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One of the best things to experience in Amsterdam is a cozy brown bar. As a resident of Amsterdam, I experienced many of Amsterdam’s charming cozy brown bars and I hope that this article convinces you to experience a brown cafe in Amsterdam!
These classic Dutch cafes are known for their
As a former resident of Amsterdam Centre, closer to the Jordaan, this list of cozy brown bars in Amsterdam is a bit biased in favor of bars towards the Jordaan as this is generally where I end up. I tried to go with brown cafes in the traditional sense: cafes without the pretense where you can unwind with a beer, fresh mint tea, or coffee. If you’ve never experienced a brown bar, it’s a classic Dutch bar without pretense. It’s somewhere between a historic bar (that has been well preserved) and a dive bar, depending on the bar. Basically, a brown bar is living history with a side of beer.
These are the kind of places where you fit in a lot more if you ask for your beer in Dutch (even if you can’t say a word more). You should probably carry cash as the majority of these establishments do not accept non-Dutch cards and some are happily cash-only.
- Cafe ‘t Smalle
- Café “De II Prinsen”
- Cafe Chris
- Cafe Gollem
- In ‘t Aepjen
- Café ‘t Hooischip
- Cafe Belgique
- De Twee Zwaantjes
- Eetcafé ‘t Pakhuis
- Cafe Mulder
- Proeflokaal Arendsnest
- Het Papeneiland
- Bierproeflokaal In De Wildeman
- Cafe Tabac
- Bruincafé ‘t Centrum
- Cafe ‘t Sluisje
- Batavia 1920
Cafe ‘t Smalle
One of my favorite small brown bars in the Jordaan is Cafe ‘t Smalle for its stunning views along Egelantiersgracht. Tourists often admire the exterior, but often don’t dare to step inside, which is silly to me. The staff is exceptionally tourist-friendly and the beer selection is decent. The two-story interior is full of wood and it’s a great place to enjoy in summer when you can sit out on the boat in the middle of the canal!
Café “De II Prinsen”
Cafe de II Prinsen is just one of the more typically Dutch brown cafes in Amsterdam. It does not put on a pretense, but as soon as you step into the cafe, you just feel at home no matter where you’re from. I came here with my cousin and I found the staff to be friendly. The staff brought us free snacks while we spent a few hours chatting away.
Cafe Chris is one of the oldest cafes in Amsterdam, supposedly. It opened in 1624 and it puts on no pretenses. I love this bar for the old-school Jordaan feels and people are so friendly here.
Although tourists certainly do wander in here for beers and pools, I’ve spent several nights chatting away with the friendly local patrons and bar staff over beers. The menu is basic and the bar is cash-only. I absolutely love the interior and the benches outside are also a great spot to sit.
One of the popular beer bar chains in Amsterdam is Cafe Gollem. Despite being in several locations in Amsterdam, Gollem is a great brown bar for a relaxing drink (of quality) away from the crowds. (Not all brown bars have a great selection of craft beers and bartenders with an encyclopedic knowledge of beer.) The ever-changing taps are always great and it’s a great place to spend an evening in a beautiful environment without extra noise. I like the Gollem in centre, but all the locations are great.
Café ‘t Hooischip
Cafe ‘t Hooischip is one of my go-to bars if I wander down close to Waterlooplein. That area just grates my nerves and there’s nothing like the quiet of Cafe ‘t Hooischip with its friendly staff and quiet.
I like to imagine that it’s almost imaginary to the passing tourists who don’t pay this brown bar any attention. The beer selection is decent (including beer from Brouwerij ‘t IJ) and I like their bar snacks. Just be warned that it’s a popular location on a rainy day.
Cafe “De Doelen”
This cozy brown bar in Amsterdam Centre is a great place to relax away from the crowds, especially if you love cats. It has good coffee and beer. You cannot beat the stunning views over the canals from the seats outside on a nice day!
