The Herring’s Cultural Guide to Amsterdam

By Thea Bladt Hansen

Collage by Anna Sazonov

— Between lockdowns, lectures and lengthy Coronavirus updates you may not have realised that Amsterdam is the ideal place to reinvent yourself as a posh cinephile or meet other students who are fascinated by the cultural chaos of the city. But fear not – The Herring is here to make sure you become a properly cultivated Amsterdammer.

LAB111 – Arie Biemondstraat 111

Some of Amsterdam’s prime cultural spots have more bizarre origin stories than others. The cult cinema LAB111 may now be a venue for rewatching your favourite classics or discovering a hitherto unknown passion for Japanese cinema, but the building used to host a laboratory for anatomical pathology. Besides its numerous film festivals and special screenings, LAB111 also offers the opportunity to suggest a film you have always wanted to watch on a big screen, and these suggestions are occasionally incorporated into the cinema’s programme. You should also acquaint yourself with the cinema’s in-house Bar Strangelove where you can enjoy homemade pizza and a beer.

Filmtheater Kriterion. Photo by Tal Ben Yakir
Filmtheater Kriterion. Photo by Tal Ben Yakir

Filmtheater Kriterion – Roetersstraat 170

If you have an errand at UvA’s Roeterseiland Campus, or just want to burst the bubble and meet students outside the excellent and diverse dorms of AUC, then make sure to swing by Kriterion – Amsterdam’s quintessential student-run arthouse cinema. Kriterion’s programme consists of both niche films and Hollywood movies. If you are lucky, you can catch a weirdly specific midnight screening of a Swedish zombie movie, or something at least as obscure as that. The cinema’s ground floor bar provides you with nice specialty beers and a lively crowd of students and locals.

The Roeterseiland area. Photo by Tal Ben Yakir
CREA. Photo by Tal Ben Yakir

CREA – Nieuwe Achtergracht 170

Another Roeterseiland cultural spot is CREA – the cultural organisation of the UvA. So go ahead and enjoy the perks of your joint degree, which makes you eligible for the UvA student discount on all courses offered by CREA. Sign up for anything from lindyhop dance classes to model drawing or ceramics. CREA also offers lectures, concerts, comedy nights and a cozy café, which is an ideal place to study. 

Studio/K. Photo by Tal Ben Yakir
Studio/K. Photo by Tal Ben Yakir

Studio/K – Timorplein 62

If you are not entirely comfortable with the geography of Amsterdam yet but still crave a nice cinematic experience, Studio/K is the place for you. Located a mere 1.7 km from the dorms, this non-profit student-run cinema offers screenings of feature films as well as a film specials programme with movies picked according to monthly themes. Studio/K also hosts a café with a broad selection of board games to entertain you after a night at the movies. 

Mezrab – Veemkade 576

The not very pandemic-friendly Mezrab where multitudes of people sat under close proximity in the old warehouse-turned-cultural-center has temporarily been changed in order to accomodate COVID-19 measures. But even though you currently have to buy tickets in advance to score a spot at the popular events, Mezrab is still the epitome of Amsterdam culture. With weekly storytelling nights and monthly events such as the Mezrab Comedy Night, Mezrab brings you a wide range of performers who are eager to ensure that you get a fantastic evening of alternative entertainment. 

Collage by Anna Sazonov

OT301 – Overtoom 301
This subcultural social centre began in 1999 when squatters occupied the former Dutch Film Academy. OT301 bought the building in 2006 and has since created a vibrant cultural space which organises parties, concerts and art exhibitions. Everyone is welcome at the events organised by OT301 and it is also possible to volunteer there in order to help organise events, clean the building or hand out flyers. Due to lockdowns and COVID-19 measures, OT301’s programme is still not quite up to its usual level of business, but a few events are scheduled for September and October. Before you visit, make sure to familiarise yourself with the OT301 house rules – and do not forget rule number five: be quiet and considerate in the courtyard leading up to the front door so OT301 can avoid noise complaints from its neighbours.

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