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Beyond the smoke and red-lit windows, Amsterdam is a city teeming with music, dance, theater, and art, that has given it the epithet "nightlife capital of the world." Think outside the box, and even outside the Grachtengordel, and you'll be amazed at what this city that (almost) never sleeps has to offer.

Many people know that The Night Watch is the name of Rembrandt’s most famous painting, but not everyone remembers that, back in the early 2000s, it was also the nickname of a bunch of "Night Mayors." This group of cultural leaders saw their role as fighters against the frumpiness that had cast a shadow over Amsterdam’s night scene, thanks to the fact that the city fathers had cleared away the "squats"—the deserted buildings that were the settings for city’s wildest nighttime events and raves. Now, 15 years later, Amsterdam has happily reclaimed its reputation as a true nightlife capital. The city is a must-stop on the international DJ circuit, and new pop-up clubs and dance venues and a plethora of homegrown festivals keep all walks of life shaking until the wee hours of the morning. The city is rich with inspired folk who are willing to organize a video arts festival in a cruise-ship terminal, a gentle Bach recital on a canal, an arts festival in an abandoned factory, a house party in a football stadium, or some heart-stopping spectacle in a park. So get ready to savor Amsterdam’s giant cultural wallop through its numerous venues—from former churches and industrial monuments to the acoustical supremacy of the legendary hall of the Concertgebouw.