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The Netherlands

Guide to (ADE) Amsterdam Dance Event (October)

Written by Charlotte

Amsterdam Dance Event (otherwise known as ADE) is the world’s largest electronic dance music festival and networking platform. It is held annually in Amsterdam for five days in mid-October. Each year the city completely transforms itself, all anyone can talk about is ADE and the myriad of artists, performers as well as music and entertainment industry professionals the event attracts. Thousands of people from all over the globe make their way to the Dutch capital to talk, learn about and dance to the world’s best electronic sounds. Because the scope of this event is so broad and there are so many different elements that form it, ADE may feel a little overwhelming to first timers. Based on my experience at ADE 2017 as a festival goer and industry professional, here is The Nitty Gritty Guide to Amsterdam Dance Event.

When did I attend? October 2017 and 2018

When is the next ADE? 16th – 20th October 2019

What do you hear at ADE? All kinds: techno, house, EDM, trance…

Where? All over Amsterdam!

What’s the local currency? Euros

What’s the local language? Dutch

. In 2017, ADE attracted over 395,000 people (which is almost half of Amsterdam’s population!) from 90 countries. The city’s venues opened their doors to over 2,500 artists and performers.

. ADE is split into a day and a night programme. Whilst the day programme focuses on the conferences, expositions and workshops, the night programme is when Amsterdam turns into a city-wide dance music party (though a few events run in the day also, it’s not exclusive to the later hours of the night).

. ADE isn’t only focused on electronic music’s main genres but also has a strong underground and progressive scene, paving the way for music discovery and inspiration.

. The ADE day programme is a chance for aspiring artists, producers, event promoters, investors and more to meet under one roof to discuss, inspire and develop the future of music events and electronic music.

Before you buy any tickets or dive into ADE’s intricate programme it’s advisable that you sign up to become an ADE Member to access ‘My ADE’. Here you’ll be able to add personal information which will automatically sync to your ticket purchases so you won’t have to keep typing everything up upon each purchase. You can also link your social accounts, including Spotify. This is particularly useful as the ‘My ADE’ feature will match with any artists you follow on Spotify and notify you if they are announced to perform at one of ADE’s events. Facebook will also enable you to stay up to date on event and artist announcements. So it’s definitely worth registering to make sure you don’t miss any of the action!

ADE has two parts to it: ADE Conference and ADE Festival. They occur simultaneously over the course of the week that ADE is hosted on. It is possible to attend both but keep in mind you will need to be over the age restriction imposed on events for ADE Festival.

The conference highlights all kinds of talks, workshops and activities during the day time. The programme is very broad and is a chance for electronic music enthusiasts and industry specialists to exchange knowledge and broaden business opportunities. It’s open to anyone who wants to discover new limits to the music industry and understand more about the field of electronic music. Who knows, this experience may spawn some lucrative ideas to start new ventures and contribute to the expansion and development of the music and entertainment industries.

It’s not possible to buy a single ticket to one part or to one day of the conference. Please see below for ticketing options.

ADE Festival is less for business, more for pleasure. The Festival is split into two sections, you’ve got ADE Festival by Day to encourage attendees’ engagement so expect to see all kinds of exhibitions, films, DJ showcases and masterclasses, and more… Then when night falls comes ADE Festival, this is when the fun really kicks off and when the city comes to life with all its music events.

The key to booking your tickets to events for ADE Festival is to keep checking back on the programme page. You can filter by day and/or genre. From the moment the dates are announced to a few weeks before the event this page will keep being updated with all the latest announcements on who is playing, when and where. Connecting your Facebook and Spotify (as mentioned above) to your ‘My ADE’ account will ensure you get notifications and alerts when the artists, labels and/or venues you’re following announce their event dates.

If the programme becomes a little overwhelming for you (it does get really crowded in there) then you can also search for events by artist name or venues. If you already know who you would like to see or you have a preference for which venue you would like to check out then save yourself some time and filter through those pages only rather than the entire programme.

This information applies to people buying single festival/event tickets. Please note that some of the daytime activities are free but may require pre-registration. And as always I would be quick to purchase your tickets, many events don’t have a pre sale but go straight into general admission and sell out very rapidly!

If you’re looking for a ticket bundle to include both ADE Conference and ADE Festival please see below.

. The ADE Pass includes all 5 Days and Nights. This will give you access to the complete programme, for both the ADE Conference and ADE Festival.

. The ADE Conference Pass is a 4 Day pass that gives you access to the entire Day programme.

Both of these passes give you access to the ADE online database so you can arrange meetings and are able to contact other people attending.

. The ADE Pack combines the ADE Pass with a hotel package. This avoids you needing to look for accommodation as you book both your ticket and hotel in one go! There’s several options to cater to different budgets and different arrival/departure dates.

