The first jazz musicians who arrived in Amsterdam were black American soldiers, jammin’ away with this strange music that no-one had ever heard before. Cotton Club at Nieuwmarkt Square and Casablanca at the Zeedijk at the Red Light District were the first bars that hosted live jazz Amsterdam. Unfortunately, the Badcuyp and North Sea Jazz Club in Amsterdam have closed.
Here are 13 live jazz bars in Amsterdam
1. Jazz Café Amsterdam Alto at Leidseplein
Jazz Café Alto is located near Leidseplein and has live jazz music every night. The clientèle is diverse, serving students, musicians, locals and tourists, business tourism as well as happy campers. Alto is a typical Amsterdam brown bar and though smoking is banned like elsewhere, the walls have been soaking up the nicotine for years, so it still feels like a real jazz bar. It’s small with few seats and during weekends it can fill up pretty quickly.
Korte Leidsedwarsstraat 115
2. Bimhuis live jazz with a view
Bimhuis has been Amsterdam’s most important stage for live jazz music since it opened in 1974, favoured internationally by people such as Charles Mingus, Archie Shepp, Cecil Taylor, Pharoah Sanders and Sun Ra.
Since 2005 Bimhuis has been located at Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ, just east of Central Station in a newly developed area with breathtaking views on the IJ water.
Bimhuis is all for new developments in live jazz music and can program quite adventurous (experimental), so check programming first.
The Bimhuis also has a restaurant, a late night bar and a sunny terrace along the waterfront.
Piet Heinkade 3
Take either the 25 or 26 tram from Central Station (one stop).
3. Saturday Jazz at Cotton Club
The Cotton Club on Nieuwmarkt first opened its doors in 1940, named not so jazzy: Café Smit, after its owner (Smit is the most common Dutch surname).
After the war, Suriname immigrants and black American soldiers introduced jazz and marijuana into the Amsterdam scene, an excellent combination that would last until this very day. Owner Annie Smit soon fell in love with Suriname trompet- player Teddy ‘jazzcat’ Cotton and a name change of the bar followed. If the Cotton Club could speak, it certainly would have some great stories to tell.
Every Saturday from 16.30 till 20.00 there is a live lazz concert in the Amsterdam Cotton Club.
4. Monday live jazz at Amsterdam’s Nel
Café Nel states on the website that they have the best terrace for outside dining in Amsterdam and that is probably true. Café Nel also have nice live jazz every Monday night during their Live Jazz NeL Sessions. Usually they are young musicians from Amsterdam who take the stage. From 21.00 till 01.00.
Amstelveld (near Rembrandtplein)
5. Amsterdam Academic Club
Every Friday afternoon the Amsterdam Academic Club organises Amsterdam Amsterdams Jazz Café. Every week there is an other band. Also there is a meal available for a friendly price. The Amsterdamse Academische Club is part of the University of Amsterdam (UvA), but you don’t have to be a member to enjoy the Friday afternoon jazz.
Oudezijds Achterburgwal 235
6. De Prael Houthavens every Sunday
Every Sunday Amsterdam’s contra bass player René van Beeck invited a couple of this musicias collegues to play jazz. Location is De Prael, an Amsterdam beer brewery that found a home at Amsterdam’s most recent add: the Houthavens. When the weather is good, the stage moves outdoors. Live jazz between 15.00 and 18.00 every Sunday.
De Prael Houthavens
Nieuwe Hemweg 2
7. Club Dauphine – dinner & music
Every Fridaynight you can find live music in the atmosphere of a New York nightclub at Club Dauphine. A place where you can enjoy an evening of jazz, pop, funk, nu-soul, bossa or old school soul. The band plays while you enjoy a 4-course dinner at your private table. It’s also possible to buy a bar ticket and just enjoy the concert.
Dutch Saxophonist Candy Dulfer is the musical advisor of Club Dauphine, and when she has no other obligations, there is a chance to watch her perform with the band.
Prins Bernhardplein 175
€39 music and 4-course dininer
8. De Engelbewaarder – live jazz on Sunday afternoon
The Engelbewaarder is a literary café located near Nieuwmarkt in the centre of city on a beautiful canal. There’s a terrace on the waterfront, 15 beers on tap, a restaurant menu with fair prices, a very diverse crowd and regular photo exhibitions.
Every Sunday afternoon, there is a live jazz band, conducted by Jacko Schoonderwoerd, Victor de Boo and Leo Bouwmeesters.
9. Pompstation live music while you eat from Thursday to Sunday
Pompstation is restaurant located in Amsterdam East (Indische buurt). It’s well known for its steaks (Dutch cows) but it also serves vegetarians.
On Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday there is live music to accompany the food. On Sunday there is singer-songwriter night.
Open from 17.00 hours (5 pm), music starts at 19.30.
10. Casablanca at Red Light District
Café Casablanca is an old live jazz club and karaoke bar at the Amsterdam red light district. You can listen to big bands in this small place like the Biggles big band, the Soul Rebels big band and the Bucket big band. When there is a band playing, karaoke starts after the band. If not, karaoke starts at 20.00 (8 pm). Check the agenda (link below).
Free entrance. Be early, gets very crowded.
11. Café van Leeuwen: Sunday evening jazz
Café van Leeuwen is a neighbourhood café at the Keizersgracht. The small, intimate bar serves a large variety of beers and whiskies and bourbon to its customers, who tend to live in the area. Every Sunday, there is live jazz.
Café van Leeuwen
12. Jazz at the Vic
Every other Sunday the Park Plaza Victoria Amsterdam hotel presents an afternoon with live jazz. The Victoria Hotel lies across from Central Station. Music is from 17.00 until 20.00.
Park Plaza Victoria
13. Live music at Café De Pianist
Café ‘t Geveltje is no more, but café De Pianist has taken in some of the musicians who used to play there. But it’s not just jazz at the De Pianist. Every Tuesday from 20.00 till 22.30 there is a pianobar. Every last Friday of the month there is Gypsy Jazz Jam session. Check their Facebook calendar for up to date program (link below).
Café De Pianist
Groen van Prinstererstraat 41
14. Live Jazz at Amsterdam’s Elsa’s
Listen to live jazz music in Amsterdam’s Elsa’s every Tuesday. Elsa’s is a bar and restaurant located in Amsterdam East (opposite Frankendael park). Free entrance.