Amsterdam’s nightlife is thriving, with three major new clubs adding to the existing scene. Here’s TOP 10 clubs in Amsterdam:
De Marktkantine | TOP 10 clubs in Amsterdam
De Marktkantine has been around for about two years. For me, it’s the most unappreciated club in the city even though the programming is high-quality, and varied. There are other clubs in Amsterdam that are trying hard to trademark a certain style but Marktkantine is more relaxed about who can come in. You can still see the balconies and booths from when it was a theatre. The balcony is particularly large and gives a great view down onto the stage. Then, behind the stage there are stairs up to another level with a small bar. They just started a new series of nights, curated by DJ and producer duo Red Axes, with shows every couple of months. The first edition was a success and musically it was amazing. • Jan van Galenstraat 6, marktkantine.nl
Shelter | TOP 10 clubs in Amsterdam
Shelter is among the newest additions to the city’s club scene. Finally, a club in the north side of Amsterdam! The venue opened during Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) 2016 and is in the basement of the former Shell tower, hence the name. Standing in front of the entrance you immediately get that underground vibe. Literally. On club nights the venue opens a hatch, which you walk down to get inside. You enter a spacious, concrete room with a very good sound system. It’s dark, but not too dark – you can see who’s dancing next to you. The crowd is really open – whether you play house or techno, people follow your lead. And, with its 24-hour permit, nights merge easily into mornings. • Overhoeksplein 3, shelteramsterdam.nl
Tolhuistuin | TOP 10 clubs in Amsterdam
We deliberately picked the Tolhuistuin for our club night, Progress Bar, which focuses on a more socially and politically aware take on club culture. We mix talks, screenings, performance and clubbing into one night. Just a short ferry ride across the IJ from Central Station, Amsterdam Noord prides itself on an edgier and raw atmosphere – that still persists amid the gentrification. Tolhuistuin is a good example of this. It’s in the canteen of the old Shell factory, an industrial remnant that has been repurposed as a cultural destination offering a mix of music, theatre and exhibitions, bringing together mainstream and more avant garde, free-spirited programming. • IJpromenade 2, tolhuistuin.nl
De School | TOP 10 clubs in Amsterdam
This place is more than a club: it is also one of the best restaurants in town, a bar, a gym and it shows great art that you can still see during club hours. There are also two other venue spaces, Muzieklokaal and s105, for smaller nights and live shows – and the garden is our favourite spot to hang out on summer nights. There is a great creative energy around this whole building. Of course, the club itself is amazing. It’s exactly what you want: intimate-feeling, but big enough to get lost in, with crisp sound and a sense of freedom. • Dr Jan van Breemenstraat 1, deschoolamsterdam.nl
Sugarfactory | TOP 10 clubs in Amsterdam
Years ago this building used to be a … sugar factory, but since the venue opened its doors in 2005 – near the centre of Amsterdam – it has been home to Wicked Jazz Sounds, our weekly Sunday club night. We came from a club without any facilities, so by comparison the Sugar Factory felt like getting into a warm bath and then being embraced by lovely, caring people. This club holds up to 500 people but still feels intimate, has a great sound, an amazing amount of lights, and a wide variety of programming, every day of the week. •Lijnbaansgracht 238, sugarfactory.nl
OT301 | TOP 10 clubs in Amsterdam
OT301 is a real Amsterdam heartthrob. The former squat packs in 300 people for experimental and rowdy club nights, concerts and collaborations. Think nights hosted by Rush Hour, Sub:Terrein, Sonic Acts and our own club night, Somewhere Else. The multi-storied, graffiti-covered building holds a club, a tiny underground dance room, a gallery space, a vegan restaurant and a cinema. Subbacultcha has hosted nights at OT301 from the beginning, so we decided it was fitting to celebrate our 10th anniversary last year with a takeover – filling every inch of the OT301 with emerging music. •Overtoom 301, ot301.nl
Oedipus Brewing | TOP 10 clubs in Amsterdam
The home of Amsterdam’s new favourite local brew, Oedipus, is a gem in Amsterdam Noord. The brewery is a simple spot that offers a few beers on tap, an empty space for dancing and a couple of benches out front. DJ Broadcast had its fundraiser there this year, which was a blast. Catch Red Light Radio’s much-loved Liquid Jams on a given Sunday, when a band is invited to perform amid the beer barrels. And don’t miss the famed Brazil in the Brewery nights that brings the vibes, music and atmosphere of hot Brazilian nights. •Gedempt Hamerkanaal 85, oedipus.com
Claire | TOP 10 clubs in Amsterdam
There is obviously a diverse array of clubs in Amsterdam; I love De School for good sound and a night of raw energy; OT301, which is cosy and raw. One club that deserves a special shout out is Claire, where I have a residency, and which has given me the opportunity to grow as a DJ. Claire has great acoustics, a wonderful wooden floor and feels like a living room! Unfortunately it’s in in the not-so-soulful area of Rembrandtplein, though the club itself is a soulful place. It opened during last year’s Amsterdam Dance Event and its lineup presents a great mix of underground artists, from Volcov to the Parisian Antinote crew. • Rembrandtplein 17, claire.nl
Club NYX | TOP 10 clubs in Amsterdam
For me, Club NYX is a little bit more “free” than the rest of Amsterdam’s clubs. It’s a three-floor venue and on the third floor, which is the toilet, there’s also a DJ booth – so you can dance and pee and wash your hands in this big penis-shaped sink. The decorations are “out there”: there are neon words everywhere and stairs that go nowhere. The first few times I went I got lost and every time I take someone for the first time they get lost too. Throughout the week there are a lot of parties that focus on being inclusive. It’s still a gay club really, but on Thursday nights it has parties that are for everyone. There’s a regular night, called Vogue, where there are these ballroom parties. Everyone puts on wigs, big dresses and just dances; it’s fun. My friends and I love going because (and it sounds really stupid) it feels like everyone is in it together. •Reguliersdwarsstraat 42, clubnyx.nl
Paris has swung to the rhythms of jazz for nigh on a century. With legends Bud Powell, Chet Baker and Miles Davis woven deep in its history, and pioneers Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli providing the backdrop to its cafe society, jazz is as much a part of the capital’s cultural heritage as art, philosophy and literature. Here’s TOP 10 Paris jazz clubs.
