Best brown bars in Amsterdam
For a taste of authentic Amsterdam flavour and Dutch culture, don't miss a visit to a traditional Dutch pub known as a bruin café (brown bar). These local watering-holes are a quintessential part of Amsterdam’s culture – and are the favoured haunts of some colourful local personalities.
Café ‘t Sluisje
This quaint old brown café in dates back more than 100 years. Sit down to a wonderfully simple lunch or dinner, beers and nibbles, or tea and cake, with a stunning view over the Nieuwendammerhaven. The terrace is situated so that the sun hits it at every hour of the day, making it the perfect scenic pitstop during a cycling trip through Amsterdam Noord.
Café Kuijper is a neighbourhood standard that locals can’t get enough of. It's both a pleasant place for lunch in the afternoon and drinks in the evening. If you’re searching for something to do on an otherwise subdued Tuesday evening, head over to Kuijper to join in with their lively pub quiz – if you win, they’ll pick up your tab.
Café de Tuin
Located in the heart of the Jordaan, there’s something so special about this brown cafe, precisely because there’s nothing special about it at all. Swing by in the day for sandwiches and coffees as you peruse the paper or people-watch passing locals on the bustling Tweede Tuindwarsstraat. Or pop by for speciality beers and bitterballen soaking in the neighbourhood buzz as it livens up throughout the evening.
Café ‘t Smalle
Café ‘t Smalle meaning 'narrow' is a lovely old pub with wood panelling, a mezzanine bar and wooden barrels over the bar. The famous Pieter Hoppe opened his liqueur distillery here in around 1780 and the premises has been serving jenever and beers here ever since. There is also a particularly beautiful waterside terrace that’s always packed when the weather is good.
By day, Café Nol looks just like another brown café in the Jordaan– a neighbourhood with many bars and cafes to choose from. But as the sun drops, Nol comes to life in all its neon-lit glory. Indoors, the mirrored walls, chandeliers, swathes of red carpet and garish curtains attract a mixed crowd of older patrons who grew up in the neighbourhood, and youngsters, all sharing a passion for the sing-a-long Amsterdam folk songs that echo out onto the street.
Café Chris opened its doors in 1624 as a beer house, and as such is the oldest café in the Jordaan. Locals pop in for a game of billiards or a kopstootje aan de bar (that’s a jenever slurped hands-free at the bar with a beer on the side). The story goes that builders working on the nearby Westertoren came to collect their pay in the café. Unique to the interior: lack of space meant the toilet cistern was placed outside of the toilet area.
Anyone who fancies Belgian beer in a friendly atmosphere needs to check out Café De Oranjerie. This brown café in a side street off the Haarlemmerdijk serves speciality beers that everyone from old men to trendy students come from far and wide to seek out. The interior space is full of art deco details, has a high ceiling and a wall covered in theatre posters. You’ll also find a corner for Scrabble and other board games for some good old-fashioned Dutch sociability.
This modern brown cafe is a favoured neighbourhood haunt in De Pijp. The sprawling terrace pulls in a great mix of young people, students and well-seasoned locals and comes alive in the late-afternoon sun. On the vast menu you’ll find a great range of reasonably priced beers along with borrel snacks, bistro fare and pub classics.
Once upon a time, Het Molenpad was a good old-fashioned brown bar with sticky floors and tobacco-stained ceilings. Since then, it’s been given something of a facelift, with a fabulous terrace directly on the Prinsengracht, modern black decor, a granite bar and the gigantic letters M and P on the wall. Luckily you can still order the perfect draught beer, a first-class steak and a real taste of the true Amsterdam here.
Café Slijterij Oosterling
This traditional brown cafe has been in the hands of the Oosterling family since 1877. The building itself dates back to 1735 when it was owned by the East India Company and inside, the tiled floors and old-timey furnishings make it feel as if time has stood still. Prop up at the bar for a beer and some bar snacks as you ask the bartenders to verify the rumours about the premises being haunted.
This Amsterdam institution, which started as a distillery, has been pouring our jenever for 348 years. Still popular, it features a standing-room-only space with sawdust floors and a sit-down area with dark wood panelling and a spacious terrace. Keep an eye on the agenda for the annual Herring Party in June, when the Dutch traditionally celebrate the first catch of the season or pop by on King’s Night as crowds of revellers spill out into the streets.
Café de Wetering
Behind a veil of vines, in Amsterdam’s art and antique district - known as the Spiegelkwartier - you’ll find Café de Wetering located in a picturesque 17th-century canal house. This small corner café boasts a cosy fireplace, comfy leather armchairs and a house cat called Fidel. Regulars of all ages usually gather together downstairs at the tiny bar, while first-time visitors warm themselves in front of the old-fashioned open hearth upstairs.
Café de Twee Zwaantjes
You won’t get away with not singing at this friendly bar located on one of Amsterdam’s most picturesque canals. Café de Twee Zwaantjes pulls in a mixed crowd of regulars and visitors, providing them with snacks, after-work tipples and drinks into the late evening. The agenda encompasses karaoke evenings, Motown nights and - in true Jordaan style - frequent Dutch sing-a-longs for you to belt your heart out.