If none of what I wrote above makes sense then please visit this page.

. The ADE Card gives you some great discounts and gets you exclusive entry into several ADE Festival by Day events (doesn’t include ADE Festival night programme). This pass is particularly good if you’d like to experience the Festival rather than the Conference.

Find information and conditions for ticket purchases HERE.

Each year thousands of people come to ADE from overseas, if you’re one of them then you’ll want to take a look at my Guide to Arriving in Amsterdam. Here you’ll find information on how to reach Amsterdam by plane, train, coach, car and ferry.

ADE is spread all over Amsterdam and uses most of the city’s venues and nightlife spots. Because there aren’t enough words in the English language to get me through all 140+ venues, here is a guide to getting around Amsterdam. Focusing on what public transport is available to you and how to use it. I’ve also included some insight into how Amsterdam as a city functions and things you need to know about the city. 

You can find a full list of the city’s venues and a map right HERE.

To figure out how to get to whichever venue the event you’re attending is at I suggest using this 9292 journey planner. It might suggest taking the train, the metro, the bus, the tram or even a ferry depending on which corner of the city you’re coming from and depending on what time of night or morning it is!

Bear in mind that the public transport system is completely cashless. You’ll only be able to purchase tickets using a credit or debit card.

Locals use an OV-Chipkaart (their public transportation chip card) to check in and out of public transport terminals. It is possible to obtain one as a visitor but you’ll have to pay for the card and is only useful if you’re travelling further afield beyond Amsterdam each day. Otherwise the most convenient ticket is the disposable one hour card or day card, these range from one hour to seven days. You can buy them at bus, tram and boat stops, and train stations. Word of advice, if you do opt for the chip card always make sure you check-out from transport terminals correctly or it’ll charge you with an increased fare next time you check-in with the card.

If you’re thinking of going out of the city or doing some sightseeing in between conferences or parties then you might want to consider buying one of the city passes or discount cards which include deals on the city’s top attractions and sights further afield. The I Amsterdam City Card is particularly good value for money!

Taxis become extremely convenient when you’ve been partying all night long and you can’t be bothered finding your way back via public transport.

It is advisable to only use licensed taxi services which are found at taxi ranks located around the city. You can recognise an official taxi service by its blue licence plates and the lights on top of the car’s roof. You can find a list of official taxi operators and more information on what to expect from taxi services in Amsterdam HERE.

The cost of the journey varies depending on your destination, you can use this calculator to estimate your fare.

Uber, an on-demand taxi hailing mobile application, is also a popular choice as it’s a slightly cheaper option and it gives you more control over when you get a taxi. This option is particularly helpful when you can’t hail a taxi on the street or you’re not close to any of the city’s taxi ranks.

The Dutch are known for being avid bikers, they learn to ride a bike before they can walk. So it’s no surprise that bikes have become one of the main pillars of their national identity. Bikes are a significant aspect of life in Amsterdam and they can become hazardous to people who aren’t used to being around them. Here’s a couple things you need to know about bicycles and biking in the city.

Firstly, whenever you’re crossing the road you absolutely have to make sure that you look both ways! Watch out for the bike lanes particularly at night, the last thing you want is to end up in hospital and miss out on all the fun! Also keep in mind that some people drive their scooters and mopeds in the bike lanes so be really mindful of where you’re walking and be safe!

Secondly, cycling is without a doubt the simplest and most convenient way to get around. The city caters predominantly to bicycles. It’s a bit more work cycling around but it’s a lot of fun and you get to take in the city like a local. It’s also completely inexpensive and you get to hop and off wherever and whenever you want. Coming back after a night out on a bicycle is particularly memorable, it’s not something you get to do everyday if you’re not from the Netherlands, it won’t be something you forget soon after your ADE experience!

Before you ride anywhere you should read these safety guidelines including how to keep your bike safe and the rules of the road!

And if you need to rend a bike during your stay you should think about contacting shops before your arrival as there will be a lot of people around for ADE, don’t miss your chance to grab a bike!

As I mentioned above the city is primarily bike friendly. Because the city centre has all its canals the streets are quite narrow so city officials try to keep cars out of the city which means that there aren’t many parking spots available. If you’re driving you’re likely going to need to park your car on the outskirts of the city at one of the Park & Ride locations and then use public transport to get into town. Check the locations HERE.

Don’t wait too long to book accommodation! It’s best to book as soon as they release the dates and not wait until a few weeks before the event kicks off as you’ll end up with slim pickings and usually just the most expensive options will be left. So get to it as soon as possible! Obviously the centre is the best location as you’ll be walking distance from most venues but this will come with a heavy price tag. If you’ve got a restricted budget then look for places in Amsterdam Nieuw-west, it’s an affordable area and it’s got great transportation links!

