Amsterdam is one of the entertainment capitals of Europe. It offers nightlife a plenty, from bars with life music to stylish casino's, from trendy nightspots to dynamic disco's, from theatre productions to eye-opening entertainment in the red-light district. Most of the cafés, restaurants, nightclubs and discotheques are located around the Leidseplein and the Rembrandtplein areas, and are still lively around the early hours of the morning. Some theater shows are English-spoken, for instance Boom Chicago, but try out a Dutch concert also.
If you want to attend any of Amsterdam's theatrical or musical events (including rock concerts), make it your first task on arrival to get tickets. Amsterdam Uit Buro (AUB) Ticketshop, Leidseplein 26 can reserve tickets for almost every venue in town, for 2€ ($2.50) per ticket; it also handles reservations in advance from abroad. Using their service instead of chasing down tickets on your own can save you precious hours. The office is open Monday to Wednesday and Saturday from 10am to 6pm, Thursday from 10am to 9pm, and Sunday from noon to 6pm. You can purchase tickets with a credit card by phone daily from 9am to 9pm, and online at any time. AUB publishes the free monthly magazine Uitkrant (it's in Dutch, but it isn't difficult to understand the listings information). Holland Casino is one of the most modern casino's in the world. Be sure to look at the colorful glass cupola in the playing room, where you can play French and American Roulette, Black Jack, Carribean Stud Poker, Sic Bo, Big Wheel, Poker en Punto Banco. Do not forget to pay a visit to the four international bars, to dine in the Vondel Restaurant or to enjoy a small meal in the stylish lunchroom.
How to Murder Music: Street Organs & Carillons
Street organs and carillons are to the Dutch what bagpipes are to the Scots, and they elicit the same mixed feelings. The elaborate street organs (draaiorgels, literally barrel organs) developed from hand-held barrel organs that were once popular throughout Europe but have now all but disappeared. Their atrocious tuning and repetitive repertoire contributed to their demise: people tended to pay organ grinders to stop rather than continue. One of the factors that ensured their survival in the Netherlands was a leasing system established in Amsterdam in 1875: grinders leased their organs from owners who looked after maintenance and tuning, which ensured reasonable standards upheld by strict licensing laws. Even today, grinders are assigned limited hours in particular areas of the city so they are evenly distributed, and they can spend five minutes on the same spot before having to move on. The repertoire includes anything from Tulips from Amsterdam and The Blue Danube to wacky renditions of the latest hits. Fluctuations in temperature and humidity still play havoc with tuning, sometimes resulting in a cat's-wail effect. Is it music? Who knows, but most will agree that a street organ at full tilt is a pretty impressive bit of machinery. They used to be operated by hand but now little generator motors do the hard work.
The Winner by Narrow Margin
Canal-boat commentators and other tourist guides like to point out the narrowest house in Amsterdam. They account for the phenomenon by explaining that property was taxed on frontage - the narrower the house the lower the tax, regardless of the height.
There is some truth in this, but it seems as if each guide has a different narrowest' house. So which house holds the record? The house at Oude Hoogstraat 22 east of Dam Square is 2.02m wide and 6m deep. Occupying a mere 12 sq metres it could well be the least space-consuming self-contained house in Europe (though it's a few storeys high).
The house at Singel 7 is narrower still, consisting of just a door and a slim, 1st-floor window, but canal-boat commentators fail to point out that it's actually the rear entrance of a house of normal proportions.
Farther along and on the other side of Singel at No 144 is a house that measures only 1.8m across the front; it widens to 5m at the rear and experts with nothing better to do will argue whether this counts.