Yet jazz in Paris is no sepia-tinted relic: it remains a flourishing art form that packs out bars, clubs and caverns. With a profusion of styles on offer (from trad, modern and avant garde to bossa nova, jazz-funk and Afro-jazz, not forgetting France’s singular contribution to the genre – gypsy jazz), its freedom-loving soul lives on. And the more experimental among the city’s contemporary players are lifting its appeal to new heights.
Jazz Club Etoile | TOP 10 Paris jazz clubs
This club has held mythical status on Paris’s jazz scene for four decades. Many jazz and blues legends, including Cab Calloway, BB King and Lionel Hampton have passed through its doors. The clientele is an interesting cocktail of music lovers and hotel guests who come down from their rooms [it is in Le Meridien Etoile hotel] to find this incredible jazz club. Recently refurbished, it merges vintage with modern. I love the art-deco design, the subtle lighting, the art on the walls and its nod to Paris in the metro-style tiles and Eiffel Tower-esque metal materials. Its 200 seats and curved stage are just the right size for a jazz club – intimate yet spacious enough – and it’s a great place to catch the cream of French and international jazz. •81 Boulevard Gouvion-Saint-Cyr, 17th arrondissement, +33 1 40 68 30 42, jazzclub-paris.com
La Petite Halle| TOP 10 Paris jazz clubs
La Petite Halle has become a hub for open-minded jazz people, with unusual jams, seamless DJ sets and memorable moments. Organised by Reza Ackbaraly (the man behind the Jazz Mix at Jazz A Vienne festival), the club recently saw the legendary Tony Allen playing drums with Robert Glasper and Mos Def, Japanese band JariBu Afrobeat Arkestra and Magik Malik jamming with Steve Coleman’s band. Its loft-like interior is often packed with local musicians and groovers who party in a laid-back style. The wood-fire oven pizzas are delicious and the terrace delightful when the weather is nice. •La Grande Halle de la Villette, 211 Avenue Jean Jaurès, 19th arrondissement, +33 9 82 25 91 81, lapetitehalle.fr
Le Baiser Salé | TOP 10 Paris jazz clubs
It usually costs just €3 to see a talented local quartet at this intimate club in the Châtelet district, though top-class musicians (mainly from the UK and US) also play there. What’s cool about it is there’s no amplified sound so the music travels directly from instrument to audience. The decor is simple, with a wooden floor and wooden chairs, making it feeling like an old-school Louisiana jazz joint. People don’t go because it’s stylish, they go to listen to great music and soak up the vibes. When friends visit Paris and want to listen to jazz, I always point them in the direction of Baiser Salé. •58 Rue des Lombards, 1st arrondissement, +33 1 42 33 37 71, lebaisersale.com
La Dynamo | TOP 10 Paris jazz clubs
Ten years have passed since La Dynamo opened its doors, just outside the Boulevard Périphérique – the club, like those who play there, is on the fringes of the city’s jazz scene: the rolling trance bass of the São Paulo trio, Metá Metá, the rambunctious Sons of Kemet, the disconcerting Thomas de Pourquery and the astonishing saxophone player Ilhan Ersahin. The capacity is 300, admission is never more than €16, and in the neighbouring bar, good wine costs €3. Free jazz or soul, revisionist soundtrack or electronic echoes; history is being made here. For the last decade, La Dynamo has taken a chance on music that is unknown, unprecedented and sometimes extraordinary. •9 Rue Gabrielle Josserand, 93500 Pantin, +33 1 49 22 10 10, banlieuesbleues.org
La Cave du 38 Riv | TOP 10 Paris jazz clubs
There’s an authenticity to Cave du 38 Riv – it’s like a “proper” jazz club from the 1950s or 60s. I like to imagine being back in those times, playing with famous musicians. Today most jazz clubs are at street level, so it’s quite special to find one that’s underground. There is no stage, so the audience is right up close to the band which lends it a friendly and sociable air. Cav du 38 Riv is made up of two adjoining caverns (one for the music and one for the bar) with stonework giving it a medieval feel. It offers a broad range of jazz styles: traditional, modern, bossa nova, gypsy and more. On Friday and Saturday nights there is a late jam – starting at midnight and swinging through till 4am. •Rue de Rivoli, 4th arrondissement, +33 1 48 87 56 30, 38riv.com
New Morning | TOP 10 Paris jazz clubs
It’s easy to fall in love with the distinctive mood and exotic atmosphere at New Morning. It opened back in 1981 and many jazz icons played there towards the end of their careers: Chet Baker, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon and so on. Prince named it his favourite place in Paris, returning many times to play surprise after-show jams. The interior of the club is rather like a garage, nothing particularly cosy or chic, but the audience crowding round the stage makes for a special atmosphere. It has a capacity of 500, and feels neither too big nor too small. It’s always an eclectic but classy mix (with a regular offering of world music acts, not just jazz), which is why it’s well known to music lovers and jazz aficionados. •7-9 Rue des Petites Écuries, 10th arrondissement, +33 1 45 23 51 41, newmorning.com
Sunset/Sunside Jazz Club | TOP 10 Paris jazz clubs
A club I really enjoy both playing at and visiting is Sunset/Sunside, one of three jazz clubs on Rue des Lombards. It’s a spirited little place with a real jazz club ambience: Sunside is on the ground floor, and Sunset is a cavernous space in the basement. You can see all the great names in jazz here, as well as new talent in other genres. It attracts an eclectic crowd, many of whom often go out of curiosity, not knowing in advance who’ll be performing. •60 Rue des Lombards, 1st arrondissement, +33 1 40 26 46 60, sunset-sunside.com
Studio de l’Ermitage | TOP 10 Paris jazz clubs
