Going Out

Give the Dutch an excuse to relax at a sidewalk cafe, in a gezellig kroeg (cosy pub), or with a group of friends in a restaurant, and they’re in seventh heaven. Amsterdam is well-known as the laid-back party capital of Europe and not just because of the legalisation of marijuana smoked at coffee shops (not to be confused with outlets selling coffee). Whether cheering their home team Ajax, participating in Queen’s Day on 30 April, celebrating a birthday, a graduation, passing their driver’s test, or just taking a day off from work to chill, there are endless reasons why the Dutch relish going out. And rest assured they will find a reason!

Foreign residents often wonder how the cafes and bars in Amsterdam can be so full day and night. Don’t people work they wonder? In Rotterdam or Den Haag, the eerie silence in these places points to more industrious folk. There are more students in Amsterdam compared with other cities in Holland, and more part-time workers than anywhere else in Europe.

Many Dutch chefs are keen to present menus of three, four or five courses - either set menus or a la carte. Menus that change daily are less exceptional than they used to be. Sporadically you’ll find entire menus that change daily, however at many restaurants you will find weekly surprises or a select number of main courses that are changed. Delicious staples devoured by the Dutch are salmon, sliptong (a type of sole), garlicky shrimps, Texel-bred lamb and all manner of stews.

Restaurants used to close at 22:00, but now usually open till midnight. Late night fully fledged dining options are limited, yet are on the increase with several restaurants or lounges dishing out meals until 01:00. Besides fast food vended from a burger chain, the occasional creperie and avondwinkel (literally translated as night shop, meaning delis open after the supermarkets close at 20:00) will sate your hunger after hours.

Beer, wine and liquor can be purchased at supermarkets and avondwinkels. If you’re driving, the 24 hour petrol stations have snack shops selling sandwiches.

Dance and nightclubs open late and don’t really get going until midnight. But mornings seem to drag on; you’ll be hard pressed to find a cafe serving coffee, or eateries serving breakfast anywhere before 10:000 - simply because the Dutch are a frugal lot and prefer to save whatever euros they can. If you’re seeking a buffet, English or American-style breakfast then head for the hotels. Bakeries sometimes vary their opening times - check with your corner baker so you can take that freshly baked croissant on the tram to work.

There are around four jazz clubs in town and you can hear the famed saxophonist Hans Dulfer and his daughter Candy at Panama and elsewhere around the city. Paradiso and Melkweg are two institutions offering mainly underground live music. Amsterdam is a paradise for classical music lovers. Compared with the rest of Holland, no other city can beat Amsterdam in terms of the variety of entertainment it provides.

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