My go to is booking.com, most of their hotels offer a free cancellation and/or modification policy which I find very convenient.

But if you’re coming as a group then I’d recommend checking Airbnb. It’ll be more fun staying under the same roof and it’ll probably work out if cheaper as you can usually snag some good deals on there!

ADE also offers package deals as an accommodation solution to festival goers. This option is particularly good if you’re unsure about which area to stay in or it’s your first time in Amsterdam and need some guidance.

ADE unites both the music and entertainment industry professionals so one of its principal aims is to impress, inspire and educate. ADE acts as an exchange of information and this extends to the production and organisation of the entire event. This basically means that you can expect to witness some of the world’s best display of event conceptualisation and management. The Dutch have been in the business of organising events for longer than anyone else. They host some of the world’s greatest and most well known festivals and have an impeccable global reputation for event management and production.

ADE makes sense when you look at the country’s weight and influence over the years in the events industry. It belongs in Amsterdam, in the heart of the country where the world’s global dance music scene began and it definitely does the country’s reputation justice as it’s an absolutely seamless operation. This is beneficial for both attendees and industry experts as you get to appreciate and experience music the way you should be able to. This event holds so many elements together and so many things could potentially go wrong but looking back on my 2017 experience there were no noticeable glitches, perhaps it was another story behind the scenes but from the attendee’s perspective everything was pretty phenomenal. Moving from one place to another, jumping from one event to another, everything is made accessible and simple, it is a pleasure to attend.

ADE has the world’s most extensive day and night programme of music, and highlights the broadest spectrum of electronic music. Because of the vast range of genres, it’s a fantastic occasion to discover new music and new artists. And because the majority of the tickets are actually quite inexpensive you can afford to jump from one place to the next and try new things. I’m based in Thailand where we get a regular traffic of artists but it’s usually more mainstream so it was really great to be able to listen to take back some new music knowledge.

What’s really great about ADE is it’s a chance to see artists who may not have passed through your home town or country. It’s also an opportunity to see many of the artists perform in their native country, and they always receive such a warm welcome from the crowd, it’s something that’s truly unforgettable.

Who are you excited to see this year? Leave a comment below!

Amsterdam is an expensive excursion, let alone factoring in ADE. So in an effort to reduce costs here are some tips to be cost-efficient during ADE

. Book your flights and accommodation early! Dates are usually announced at the beginning of each year so as soon as you know when ADE is being hosted book everything!

. Plough through your list of friends and connections to see if you’ve got anyone who could accommodate you during ADE. This includes friends of friends, friends of distant cousins even, there is no shame, it’s ADE and saving money on accommodation is a huge plus!

. Purchase travel cards to get the best deals on public transport and some of the city’s tourist attractions.

. Rent a bike rather than spend money on taxis or public transport!

. An ADE pass is a good investment if you’re wanting to attend several of the programme’s events and activities rather than book individual tickets.

. Pay close attention to the programme page to make sure you get tickets as soon as they’re released and get them at pre sale prices!

. Plan your trip so you don’t overbook and end up wasting money on event tickets!

. No need to eat out everyday, there’s way of eating on the cheap! Eat supermarket food, Dutch snack foods, or visit a local market!

Amsterdam is a great place to satisfy your inner foodie needs, particularly when it rears its hangry head when you’re on your way home after a night of partying or when you’re hungover. The Dutch are known for their incredible snacks, namely Bitterballen, Kroketten and Frikandel. They’re absolutely incredible and the best part of all is that they’re available all hours of the day from vending machines. Check out FEBO, they’ve got a few locations around the city. Check out these snack guides by Expats Haarlem and I Am Expat to get your mouth salivating and to know what to be on the lookout for. 

Amsterdam boasts an enormous amount of eateries, you can eat anything from any corner of the world, there is so much food to explore! Food isn’t my area of expertise so to make sure you make the most of what the city has to offer I’m recommending one of my favourite online guides: Cravings in Amsterdam.

Because of the nature of the event I thought I would take a city-wide approach to what there is to do outside of the festival. There’s a lot to see and do in Amsterdam, the city boasts a lot of tourist attractions. From art galleries to beer factories, canal tours to historical exhibits, there’s something for everyone.

Check out Netherlands Tourism and I Amsterdam for ideas.

But if you’ve been to Amsterdam before and feel you’ve overdone the city as a tourist then you’ll want to keep an eye on ADE Festival by Day. ADE welcomes (as mentioned above in ‘Tickets’) an extensive program of day time activities to keep everyone occupied and engage with music professionals. It’s worth having a look through to see if anything tickles your fancy.

No matter what you choose you’ll be sure to be entertained in some way or another, there’s never a dull moment at ADE.