Originally an old cookie factory, Studio de l’Ermitage retains many charms from its industrial past. Yet, when you step inside you can also feel the conviviality of this father-and-daughter run place. It’s a medium-size space (250 capacity) and the staff are always happy and welcoming. Its booking policy is discerning and diverse, from jazz to world music, it supports emerging artists and gives monthly residencies to bands such as Akalé Wubé (Ethio jazz), Roda do Cavaco (Brazil) or Cumbia Ya! (Cumbia). We organised a label night at Studio last year for Record Store Day. Most of the label musicians jammed together and it was an unforgettable night. It’s in the same street as two other venues, La Maroquinerieor Bellevilloise. •8 Rue de l’Ermitage, 20th arrondissement, +33 1 44 62 02 86, studio-ermitage.com
Duc des Lombards | TOP 10 Paris jazz clubs
Like Ronnie Scott’s in London or the Village Vanguard in New York, young jazz cats dream of playing here – that’s why the shows and energy are always so intense. World-class artists such as Ahmad Jamal and Kenny Barron play here, and for me its sound system is the best in any jazz club in the capital. The refurbishment is really classy – a bit different to its original early 80s incarnation as a smoked-out mysterious joint. The food and drinks are always top-notch, so that helps, too. My secret tip for visitors would be: hang around after the second set for bartender Lois’s creative cocktails – and take in his soul tropical jazz mix, it’s one of the best in the city. Definitely the place to go in Paris if you’re looking for a straight-ahead jazz moment. •42 Rue de Lombards, 1st arrondissement, +33 1 42 33 22 88, ducdeslombards.com
Les Disquaires | TOP 10 Paris jazz clubs
This is not your typical cosy jazz club: its minimalist style looks like one of the many bars you find in the Bastille area, with a young, hip crowd hanging out there due to cheap drinks and free entry. It’s one of those rare venues in the city where the new breed of Parisian jazz players can experiment with new sounds in front of an audience of a similar age. The stage is narrow, but this is more of a musical laboratory than a concert hall. Here, bands mix jazz with contemporary influences, from pop to hip-hop, M-Base to Radiohead, and experiment with electronics, loops and drum machines. Les Disquaires is the place to go if you’re looking for the next big thing in French experimental jazz. It also has funk and Brazilian bands on at weekends. •4-6 Rue des Taillandiers, 11th arrondissement, +33 1 40 21 94 60, lesdisquaires.com
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Cheap London Broadway Tickets
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Many of London’s theatres date back to the 19th or early 20th centuries, and are often filled with lavish neo-classical and art deco features. Today, London is home to almost 40 theatres, and continues to go from strength-to-strength, with a record breaking 14.5 million London theatre tickets sold in 2013.
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Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Multi-Olivier winner Imelda Staunton stars in the late Edward Albee’s masterpieceWith timing both serendipitous and sad, this revival of Edward Albee’s most famous play was announced the week the 88-year-old titan of American theatre died. Imelda Staunton and Conleth Hill will star as Martha and George, a warring WASP couple who suck new college professor Nick and his wife Honey into their horrible personal war.
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Whereas Jack Black is the star of the 2003 original film, it’s the kids that shine in this stage adaptation. The kids are really cute. And really talented. You would have to be an absolute monster to not be charmed and impressed by the little pipsqueaks. There are three child casts, who pluckily howl and strum their way through Lloyd Webber’s undeniably toe-tappin’ song list.
Agatha Christie’s brilliant whodunit is still packing out St Martin’s Theatre four decades after it was first staged here in 1974, making it the longest running show in the world, and for good reason. A countryside setting, a mystery murderer and a collection of highly suspicious characters ensure the audience is kept on the edge of their seats until all is revealed.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time
Ultimately ‘Curious Incident’ is a tragedy about a family torn apart by the pressures of looking after their son. But this high quality, high tech adaption of Mark Haddon’s novel which follows Christopher Boone, the teenage ‘mathematician with some behavioural difficulties’ remains a thing of unbridled wonder.
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Packed full of jazz standards from George and Ira Gershwin, ‘An American in Paris’ is a musical to treasure. And this lavish, award-winning Broadway production is a chance to see it at its glitzy finest – toe-tapping dance routines, gorgeous costumes, and swirling romance unfold in the capable hands of acclaimed choreographer and director Christopher Wheeldon.
One of the world’s best – and best-loved – musicals, this Wizard of Oz prequel has been wowing London theatre-goers for more than a decade. It’s wickedly good, and a must for any lover of musicals. If you’ve not heard Defying Gravity performed live, then you really should give it a go.
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From galleries, boat trips and concerts to the city’s famous condom shop, there’s plenty of great things to do in Amsterdam that won’t cost you a guilder. Here’s top 10 free things to do in Amsterdam.
Galleries | Top 10 free things to do in Amsterdam
The Van Gogh museum may be an unmissable (albeit very crowded and expensive) destination in Amsterdam, but the contemporary art scene in the city thrives in small independent galleries that are far more accessible for the budget traveller. Spend an afternoon cycling between some of the more prominent ones, such as Radar, an art and architecture gallery that features exhibitions usually with an urban inspiration; Galerie Fons Welters, a gaping industrial space you’ll find filled with forward thinking art and installations; and KochxBos, a converted living room on a residential street with a focus on kitsch, colourful and surreal artwork. All three are situated in or around the quiet and picturesque Jordaan area, where you’ll find many other small galleries among the leafy streets.
