Probably the most famous club/entertainment complex in this part of Europe, the Melkweg lives up to the hype for most visitors and can be an entertaining place to go even when you don’t recognize any of the names on the bill. It’s actually 5 separate venues in one complex, and sometimes there is a separate admission charge for different things in different rooms. In spite of its overall size and fame, the largest room is smaller than most people expect. The Max has a capacity of 1,000 while the Oude Zaal room holds another 700. There is also a 90-seat cinema, a 140-seat theater, and various galleries and art spaces throughout.
The Melkweg (Dutch for milky way) was founded in 1970 when a local theater group took over a disused dairy building just off Leidseplein. It’s been run as a non-profit ever since, although the city has had to step in to prop the organization up at least once recently. The interiors have been continually upgraded and now the entire place feels like an experimental art space, but the two main rooms and the big acts they draw are the main reason for going.
Melkweg is just off Leidseplein so it’s extremely easy to find and reach for most visitors. There is a map at the bottom of this page, and the address is:
1017 PH Amsterdam
Along with the Paradiso Club, which is just a few blocks away, the Melkweg draws all the international touring acts that are too small to play in the enormous Amsterdam ArenA and the not-as-enormous Heineken Music Hall next door to the ArenA. There are concerts most nights of the week in summer, and many nights of the week the rest of the year. Obviously this has to do with which artists are coming through Amsterdam, but on any given night there might actually be two good concerts going on at Melkweg.
Dance parties/DJ events
Most Thursday through Saturday nights, and occasionally on other nights, Melkweg hosts nightclub events that are referred to as “parties” after the concerts have let out. They require a separate admission and usually cost around €5 for normal events, and possibly much more for special one-off events. The music tends to be a mix so if you are picky you should see what’s on for that night before you get in. They have disco, hip-hop, electro, indie rock, and other more unusual combinations as well. These are generally run by outside promoters who rent the space and do all the promotion, so information can be hard to find on the official Melkweg website. Many of the parties are in the same room and night each week, but sometimes they are onetime events or promotions. Parties usually start between 11pm and midnight, and the whole place stays open until at least 3am on Friday and Saturday nights.
Membership required for some events
For most music events you’ll also need to buy a “membership” before they’ll let you in. You can purchase this along with your ticket when you walk up or at the AUB ticket shop on the corner down the block. The cost of a monthly membership is €3 and it’s transferable so a different person can use it another night. They also sell annual memberships for €15 that are non-transferable and require a passport-size photo.
How to find out what’s on
The official Melkweg website is mostly in Dutch, although they do have an informative English language page that explains some of the details, but no listings. If you click on the Events tab you’ll see what’s coming up in the next week, but it’s still quite confusing unless you can read Dutch. Fortunately, there are other ways to find out what’s happening there:
Melkweg concert listings on Pollstar.com
Amsterdam concert listings on Pollstar.com (for the whole city at once)
Party and concert listings at UnderwaterAmsterdam.com – This is your best source if you are coming to town in the next couple weeks since this site does an excellent job of listing and describing concerts and club events. Just click on the What’s On link and then in the scrolling calendar look under Music for concerts and Parties for club events. Click on the names of the events for more information (that these are links is not obvious at first).
Buying tickets in advance
You can buy advanced tickets with no extra charges at the Melkweg box office, which opens at 4:30pm daily. You can also buy advanced tickets at VVV offices, most larger post offices, and GWK offices throughout the city.
Online tickets can be purchased for most events on Ticketmaster.nl. This site comes up in English, but the way each individual venue inside Melkweg is listed can be confusing at first, so click around a bit to see it all.
Map to Melkweg
Below is a close-up map of Melkweg and the Leidseplein area. To see where Leidseplein is in the context of the city center check out the main Amsterdam map page. You’ll find Leidseplein on the left side of the page, just a bit below the center of the map.