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.