The Condomerie | Top 10 free things to do in Amsterdam
The Condomerie is the world’s first specialist condom shop, a treasure trove of latex artistry that has helped keep the city’s (in)famous red-light district safe and sheathed since 1987. The colourful store and information centre on Warmoesstraat – one of the oldest streets in the city – displays an eye-opening collection of rubbers as well as colourful hand-painted novelty condoms in the shape of chickens, frogs and, ahem, Big Ben. There’s even a small “condom museum” (currently closed for refurbishment).
Perhaps it’s hard to imagine it now, but when the idea for the shop was first, er, conceived during a discussion in a restaurant between three friends, it really was a radical proposition. The work the shop has done to break down the taboos surrounding contraception and sexually transmitted diseases – particularly HIV – makes it far more than a shop; it’s more like a rather important institution in modern sexual history. •Warmoesstraat 141, +31 020 627 4174, condomerie.com. Mon-Sat 11am-6pm, Sun 1pm-5pm
Droog | Top 10 free things to do in Amsterdam
If the sight of impeccably dressed ‘Dammers taking their kids to work on their bakfiets teaches us anything, it’s that the Dutch take design very seriously. Droog – a conceptual design studio set up in the 1990s – remains one of the forerunners of Dutch design, and their shop and showroom in Amsterdam is a must-visit for anyone interested in modernist eye candy. Among the classics you may find on display are Tejo Remy’s Chest of Drawers (a seemingly random assortment of wooden drawers tied together with a jute strap) and the Do hit stainless steel chair by Marijn van der Poll, which consists of a metal cube and a hammer you can use to bash it into whatever shape you desire. •Staalstraat 7b, +31 020 523 5059, droog.com. Tues-Sun 11am-6pm, closed Mon.
The EYE film museum | Top 10 free things to do in Amsterdam
While the temporary events at the EYE film museum require tickets, in the basement visitors can immerse themselves in cinema at a free permanent exhibition. The Panorama room surrounds visitors with around 100 movie clips and scenes, which are projected on to the walls and can be browsed via seven control panels. Perhaps the most popular plaything (expect to wait a while for one to become free!) are the viewing pods – specially designed, futuristic cabins which contain a small sofa for visitors to watch films in. It’s also worth taking a close look at the EYE building itself, which moved to its current location in 2012 and now sports a dramatic new look with jagged angles and a shimmering white exterior. From the bar and restaurant you can also enjoy a fantastic view across the IJ waterfront towards Amsterdam’s Centraal station. •IJpromenade 1, +31 020 589 1400, eyefilm.nl. Basement open every day 10am-6pm
Markets | Top 10 free things to do in Amsterdam
Like all busy cities, Amsterdam has lots of markets, each with their own character, such as the workaday Albert Cuyp markt in De Pijp, where you can do a grocery shop for next to nothing or the weekly Noordermarkt farmer’s market in the Jordaan, where you can fill up just by sampling all the organic food on sale. Probably the best markets to peruse in terms of free entertainment are the Waterlooplein flea market – where you’ll find everything from antiques to vintage suits and lots of boxes of old keys, photographs and camera parts – and Bloemenmarkt – a unique floating flower market with more tulips than you could possibly sneeze at. For something more contemporary, check out Moderne Hippies, a recent addition to the city’s market line-up and the best place to browse stalls hawking left-field lifestyle fare. •Waterloopleinmarkt, Waterlooplein, waterloopleinmarkt.nl. Mon-Sat 9am-6pm. Bloemenmarkt, Singel, Mon-Sat 9am-5.30pm, Sun 11am-5.30pm
City archive | Top 10 free things to do in Amsterdam
The permanent exhibition at the Stadsarchief, Amsterdam City Archives, is an ideal place to learn about the history of the city through the unusual and quirky “treasures” in its collection. Among the artefacts are a sympathetic 1942 police report regarding the theft of Anne Frank’s bike, a less sympathetic police telegram regarding Karl Marx’s visit to the city in 1872, and photographs of the likes of John Lennon and Audrey Hepburn. The collection is contained within a majestic tiled vault in the basement of the Bazel building, a former bank notable for its impressive geometric brickwork designed by ADN van Gendt. •Vijzelstraat 32, +31 20 251 1511, stadsarchief.amsterdam.nl. Tues-Fri- 10am–5pm, Sat-Sun noon–5pm
Take the ferry across the IJ | Top 10 free things to do in Amsterdam
Getting a view from the water is always a favourable experience in a city like Amsterdam. The overpriced daytime tour boats that squeeze through the canals like floating logs, however, aren’t necessarily the best way to do it, and sadly the donation-run St Nicholaas Boat Club that used to chug guests around on a traditional diesel fuelled Tuindersvletten has recently been shut down because of a licencing dispute.