One of Amsterdam Centre’s most well-known brown cafes is Cafe Belgique, which is also one of the smallest pubs in Amsterdam. If you’re not afraid of being squished a little and you’re into dive bars, you might like the grungy, cool, and chill vibes. It’s a favorite of tourists as it’s in the Red Light District.
Eetcafe De Jordaan
An oft-overlooked spot in the Jordaan is Eetcafe De Jordaan. This classic Dutch bar has stunning views over the
Eetcafé ‘t Pakhuis
Although Eetcafe ‘t Pakhuis is somewhere between a cozy eatery and a brown bar, I had to include it. It’s a bit difficult to find as it’s hidden on a small street, but as soon as you enter, the dark lighting, the adorable bar cat, and the wooden furniture makes you just feel at home. I love coming here for long lunches or dinners with friends while enjoying drinks!
De Twee Zwaantjes
I always seem to find my way into the Jordaan. This brown bar might not be for everyone’s one taste, but if you wish to experience the Jordaan like a local, come to de Twee Zwaantjes for friendly folks, traditional Dutch songs (and sing-a-longs), and a nice beer. It’s more about the friendly cozy atmosphere that really defines the Jordaan’s spirit.
It’s funny: you have a view of Heineken from Cafe Mulder, however this bar has none of the pretense of its surroundings. This cozy brown bar is often where I stop by whenever I’m waiting for the tram, cold while walking from Centre to De Pijp, or just need something to drink. It’s a no pretense place to cozy up with a beer and rest your feet. It’s low-key and I quite liked their gluhwein in winter!
One of the most best brown bars in Amsterdam in terms of beer selection has to be Proeflokaal Arendsnest. This cozy craft beer specializes in beer from the Netherlands and it’s a slightly pricey place for a pitstop. The interior can feel a bit cramped, but it’s worth coming here in summer to enjoy the tables next to the canal along the breeze.
In ‘t Aepjen
One of my favorite brown bars in the entirety of Amsterdam is In ‘t Aepjen, which has a wild story behind it. This cozy Amsterdam cafe is right in the heart of Centre yet countless tourists walk by it without a thought. Inside, you’ll find a gorgeous brown bar where sailors used to spend their well-earned money after a hard journey.
Some sailors would even drink so much that they’d lose their money and be forced to sell their pet monkeys to the bar (who lived upstairs) as payment for their drinks. For the truly broke who couldn’t afford accommodation after too much drink, the flea-inhabited second-story (closed to the public today) was their hotel for the evening. Eventually, there were too many monkeys, which is how the Amsterdam Zoo began. Today, it’s just a charming bar with a great house beer and a great place to enjoy a moment of quiet in Amsterdam (without monkeys!)
I always have liked Cafe Tabac and during summer, you can pretend to be an
Another one of my favorite cafes in Amsterdam is Het Papeneiland. Despite being situated in one of the most iconic buildings pictured on postcards, not as many (as you’d think) venture inside. This brown bar is absolutely gorgeous and has a decent selection of craft beer. I love coming here during winter to sip on their delicious housemade gluhwein and spent hours sitting in this candle-lit bar that feels like a throwback to the past.
Bruincafé ‘t Centrum
Despite being in the centre of Rembrandtplein, Amsterdam’s hub for nightlife, this bar has managed to maintain its charm and its stunning brown bar. It’s a great place to stop in for a coffee or lunch if you’re tired of battling the crowds.
Cafe ‘t Sluisje
If you happen to be Amsterdam Noord, you must go to this local institution in Nieuwendam, a village that used to be part of Amsterdam. Despite being part of Amsterdam, you can’t feel further away when you’re here looking out at the canal. The building itself dates back to 1565. If you’re sitting outside, you can admire the beautiful houses where sea captains once retired in this former village.
Despite its proximity to Amsterdam Centraal, you might be surprised by Batavia 1920. This cozy brown bar within a historic building has great food, stunning views over Amsterdam’s canals, and a decent drink selection. It’s pretty tourist friendly, so consider stopping off if you’re close to the Red Light District!