hall is the former church interior and has two balcony rings that overlook the stage, backed by large stained glass windows. As well as the main venue there are two smaller stages upstairs and in the basement for even more intimate gigs. Smoking of all descriptions is banned except for a small smoking room.
Dozens of the world’s greatest artists have played historic sets at Paradiso including Prince, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Amy Winehouse. In 1995 The Rolling Stones played two semi-acoustic concerts and tickets exchanged hands for thousands of euros (or guilders as it was then). The tracks they recorded were released on their Stripped album that year and Keith Richards has said that the Paradiso concerts were the best live shows the Stones ever performed.
Need to know:
- When purchasing tickets you will also need to buy ‘membership’ to Paradiso. This supports their programmes and mission
- You can either buy a single monthly membership for €3.50 or an annual membership for €25 and this will be offered to you at the time you purchase your ticket online
- Paradiso is on the Weteringschans near the Leidseplein right in the heart of the city.
- The easiest way to arrive is by tram 1, 2, 5, 6, 7 or 10 alighting at Leidseplein
- Of course you can always bike to the venue as well!
Arriving at the venue
- Arrive early. Paradiso has no allocated seating. Depending on how high profile the artist, and how close you want to get, I’d always recommend arriving some time before the doors open (see more info about why in the Auditorium section below)
- If you have an e-ticket you can show it on your phone though as they say “make sure your screen brightness is set to its highest setting and there are no cracks in your screen… If you cannot meet these conditions, please provide a print-out. Let’s all work together to minimise waiting times!”
- The venue has both a manned cloakroom (€1.50 per item) and lockers which are €2.00 and take cash or card.
Food and Drink
- There are bars available inside and they accept debit cards and cash
- If you want to sit, there are individual chairs available on the balconies, again first come first served. This is my favourite option but if you’re there to see a big name or hugely popular artist you will definitely need to make sure you arrive in time to secure one
- If you are lucky enough to get a seat – just grab one of the chairs from the stacked pile and place it along the balcony wherever you want to sit.
- The very best premium spot in the venue is a tiny two-seater balcony spot in the middle facing the stage which juts out over the standing room below. I haven’t been lucky enough to get it myself yet, but I can assure you if Damien Rice ever plays Paradiso, I’ll be camping out beforehand to make sure I nab those amazing seats
Looking for more inspiration or places to eat in the city? Check out the full blog here.