So anyone wanting a gratis boat trip should hop on one of the free ferries across the IJ, Amsterdam’s waterfront, and explore Amsterdam-Noord. Link it with a bike trip around the leafy countryside and historic villages in the area, or drop in on the NDSM Wharf for quite the opposite – a regenerated shipyard that’s now a Berlin-esque hub for cultural and creative entrepreneurs. •Ferries run every few minutes from behind Centraal station
Free classical and jazz concerts | Top 10 free things to do in Amsterdam
Wednesday lunchtime performances at Concertegebouw are a long-running institution. Some of the performances are public rehearsals – meaning you could get a taste of the full Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra – while others are smaller chamber music ensembles made up of young musicians. For those after something more buzzy, the Bimhuis jazz venue has a monthly free night called Monday Match, in which dancers and musicians collaborate to create an improvised performance. At around 10pm a DJ takes over to keep feet moving until midnight with an eclectic mix of “hidden treasures and crazy grooves”. •Concertgebouw, Concertgebouwplein 10, +31 020 573 05 73, concertgebouw.nl; concerts every Wednesday at 12.30pm except during July and August. Bimhuis, Piet Heinkade 3, bimhuis.com;Monday Match usually on the first Monday of the month, from 7.30pm-10pm
Begijnhof | Top 10 free things to do in Amsterdam
While the enormous Vondelpark will always be the obvious spot for anyone wanting to wind down, enjoy a picnic and watch the flocks of green parakeets who have taken up residence there, the Begijnhof offers an alternative island of tranquillity in this already rather tranquil city. A small square of historic buildings with a quiet garden, the enclosed courtyard dates to the early 14th century and is reached through a narrow passageway. While not the place to crack open a Heineken – it’s still a residential square with a working chapel – it’s an excellent place to read a book, recoup or admire the architecture. From the Begijnhof you can also reach the Civic Guards Gallery (also free) – a covered street lined with 15 huge 17th-century paintings and managed by the Amsterdam Historical Museum. •Begijnhof 30, begijnhofamsterdam.nl
Botanical garden at Vrije University | Top 10 free things to do in Amsterdam
More than 6,000 species of plant can be found growing in this small botanical garden owned by Vrije University, which, among its many roles, is a place of sanctuary for rare and endangered plants intercepted by customs at Schipol airport. The much-loved garden – which also hosts concerts and workshops – was almost closed down in 2009 to make way for expansion of the university hospital. Fortunately, after protests from staff, academics and visitors, it received a stay of execution and should remain open for at least the next eight years. • Van der Boechorststraat 8, +31 20 598 9390, vriendenvuhortus.nl, Mon-Fri 8am-4.30pm
Gaze at graffiti, try the city’s best food or take a tour led by architects, photographers or even the homeless … Barcelona has a guided walk for everyone. Here’s TOP 10 Barcelona walking tours:
The DIY tour | TOP 10 Barcelona walking tours
A guided walk is the quick and easy way to learn lots about a place but at €10-€20pp the cost can soon rack up, particularly for a family. Guiding yourself keeps the price down and lets you choose your own pace. The Ruta del Modernisme winds through the city linking more than 100 examples of Catalonia’s famed take on art nouveau. You could be cheap and read descriptions of buildings from the ruta’s rather clunky website, but the accompanying guidebook is only €12 and gets you a discounted entry to many sights. All the biggies, such as Gaudí’s Sagrada Família and the Palau de la Música Catalana by Lluís Domènech i Montaner are on the ruta but you can search out the work of lesser-known architects, such as my favourite, Josep Maria Jujol. •rutadelmodernisme.com, guidebook available from Museu del Modernisme de Barcelona
The free tour | TOP 10 Barcelona walking tours
As in many other cities, a new type of tour has taken off in Barcelona in the last few years. Tours are “free” – you just give your guide what you think is a fair tip at the end. Simple. But are they any good? I tried half a dozen tours of the Gothic Quarter and soon felt like Phil Connors in Groundhog Day. Most of the tours were average and one was spectacularly bad – it took us nearly an hour to actually get to the Gothic Quarter and, no, I don’t want to buy a ticket for your tapas tour and, no, George Orwell wasn’t shot in Barcelona. But I’d heartily recommend a couple. I expected to take against Sandemans New Europe because it’s a bit of a corporate behemoth but my guide, Leon, was brilliant. I also loved the passion of Laura from Travel Bound. •Tips average around €10-€15pp, 2-3 hours
Street art in the Raval district | TOP 10 Barcelona walking tours
You can’t fail to notice the city’s obsession with the spray can; every metal shop shutter in the Raval, just off the Ramblas, seems to be covered in designs. But I hadn’t seen anything until I walked the barrio with Dominic, who spent his teenage years leaving his mark on commuter trains in Sydney. He taught me about tagging, throw-ups and stencilling, and showed me the work of famous street artists such as El Gordo (fat guys with square faces on tiles) and BCN Cans (cans sprayed with a letter then stuck together to spell out messages such as “Tonight the streets are ours”). A squad of city workers armed with paint brushes polices the streets to wipe out graffiti but they’re fighting a losing battle. •Free but tip appreciated, 2 hours
Barcelona’s food hotspot | TOP 10 Barcelona walking tours
The food scene in the district of Poble Sec at the foot of Montjuic hill is hotter than a guindilla pepper. I have some favourite places, such as Mano Rota, but put myself into the hands of the experts to discover more. Barcelona Eat Local’s tour, unusually, started in the morning but that did mean we got to sample great bacallà (salt cod) in the market and visit a wine shop owned by a cava producer for a glass at noon before patatas bravas (probably the best I’ve ever had) and jamón in a very trad restaurant, and then Ferran Adrià’s favourite lunch stop – the king of molecular gastronomy apparently loves old-school offal. The Barcelona Taste tour is in the evening and we ate spectacularly well, from anchovies in a modern tapas bar to octopus in an Argentinian-run joint and Szechuan fish in a place that epitomises Poble Sec right now. These tours are undoubtedly expensive but they include all food and drink and are a world away in quality from the €15 old town tapas tours. •€80pp; around 3 hours
The family tour | TOP 10 Barcelona walking tours