Because of the grandeur of the event it may seem a little intimidating, particularly to newcomers. But I’m here to tell you that you’ve got nothing to worry about and that you’ll absolutely have the best time.

Everything is extremely well organised and is well signposted throughout the city so you shouldn’t ever be worried about getting around Amsterdam and getting to where you need to be. Not only because the deployment of this festival is pretty impeccable but also because at any point in time you could stop and ask someone on the street for directions. The Netherlands is probably one of the most welcoming countries in the world. Everyone is extremely friendly and you are really made to feel like you’re home. This is both useful and fun because this means that you’ll also enjoy every single one of your ADE adventures. We met so many people out and about, many of whom we still stay in touch with and have even met up with for other parties in other countries. Everyone is so excited to be roaming the city and to be going to all these exquisite music events, the city feels like it’s bursting with energy and joyfulness. It’s an exceptional atmosphere, so much so that I’m going again this year, I had one the best week’s of my life at ADE. It’s a safe and friendly environment complimented by great food, incredible people and a remarkable music selection. What’s not to love about all that?

And this also applies beyond the parties to the conference. Whether you’re a complete newbie or an experienced industry professional ADE has something to offer everyone and no one should ever feel doubtful or shy about going. Everyone is very open minded and in the business of knowing that we can all learn from one another. This isn’t surprising when even the organisers of ADE are open to suggestions and will listen to their attendees opinions and requests. There’s only so much I can say, I think you get the picture: absolutely loved it!

Lockers: most venues have lockers which you rent for a small fee. Because ADE takes place in October it can get pretty cold in the evenings so you’ll want to carry extra layers and then put them in a locker upon arrival at the event venue. And the lockers are usually pretty spacious so check if you can share with your group before renting too many!

Toilets: avoid peeing on the street, I’ve known people to get arrested for it, it’s not worth the hassle and it’s a little bit awkward! There’s toilets on the city’s main squares, at train stations and in all the venues!

Wheelchair Access: I recommend either contacting the organiser for the event you’re attending via their Facebook Page to get more information or contact the venue directly.

Always bring ID and have a copy of your ticket saved on your phone! You don’t want to be the one left outside in the cold!

Ear Plugs: you’ll need to keep your ears protected! Long or repeated exposure to loud sounds can cause longterm damage to your ear drums, don’t risk ruining your hearing, think of all the festivals you have yet to explore!

Don’t let yourself get dehydrated: tap water is free in Europe and most places will let you drink it upon request even if you’re not purchasing anything else.

Party safe! ADE provide a comprehensive guide to advice and recommendations on how to party responsibly. It’s worth a read, it gives you really useful information on emergency services and what to do in the case of someone needing assistance. If there’s one thing we noticed is how safe it is for you to approach medical services if you’re feeling unwell due to partying. Don’t be shy, get the help you need, you don’t need to worry about getting into trouble.

Find party friends! If you’re travelling alone give PartyWith a go, this mobile application allows you to find and connect with other like minded party goers to explore ADE with!

Keep warm! ADE is hosted in October so it’s advisable to layer up as you’ll be queuing outside and travelling across the city late in the evenings/early in the mornings when temperatures drop. I’d forgotten how cold it gets during that time, all those years of growing up in Europe went straight out the window when I moved to Asia! The good thing is because all the venues have lockers you can just throw everything into there and get into your party gear!

Amsterdam is predominantly cashless: Public transport is completely cashless now and some venues won’t accept cash either so make sure you have a credit/debit card on you!

Zero tolerance policy on narcotics: this goes without saying but they have pretty thorough searches at the entrance of every event. If you’re found with anything you will get kicked out and the police may even get involved.

Check venues’ policies on taking photos inside: it’s been really interesting to see how differently party goers approach social media, and what they think of taking photos and videos during events across Europe and Asia. In Asia documenting your evenings is a pre-requisite but for those of us who are used to that we need to take it down a few notches for ADE as some venues don’t allow it. Live in the moment, respect everyone’s privacy and put your phones away!

Bouncers are for reals at ADE: make sure you behave and don’t act disorderly in the queue, you may be refused entry even if you already have a ticket!

Amsterdam Dance Event is one of a kind and should be made a priority on your festival bucket list. I’ve never been to anything quite like this event and I can’t wait for ADE 2018! I hope this guide gives you good insight into ADE, what you can expect and how to plan your trip. If I’ve left anything out please leave a comment below! Make sure you check out Amsterdam Dance Event’s official Facebook page for all the latest announcements!

Want to share your experience of Amsterdam Dance Event or know other festival hacks that I missed out? Share your thoughts in the comment section! 
Photo source: Amsterdam Dance Event
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About the author

Charlotte

My mission lies in acting as your virtual festival tour guide and relieving you of all the hard work that goes into planning for a festival so you can focus on having fun and making the most of your music festival experiences!

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