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Cultural life in the Netherlands is not confined to the Randstad. Outside the big cities there is also plenty to do. There is a theatre or a cultural centre in just about every town, where theatre groups, cabaret artists, orchestras and rock bands perform. There is also a growing number of entertainment complexes, such as the Miracle Planet Boulevard centre in Enschede. You can find out what’s on either by contacting the relevant venue or through the local VVV (tourist) offices; another option is the AUB Ticketshop  in Amsterdam. Here you can usually book tickets centrally, or obtain more information about performances. You can also get tickets and information via the Uitlijn (0900-0191). The major national dailies publish a list of events each week. Most cities publish a weekly uitkrant, or entertainment guide, while the internet is another source of information.


 The Netherlands boasts a large number of theatres, most located in Amsterdam. That city’s top theatre is the Stadsschouwburg , where many touring theatre companies put on performances. The Netherlands’ largest theatre company, Amsterdam Theatre Group, is based here and is now directed by Ivo van Hove.

The annual highlight for opera, theatre and dance is the Holland Festival. The best in international cultural offerings is to be had during the Amsterdam Festival. During the International Theatre School Festival in June, experimental drama is performed at venues such as De Brakke Grond  and Frascati. The Soeterijn, on the other hand, specializes in theatre from developing countries. The theatre company frequently wins prizes under the inspired leadership of Theu Boermans. De Dogtroep is a company that stages spectacular street theatre, while the Theatergroup Hollandia has also won great acclaim with its performances in large halls and aircraft hangars. The musical dramas of Orkater can be seen in various parts of the country at different times of the year, but mainly at the Stadsschouwburg and Bellevue. De la Mar stages big box-office hits, comedy and concerts by Dutch solo artists and groups. Youth focused theatre is put on in De Krakeling. For years now the perfor mances by the Toneelschuur in Haarlem have won critical acclaim. The De Appel group stages both experimental and repertory theatre at the Appeltheater in The Hague. Throughout the Netherlands there are numerous excellent theatre groups. Het Zuidelijk Toneel of Eindhoven in the south always packs theatre halls, as do the Theater van het Oosten from Arnhem in the east of the country and the Noord Nederlands Toneel from Groningen in the north. Every year in May, the Festival aan de Werf in Utrecht presents an appealing smorgasbord of theatre and cabaret performances.


The Netherlands’ most outstanding musical theatres are the Fortis Circustheater of The Hague, the Beatrix Theater in Utrecht and the Koninklijk Theater Carré  in Amsterdam. These stage Dutch versions of big boxoffice hits such as Les Misérables and Miss Saigon.

De Kleine Komedie , a magnificent 17thcentury building on the Amstel river opposite the Muziektheater, is a favourite venue for cabaret groups. Stand-up comedy has also gained popularity mainly through this venue. Other comedy venues in Amsterdam are Comedy Café, Toomler and Boom Chicago


The Netherlands is the proud home of two world-famous ballet troupes: the Nationale Ballet and the Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT). The Nationale Ballet is based in the Musiektheater , which is commonly known among Amsterdam theatregoers as the “Stopera”. This contemporary building can accommodate 1,600 people and is a significant centre both for dance and for opera. The foyer affords a spectacular view of the river Amstel.

The Nederlands Dans Theater, which is based in the Lucent Danstheater in The Hague, puts on works primarily by its former artistic director Jirí Kylian, who was succeeded by Marianne Sarstadt in 1999. Under the direction of the company’s present choreographer Ed Wubbe it has staged sold-out performances with live music. Introdans of Arnhem performs an exciting combination of jazz, flamenco and ethnic dance. The country’s biggest choreographers use the Holland Festival as a platform to present their new creations to the public. During the Internationale Theaterschool Festival, which also takes place in June, the proportion of dance performed is growing. The festival venue is the Nes, one of Amsterdam’s oldest streets. Julidans is the name given to a summer dance festival in Amsterdam in which contemporary dance by various international dance companies is performed.


Going to the movies continues to be a popular pastime in the Netherlands, and you will find at least one or more cinemas in almost every town. Amsterdam alone has more than 45 cinemas. Foreign-language films are shown in the original language with subtitles. The most magnificent cinema in Amsterdam is Tuschinski, an Art Deco masterpiece built from 1918–21, with a stylish foyer and generous seating . The major premieres are held here: if you want to see famous faces, the best time is Wednesday evenings at the cinema entrance. There is a list of all films that are showing at the box office of every cinema, and such lists are also displayed in cafés and restaurants. Cinema programmes change every Thursday, so you will find a list of films that are on in Wednesday’s evening papers and in Thursday’s morning papers. De Filmkrant is a much-respected movie magazine that is published every Monday, which in addition to the week’s film listings also provides background information on major films. Major film events in the Netherlands are the Nederlands Film Festival, which is held in Utrecht in September and October, where Dutch films are premiered. The IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam) is the biggest of its kind, held every year in November/December. The renowned International Film Festival in Rotterdam takes place each January.