Dragons, giants, pooing peasants – and sweets. What’s not for a child to like on Runner Bean’s Kids and Family tour? I borrowed four, aged four-12, and we set off with guide Ann-Marie. She enthralled the kids with the grisly story behind the Catalan flag illustrated with her own drawings. There were games, puzzles and jokes as we wandered the Gothic Quarter learning a bit of history. The children loved the tale of how Saint George (Catalonia’s patron saint) slayed the dragon and saved the princess and visiting the workshop where giant figures are made for the city’s many festivals. They were a bit uncertain about singing Ann-Marie’s version of the Catalan song about the Christmas log that poos turrón (nougat) and looked appalled when she pulled out a figurine of a caganer. Who can blame them? The tour finished at a shop making artisan candy. Sweet. •€15pp (free for children aged up to three), 2½ hours,
An architect’s view of the new Barcelona | TOP 10 Barcelona walking tours
A group of young architects are behind Barcelona Architecture Walks and I signed up for their Barcelona and the Future City stroll. Plaça de les Glòries Catalanes was to be the new centre of Barcelona in its 19th-century expansion but it ended up little more than a vast, unlovely traffic junction. The square is now a building site as the city authorities try to rescue this space. Guide Jordi explained some of the theories of urban planning – keeping within a beginner’s comprehension/boredom level – before we walked by some of the new buildings here, such as Encants market and the Design Museum, the Museu del Disseny de Barcelona. A fascinating glimpse into an architect’s world and the challenges of imagining a city’s future. •€30pp, 2½ hours
A photography tour of the Born district | TOP 10 Barcelona walking tours
I always pick up my camera with a heavy heart, imagining that it stops me from just seeing stuff. That’s probably why my photographs are so terrible, and why Fran from Foto Ruta Barcelona had his work cut out. Our small group met in the Born and Fran explained a few basics: light, perspective, the rule of thirds (about composition) and encouraged us to experiment. I didn’t lie on the pavement like one of the group to get a pug’s view of street life but I did snap away at shapes, colours and details. Days later I still found myself looking at familiar streets in a new way. We compared photographs at the end and mine were by far the worst – but, gulp, here’s one (above). •From €80pp, 3 hours
The Raval, guided by the homeless | TOP 10 Barcelona walking tours
There are reckoned to be at least 3,000 people living on the city’s streets but they can be almost invisible to tourists. Hidden City Tours was set up by a Brit to employ, as guides, people who have been on the streets. Former taxi driver Jaume led me on the new Street Life tour amid the Raval, taking me through an average day in the life of a homeless person, from where to sleep (a park in summer, a bank’s cashpoint lobby in winter) and how to keep clean (library washrooms) to how to make money (blowing giant soap bubbles) and where to eat (for example, one of Barcelona’s poshest hotels delivers a giant free paella each Thursday to soup kitchen El Chiringuito de Dios. Jaume is now off the streets and back working as a driver as well as guiding. •From €15pp, 1½ hours
Green Barcelona } TOP 10 Barcelona walking tours
Montjuïc hill has always offered a splash of green in this densely packed city. Biologist Mónica is charming and passionate and took me on a fascinating nature tour of this hulk of rock. It moved from descriptions of flora and fauna – such as how the uniform weight of the seeds of carob trees, found on Montjuïc, are the basis for the carat – to explanations of how nature has affected the look of Barcelona. For example, we stopped at an oleander shrub and Mónica showed how Antoni Gaudí used the unusual structure of a stalk as the model for the columns of the Sagrada Família. She also found time to bring in social history, explaining how the hill was once covered in shanty towns, housing a fifth of the city’s population in the 1960s. Mónica’s partner Nick does a great Spanish civil war tour in Barcelona. •€25pp, 3½ hours
The Jewish quarter | TOP 10 Barcelona walking tours
I stooped through a little door in a dark, narrow street behind the cathedral and back to the fourth century. This is the only remaining synagogue in what was once a thriving Jewish community, which lasted from Roman times to the 15th century. More than 10% of the city’s 40,000 population in the 14th century was Jewish, all squeezed into a few streets. Jon, from New Jersey, walked us round their barrio, explaining how Jews played a key role in the life of the city; the doctors, lawyers and fixers of their time. The Catalan kings loved the taxes they paid and protected them – until they let the Inquisition have its fun. Jews were expunged from history; street names were Christianised and headstones from the Jewish cemetery were ripped up and used in new buildings – you can still see them on a wall near the cathedral. •From €10pp, 2 hours
Amsterdam is renowned for its Cheap and Budget Amsterdam Coffee Shops.” Here are seven of the best.
I’VE ZONED OUT AND my fellow “researchers” are waving away the final joint. They can’t handle anymore either. There are only so many joints you can smoke in a day.
I take out my notepad and we try to convey how we feel about this place. After a few long pauses, we give up, order a drink, and begin to roll another joint. I guess you can never smoke too many.
Matador sent me on assignment in Amsterdam (no expenses paid) to find the best coffee shops in the city. This marked my fourth trip to the city and I was only happy to oblige.
If you are looking for the Cheap and Budget Amsterdam Coffee Shops best of the best, follow your nose to these places for the highest times in Amsterdam.
Note: Amsterdam recently banned smoking tobacco indoors. This has hurt many of the coffee shops since people in Europe smoke marijuana with tobacco.
A few coffee shops have set up separate areas where people are allowed to smoke inside. A few turn a blind eye to the ban. Most tell you to go outside and offer a herbal tobacco substitute. Ask before you light up.
Cheap and Budget Amsterdam Coffee Shops
This coffee shop is out of the city center, making it a “locals only” spot. (I found it with the help of a local.) There’s a big bar with a great selection, much, much cheaper than the center. There’s also a few pool tables, a big screen TV, and a separate smoking room.
The staff is really friendly and the locals are intrigued as to how you found this place. The smoking ban hit this place hard so it’s not as packed as it used to be but it’s more relaxed than other places.
This café is located on the way to Leidsplein and has a mystical ambiance, one long room with dark lights and darker walls with tribal designs for you to stare at all day.
