Before arriving in Amsterdam, I was warned that the buskers were rough and territorial. I was nervous going in to try to get my show on – it’s just a tiny crystal ball act, unlike the big 45 minute circle shows I’d be competing with.

Back on my home pitch, buskers complain about acts like mine “who don’t make enough money” to be worth taking over valuable space and time away from their larger acts. It’s always been intimidating, and I was expecting a bit of a fight to get some space in a new city. Amsterdam is such a huge destination, and hoped that this pitch would be forgiving of my low-on-the-hierarchy type show. I was going in thinking I’d have to stand my ground.

    Camp Zeeburg

This city is filled with some of the strangest and most wonderful people, stoned out of their minds riding bicycles through the city. It’s surrounded by water ways and natural settings, and for those reasons it’s one of my favorite cities in Europe.

My partner and I started our journey in Camp Zeeburg, a large campsite just on the city limits, with a beautiful waterside view, where you can rent a bike or take a tram and get into Centurum (the center of town) within 30 minutes.

Freddy Krugar Busker

Dam Square is one of the main pitches, but with a costume character every 10 feet, haggling for money with little to no artistic inclination, you’d think that it would be completely problematic. Yet, although those characters take up a lot of space for huge swaths of time, they also leave one or two pitches for the artists who wish to perform circle shows, and they don’t seem to harass each other or cause any problems for the main pitch buskers.

Busking In Amsterdam

I managed to talk to an ex-londoner who lives and busks Amsterdam, Paul Molyneaux. He was just fueling up his wicks to start his show, when the bagpipe player was looking for a pitch, so instead he decided to give up the spot to the musician. Let’s be clear, in most busking world’s that’s unheard of, and it’s the first piece of evidence of how surprisingly kind the buskers of the city actually are.

Bag Piper Busker

Busking in Amsterdam was the exact opposite of my fears. Although the buskers do swear a lot, smoke weed and drink on the pitch, they were always kind to me. I am a stranger, but they never pushed me out, they waited for me to finish my show without interrupting me, even when I couldn’t properly build a circle in a new pitch. No one ever acted like they had a problem with me taking up space.

Dawn Dreams Circus Dead PitchThis is my “oh god, I’m dying out here” face.

It was easier for me to busk in the museum district, although you are more likely to be stopped by the police in this area. For me, as a contact juggler, this pitch is exactly what I enjoy. A relaxed atmosphere, with stoned hippies looking for something to stare at on a beautiful summer afternoons day. Just like my home pitch in Vancouver!

Museum District AmsterDam

The police did slowly drive by me, and I wasn’t sure if they were watching my show or debating whether or not to stop me. Either way, they never bothered me at all, keeping their distance and letting me do my work. People told me that they get harassed in this area, but those buskers also have louder, sharper shows than my ball dancing act does.

After the days was done, Paul and I went for a drink at the local bar close to the Dam Square pitch, where all the buskers wait for their shows to begin or end. He gave me the low down on what’s been happening in Amsterdam. “There is really one rule in Amsterdam as a busker, and that rule is: don’t be a dick”. He said.

He explained that there was a huge protest in 2008-2009 where the buskers rose up against the licensing system. They ended up suspending the licensing program. Then the amp wars started, so now there is a complete amplification ban across the city.

Dam Square BuskingBreak Dancers set up for their next set

He says the police hate the statues, and that the “city is getting cleaner” although you have to warn your crowds that there are pickpockets in the area, and they are likely to steal from your crowd if you don’t warn your audience to protect their stuff.

So thanks to Paul for all the information in Amsterdam, it’s a lovely place to visit, watch buskers, smoke joints and of course, Busk! With its cobblestone streets and picturesque views, it certainly is on the list of must-stop and busk cities in the bohemian European travelers life.