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, the North Sea Jazz Club in Amsterdam and the Amsterdam jazz Café Alto are now closed (though Alto might open again, so I’ve put this on the list).
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 there is a Jazz concert in the 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.
Amstelveld (near Rembrandtplein)
5. Bethany’s Jazz Club at Nieuwmarkt
Bethany’s Jazz Club is located in the old centre of Amsterdam, just off Nieuwmarkt/red light district.
This Amsterdam jazz club opened in 2012 in the cellar of the Bethanien convent, a convent dating back to 1450. The restored Bethanien convent has been hosting classical students and performances from the Amsterdam conservatory since the 1989. And now, a jazz cellar has been added.
Bethany’s Jazz club hosts the Amsterdam Vocal Night, a weekly vocal jazz session every Tuesday night. Professional jazz singers and students may step on stage during the open mic session.
Entrance is €10 and includes a drink.
Bethany’s Jazz Club
Barndesteeg 6a, red light district
6. Sunday Dance with Wicked Jazz Sounds
Wicked Jazz Sounds celebrated its 10 year anniversary in 2012. The organisation includes dj’s and musicians, management, radio show, club nights in Amsterdam and Utrecht and a record label.
The Wicked Jaz Sounds Club Night is a weekly dance night at Sugar Factory (across the Melkweg at Leidseplein). Dj’s and musicians play together with a mix jazz, funk, soul, hip hop, disco, electronic, Latin and house.
Wicked Jazz Sounds Club Night
Lijnbaansgracht 238, Leidseplein
7. Club Dauphine – dinner & music
Club Dauphine is a restaurant with a nightclub fee. Every Friday a group of 7 different musicians hit the stage to play music, mostly jazz, soul, pop, funk and R’nB.
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.
On every first Sunday of every month is for Holland’s most famous saxophone player Candy Dulfer. She either plays herself or books a music group.
Prins Bernhardplein 175
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)
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. Whisky & jazz at Café Zilt
Café Zilt is also located at the Zeedijk in het Amsterdam Red Light District. It’s a small, intimate bar that serves a large variety of beers and whiskies and bourbon. They promise quality music as well. Every first Sunday of the months its Zilt’s Sunday Afternoon Jazz Session (ZILT’s ZondagMiddagJazzSessie).
12. ‘t Geveltje
Amsterdam Jazz Café ‘t Geveltje is a small, cosy venue where jazz musicians meet and jam together. It’s open every night, except Sunday.
Bloemgracht 170, Jordaan
13. Sunday Jazz Brunch at Americain
The Americain hotel at Amsterdam leidseplein serves up a Sunday Jazz Brunch every first Stunday of the month. The extensive brunch is Sserved between 12.30 – 15.30 hours, except in July and August. With live jazz. Reservations required.
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.