The weed here is good but the place is better known for its atmosphere. You aren’t allowed to smoke tobacco and they offer an herbal substitute. The drinks here are also reasonably priced considering its location.
This coffee shop has three locations, the flagship located in the Red Light district. It’s one of the most famous in Amsterdam and the walls are adorned with photos of celebrities to prove it. Their weed constantly wins the Cannabis Cup (try the haze).
Cheap and Budget Amsterdam Coffee Shops & Cheap drinks help cushion the blow to your wallet. You can’t smoke inside but there are outdoor tables or you can use the free tobacco substitute they provide. The music is eclectic (I heard Pink Floyd and Snoop Dog in the same sitting) and the décor dark and relaxing. They even have a few coves in the wall to relax in.
Located in between Damrak and the Red Light district, this coffeeshop wears multiple hats- it’s a bar, restaurant, and coffee shop. Head downstairs for the coffee shop.
They’ve created a separate smoking area down here so you can light up anything smokable. Tables are lined together in close quarters, making it easy to meet people. TVs run in the background and music plays over the speakers. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable and the weed is reasonably priced.
Hunter’s has been one of my favorites since I started coming to Amsterdam.
Located right at the beginning of the Red Light district, this place is a little touristy, however, the black decor gives a nice lounge feel and there are ample chairs and couches to relax on.
Staff is really friendly and the prices are somewhat cheaper than other shops in the area. They make great shakes, too. There’s no tobacco allowed here, but you can use the substitute they offer. Just head up Warmastraat and look for the giant peeing dog.
Located right off Leidstraat near Liesplein, this coffee shop follows the ocean theme all the way. The walls are painted blue with various sea life images and “coral” is replicated to give this place a true underwater feeling.
Upstairs has the bar and a few tables. You can’t smoke tobacco up there, but head downstairs where the big comfy couches and TV welcome you with open arms. They also offer free wi-fi.
Cheap and Budget Amsterdam Coffee Shops was made famous by the movie “Ocean’s 12” and has since seen a steady stream of people trying to pretend they’re Brad Pitt or George Clooney.
The shop has a wide open interior with orange painted walls. The various shades of orange are in different shapes to provide for the ultimate psychedelic experience.
Good drinks and good weed are served here at standard prices. The tables have patterns carved into them. They turn a blind eye to smoking inside-if they don’t see it, it’s not there. A lazy cat sits in the window all day to greet you as you come in.
No matter where you go, remember that these coffee shops all share similar characteristics. They have atmosphere, a friendly staff, couches, good drinks, and friendly stoners. Look for that and you’ll find the best coffee shop in Amsterdam.
The ever popular Barcelona has a whole host of attractions and activities awaiting its visitors from tasty fare to world-class art. There’s also a lot of great things to do for free across the city if you find yourself on a tight budget. Here is our list of things to do for free in Barcelona.
Things to do for free in Barcelona
1. Ramble down Las Ramblas
Located in the heart of the city and packed with people almost 24/7, Las Ramblas is one of the world’s most famous strips. And rightly so. Adorned with an endless array of motionless human statues, noisy pet stalls, tourist-heaving restaurants and hawkers selling all types of fluorescent objects, it is inevitable that you won’t only end up here once, but you will end up here several times. Strolling up and down it for a couple of hours is an attraction in its own right. When you get there you’ll understand why.
2. Go to the beach
Escape the hustle and bustle of the city streets and take a trip to some of Barcelona’s beaches. Just 10 minutes from the city you will find over 4km of golden sandy shores where you can lay out your towel and work on that tan. One of the closest beaches to the city is Barceloneta Beach, and as it’s the closest it can often be the busiest. But it’s quite a big beach area and has some bars and cafes along the waterfront. The quickest way to get to here is to catch the yellow line metro and get off at the Barceloneta stop.
Another great Barcelona beach is Icària Beach which you can get to by the yellow line metro to Ciutadella Vila Olimpica. It’s a little bit quieter here if you like to relax in peace on your beach. And if you want an all over, line-free tan, then check out Mar Bella Beach as it’s an unofficial nudist beach, which means you can also wear your swimsuit even if your friends don’t want to. This is a 20 minute walk from the Poblenou yellow line metro stop.
3. Visit Parc Güell
One of many stunning creations from Antoni Gaudi that are dotted around Barcelona is Park Güell. This unusual park was originally commissioned by Eusebi Güell as he wanted a stylish park solely for the Barcelona aristocracy. The good news is that today anyone can visit Parc Güell, and for free too. In this unique park you can expect to find lots of amazing stone sculptures, colourful tiles and breathtaking buildings. There’s also a terraced area at the top of the park with wonderful tile mosaics and a seating area where you can take in the magic of the park.
4. Walk the streets of the Barri Gotic
The Barri Gotic area is also known as the Gothic Quarter and it’s the old town area of Barcelona. There’s a Roman feel to this historic area and it’s a maze of narrow cobbled streets and squares. It was once home to famous artists such as Picasso and Joan Miró. Today it’s where you’ll find the City Hall and the seat of the Catalan Government, beautiful Gothic churches such as Santa Maria del Pi and Sants Just i Pastor. There’s also the old Jewish Quarter and the Plaça del Rei, an interesting medieval square steeped in royal history.
5. Admire Gaudi’s architecture
Barcelona and Gaudi go hand-in-hand and you’ll soon start to recognise his work as you discover it dotted across the city. Gaudi is admired and studied by architect lovers and admirers all across the world, and to see his work up close you simply need to walk the streets of Barcelona. There’s the outdoor spectacle that is Parc Güell (see point 3) where you can sit in a park designed by Gaudi. Casa Batlló is a breathtaking building on Passeig de Gràcia where the facade looks like it’s been made from bones and skulls, which are actually pillars and balconies. There’s an entrance fee to go inside, but you can take in the stunning exterior for free.