The Concertgebouw in Amsterdam is traditionally the most important venue for concert music. The Grote Zaal hall is famous for its acoustics, and its resident musicians are the Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest. During summer the orchestra puts on special concerts. The Beurs van Berlage , formerly the stock exchange, has for some time now been the home of the Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest. Many of the country’s better orchestras and choirs perform here

De Ysbreker is situated in a magnificent building on the Amstel, and since 1979 has been the prime venue in Amsterdam for modern classical music. An outstanding orchestra is the Rotterdams Philharmonisch Orkest, which since 1995 has been conducted by the Russian conductor Valeri Gergjev. The orchestra is based in De Doelen in Rotterdam. The Residentie Orkest, whose history goes back almost 100 years, performs regularly at the Anton Philipszaal in The Hague and is not to be confused with the Muziekcentrum Frits Philips in Eindhoven, where the Brabants Orkest is based.

The Gelders Orkest makes regular appearances in the Musis Sacrum concert hall in Arnhem. Another venue offering a rich programme of music is the Muziekcentrum Vredenburg.


Of the many organs in the Netherlands, that of the Grote Kerk in Elburg is probably the best known. Every year it is used in the national amateur organist competition. The instruments in the Oude Kerk and the Nieuwe Kerk are the most famous of Amsterdam’s 42 church organs. Organ concerts can also be heard at the Waalse Kerk and also on Tuesdays at lunch time in the Westerkerk

The programme of the 17th-century Engelse Kerk contains a wide variety of music, ranging from Baroque to modern. In the Domkerk in Utrecht, concerts are performed on a regular basis.


Established in 1988 in Amsterdam, the Muziektheater is the home of the Nederlandse Opera. One of Europe’s most modern opera theatres, its stage has been graced by many established international companies, although it is also used for experimental works. The Stadsschouwburg  on the Leidseplein is also host to a great deal of opera, although if experimental opera is your thing, the Westergasfabriek is probably the best venue. The Twentse Schouwburg in Enschede, in conjunction with the Nationale Reisopera, organizes the Twents Opera Festival each year in July and August.


Two venues in particular have established themselves as the most important rock venues in the Netherlands: Ahoy’ in Rotterdam and Vredenburg in Utrecht, although international rock stars now perform in many parts of the Netherlands. With a capacity of over 5,000, the easily accessible Heineken Music Hall is Amsterdam’s prime rock venue. It has been used for concerts by megastars such as the late Michael Jackson and the Rolling Stones. However, for locals, there are only two real rock venues: Paradiso and De Melkweg. Paradiso, in a former church near the Leidseplein, enjoys the greatest respect. The Melkweg (Milky Way), which is also near the Leidseplein, owes its name to the fact that the building in which it is located used to be a dairy. The programme in both of these respected venues changes constantly, and all rock and pop enthusiasts will eventually find something to their taste.

Every Sunday in summer there are free open-air concerts in the Vondelpark, often with renowned bands on the line-up. Programmes are displayed at the entrances to the park. In June the world’s largest free pop festival, the Haagse Zuiderpark Parkpop, is held in The Hague. Another annual festival which attracts visitors from near and far is the Pinkpopfestival in Landgraaf (Limburg).


 The foremost venue of the jazz scene in Amsterdam is the Bimhuis. Although the casual visitor might find the atmosphere a tad pretentious, the music here is of top quality, and the Bimhuis enjoys a reputation that goes far beyond the country’s borders. There are good jazz cafés to be found all over Amsterdam, most of them featuring local jazz bands. Around the Leidseplein are the Alto Jazz Café and Bourbon Street, which is open until 4am on weekdays and until 5am on weekends. Alto is best on Wednesdays, when the “godfather” of Amsterdam jazz, Hans Dulfer, performs. His daughter Candy, who has gained international renown, sometimes plays in De Heeren van Aemstel. De Engelbewaarder is a venue for Sunday jazz. Meanwhile, in Rotterdam, the annual North Sea Jazz Festival takes place in the Congresgebouw. Dizzy jazz café has become a household name among jazz-lovers in Rotterdam, hosting over 100 jazz concerts every year.


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