Amsterdam nightlife is famous for the red light district and the coffee shops. But the city has much more to offer than that.
The nightlife in Amsterdam is very casual. You won't find many US style clubs with table service, scarcely dressed hostesses and a strict door policy. Regardless of the composition of your group, you'll be able to get into most places without any problems.
Most places will be free to get in, with some of the more popular bars charging 5 - 10 euros a head. Clubs typically charge between 10 and 20 euros, depending on the night.
Rembrandtplein and Leidseplein
The nightlife in Amsterdam is mainly concentrated around the 'Leidseplein' and the 'Rembrandtplein'. This is where most tourists will typically end up. Both squares ("plein" means square) are filled with bars, restaurants, clubs and lounges. On these squares you'll find pretty much anything you're looking for: Dutch music bars, Irish Pubs, clubs, cocktail bars, dive bars and lounges.
Since it's so easy to get into most places, Amsterdam is a great place to bar hop. The area between Leidseplein and Rembrandtplein is also filled with bars, so a fun thing to do is start of at one of the squares and make your way to the other once throughout the evening, stopping at some places on the way.
Most places will close somewhere between 3am and 5am. There are a few places that will stay open longer if you really want to go crazy. Your best bet is to ask a few locals where you can go.
Red Light District
The red light district is mostly filled with coffee shops, small bars and adult entertainment places. Expect this area to be filled with tourist, predominantly males. This area is also a favorite for English stag and hen parties, so don't be surprised to see someone downing shots in a bear outfit or a group of girls dressed up as bunnies.
Make sure you keep an eye on your belongings in this area, especially after consuming a lot of alcohol or drugs. There are plenty pickpockets active in the area, preying on drunk or stoned tourists. You'll have no idea that you lost your wallet until you reach for it to pay for a drink.
If you want to avoid the main tourist areas and experience a more local night, there are a few neighborhoods that have plenty of bars where you can quietly enjoy a few drinks amongst the locals. These bars will close a little earlier, anywhere between 1am and 3am.
Located just South of the city center, De Pijp is just a 15 minute stroll from either Leidseplein or Rembrandtplein. This neighborhood is filled with restaurants and local bars. The crowd tends to be a nice mix of students, young proffesionals, expats and a few tourists.
Most bars are located on the Marie Heineken Plein (Kingfisher, Barca) the Gerard Douplein (Pilsvogel, Het Paardje) and the Eerste van der Helststraat (Chocolate Bar, De Duvel and Flamingo).
A few minutes West of Dam Square you'll find a neighborhood called "De Jordaan." Similar to De Pijp, this area hosts a number of good bars scattered around the area. Walk around and you'll find plenty. Cafe Thijssen and Cafe Nol are my favorites.
The Nieuwmarkt is a square not far from Central Station, East of the Dam Square. It borders with the Red Light District. A fair number of bars are located on this square. The atmosphere is somewhat similar to De Pijp and de Jordaan.
There are a bunch of places located outside the areas mentioned above that are worth checking out, such as Panama, Trouw, Hotel Arena and Bitterzoet. A good resource for up to date information on what is going on in the Amsterdam club scene check out the DJ Guide.