For a taste of authentic Amsterdam flavour and Dutch culture, don't miss a visit to a traditional Dutch pub known as a 'brown café' (bruin café). These local watering-holes are a quintessential part of Amsterdam’s culture – and are the favoured haunts of some colourful local personalities.

Traditional Amsterdam pubs: What’s in a name?

The name 'brown café' comes from the dark but cosy wooden interiors and the nicotine-stained walls and ceilings. Even though most cafés nowadays shouldn’t really be getting any browner, some of the newer hangouts are carefully decorated to achieve this lived-in look and for many people, their local brown café is an extension of their living room.

Food and drink

In general, brown cafés are laid-back and the fare is pretty simple. In addition to local and regional beers, you can also sip jenever – a Dutch spirit similar to gin. Light meals and snacks (hapjes) are also usually on offer. A typical Dutch pub snack is bitterballen (breaded and deep-fried balls with a ragout filling), served with mustard.

Traditional haunts

Several brown cafés claim to be the oldest in Amsterdam, and while there is no hard historic evidence to indicate a clear winner, there are some that can trace their roots back to the early 1600s. Check out I amsterdam’s selection of Amsterdam brown cafés and be sure to pay one (or more) a visit when you’re next in town.

Delirium Café Amsterdam

The Amsterdam branch of the Delirium Café is a true beer lover’s paradise, with more than 500 beers on offer, hearty food to soak ...

Café ‘t Smalle

The famous Pieter Hoppe opened his liqueur distillery here in around 1780. It's a lovely old pub with wood panelling, mezzanine ba...

Café Chris

Café Chris opened its doors in 1624 as a beer house, and as such is the oldest café in the Jordaan.

Café Marcella

A traditional 'brown café' with a number of nautical references. Soul music and a wonderful terrace on the water.

Café de Sluyswacht

Café de Sluyswacht is in the historical Sluyswachterhuisje (lockhouse): an adorably wonky little house dating from 1695 in the Jod...


Cafe Tabac, located on the corner of the Prinsengracht and the Brouwersgracht is regarded by many as one of the most beautiful if ...


canal ring

Café Barderij

Commonly known as one of the only traditional gay brown cafés in the city, this bar at the end of the Zeedijk has a keen following...

De Oranjerie

For those who fancy Belgian beer in a friendly atmosphere must go to café De Oranjerie. This ‘brown’ café in a side street of the ...

De Wetering

The unique Café de Wetering is in a picturesque 17th century house. Here, no loud music or other raucousness but instead quiet int...

Het Paardje

’t Paardje is on a massive terrace in the centre of the Pijp neighbourhood. It is a modern 'brown' café, where easygoing young loc...

In ‘t Aepjen

This brown café is simultaneously one of the oldest and newest examples in the city. Housed in one of the oldest buildings in the ...