On the same street you’ll also find Guadi’s La Pedrera/ Casa Milà where you’ll find Gaudi’s famous chimneys on top of the building. And finally, Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia, which is still being built… since 1882! This church is a work of art, genius and patience and is one of Barcelona’s top attractions. Take a walk around the exterior and you can spend hours studying the designs and sculptures on its facade.
6. Soak up some sun along the Passeig Marítime
Take in some views of the Mediterranean along with some rays of sunshine (in the finer months) along the seaside promenade that is Passeig Marítime. You’ll find this seafront walk just northeast of the Old City. The boardwalk here is the perfect place a coastal stroll or stop off for a glass of sangria. Here, you’ll also find Port Olímpic which is a stunning marina area full of restaurants and bars. You’ll easily recognise it from the two seafront skyscrapers, one of which is home to the Casino Barcelona.
7. Get outdoors in Parc de la Ciutadella
Barcelona’s most central park is the expansive Parc de la Ciutadella that covers close to 74 acres and has a lake, a zoo, several museums and more. This green oasis in the heart of the city makes for the perfect escape from the crowded city. Spend a few hours wandering amongst the walkways, flowerbeds and palm trees while checking out the fountains and sculptures dotted around the park. You can hire out a rowing boat if you wish to go out on the lake or check out the zoo.
8. Free entry to the Picasso Museum
This museum is dedicated to the life and works of Pablo Ruiz Picasso and is a must see for any fans of the artist visiting Barcelona. There are over 3,800 works of Picasso in the permanent collection and through them you can see his deep relationship with Barcelona that formed throughout his lifetime. There’s normally an entrance fee for the museum but it has free entry from 3pm every Sunday, and it’s also free all day on the first Sunday of the month.
9. Stare in awe at the popular Magic Fountain Show
The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc dates its first performance back to 1929, and today it’s as popular a spectacle as it was back then. This sensational fountain show is the centrepiece of a collection of waterfalls and smaller water features on Avinguda Maria Cristina. You can expect a stunning show encapsulating light, colours, music and lots of water. In fact close to 2,600 litres of water are pumped through this great fountain per second! Shows are on at different times depending on the season and you can reach the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc by Metro – stop Plaça Espanya.
10. Escape the city in the Catedral de Barcelona
Close to the busy streets of La Rambla you can find an oasis of calm in the city’s cathedral. Catedral de Barcelona, also known as Le Seu as it was named after Barcelona’s patron Saint Eulalia. You’ll find the stunning cathedral in the centre of the Barri Gòtic area and its origins date back to the 13th century. This medieval sanctuary has a vaulted interior, a number of little chapels, and a garden with a cloister that’s home to thirteen geese.
11. Enjoy the colourful Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueira
This large, colourful public market is also known as just La Boqueria and you’ll find it in the Ciutat Vella district of Barcelona. This is a popular attraction in Barcelona that dates back to the 13th century. You’ll be met with loud noises, overpowering smells and colour as far as the eye can see on arrival at the market. It’s the perfect place to visit at anytime of the day, and a great place to have a bite to eat too.
12. Have free tapas with a drink
When you think of Spanish food, tapas automatically comes to mind and you’ll find lots of great tapas bars around Barcelona. However, it can be tough to find free tapas in the city compared to other parts of the county, but there are still a few bars that keep up the tradition of free tapas when you order a drink. If you fancy a free nibble then check out Ambiente del Sur in the L’Eixample neighbourhood. This is a small, friendly bar that offers some great small plates of food with a drink. In the same area you’ll also find Bar Atrapatapa, and while their tapas aren’t free, they offer them for just two Euros once you purchase a drink. If you’re peckish in the Gothic District then check out Bar Mingus for their free tapas with a drink, and same for Gata Mala in the Gracia area.
13. Visit Museu Nacional d’Art de la Catalunya
The MNAC is the perfect place to spend a few hours if you have even the slightest interest in anything art related. This beautiful museum embraces all the arts and showcases sculpture, painting, engraving, drawings, photography and lots more, all with a Catalan focus. There is an admission fee but if you want to get in for free then visit on a Saturday from 3pm or the first Sunday of each month to avail on no admission fees.
14. Check out some other museums
There are lots of other great museums to check out that offer free admission at certain times around Barcelona. You can take your pick on the first Sunday of the month with free entry to any of these museums – Museu Picasso, Museu Barbier-Mueller d’Art Precolombi or the Museu d’Historia de Catalunya. If you’ve got a sweet tooth but would prefer to spend your money on chocolate than admission fees, the visit the Museu de la Xocolata (Chocolate Museum) on the first Monday of the month for their free entry. But, as they say, everybody loves a freebie, so get there early if you want to avoid the queues.
15. Plan trip around a festival
Barcelona plays host to a lot of festivals throughout the year so why not time your visit around one of them. Some of the more popular Barcelona festivals include Festa Major de Gràcia – a week long community celebration in the streets of one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods. For this festival, each street in the Gràcia area is decorated by residents depicting anything from storybook themes to homemade waterfalls. There’s also lots of entertainment along the streets and it takes place the week of August 15th.
If you’re visiting Barcelona at the end of September you’re in for a treat as the largest street party in the city takes place – the Barcelona La Merce Festival. This five day celebration is in honour of Mare de Deu de la Merce, the Patron Saint of Barcelona, and says goodbye to summer and hello to autumn. You’ll find a whole host of activities taking place around the city for this festival such as a ‘Giants Parade’ which is a great family event, where huge giants with effigies of kings, queens and nobles march through the streets. Then there are Castellers, which are Human Towers that people build in Plaça de Jaume. There’s also the popular Correfoc – a ‘fire run’ that’s all about fireworks and sparklers.