Cosy neighbourhood bars in Amsterdam
Low-lit lighting, vintage furniture, and heaps of warmth and nostalgia, every neighbourhood has a go-to bar. But what makes a truly great one? We searched far and wide across Amsterdam’s many streets for the cosiest locales in the capital – this is what we found.
Café de Tuin
Tucked away on an increasingly bustling Tweede Tuindwarsstraat, you’ll find the pale-green fronted Café de Tuin, one of the neighbourhood's most reliable bars. Decorated in floral-printed wallpaper, all manner of worn woods – from brown bar stools to teak chairs – and lit by warm hanging lamps and festoon lights, this is as cosy as it comes. A great place for residents and visitors alike, grab a Grolsch or La Chouffe at the bar and order a bowl of bitterballen for a little slice of classic Amsterdam.
One for the beer lovers, few bars come as close to Bar Joost in terms of selection. Nicknamed ‘the neighbourhood bar of Oost’, Joost excels in attracting a range of pub-goers to its corner of Amsterdam – much of it thanks to the beer on offer. With around 75 local beers and several carefully chosen ciders and spirits, this is one of the city’s ultimate spots to gather with friends. Better yet, if you visit on a Friday night, the kitchen often serves free vegan hot dogs for the lucky visitors.
Utrechtsestraat might lead in and out of busy Rembrandtplein, but it still has something of a neighbourhood feel, and much of that is down to bars like Café Krom. Far from the neon and noise of the bars circling Remdbrandtplein, Café Krom is a trip back to Amsterdam of old. Complete with an Art Deco-inspired interior, a jukebox, 20 different beers and a cat named ‘Arie’, Krom’s storied history and visitors make this a worthy visit for a drink or a coffee.
As much an excellent people-watching spot as a neighbourhood bar, Café L’Affiche is an Oud-West favourite. Located on Da Costagracht, bistro chairs line the front of the midnight-blue café in the summertime (it’s one of the best places to grab some sun), while inside, rickety chairs and tables find room in every nook. A popular meeting spot for locals, grab a coffee at the bar or a beer for outside, and enjoy one of the city’s best canalside views.
Café Simon de Wit
Nestled away in one of Noord’s quieter neighbourhoods is Café Simon de Wit, an Asian fusion kitchen and local bar. A little different than the average local, this is where you can enjoy a prawn laksa – a type of Malaysian and Singaporean noodle soup – and a few gyoza while sipping on a local craft beer. The café also hosts a variety of music nights in its living-room style interior, where DJs spin vinyl of classic disco and funk. It’s off-the-beaten-path, but that’s what makes it special.
Perched on the border between Oud-West and De Baarsjes, Café Thuys is a reliable ‘brown bar’ on the canal. Lovingly low-lit and filled with creaky wooden furniture, this is the kind of spot you’ll want to curl up in all night and never leave. The range of beers on tap helps keep you there, as does the limitless supply of classic Dutch bar snacks, from fries to croquettes, bitterballen to kaastengels (deep-fried cheese snacks). So get some friends together when the cold hits and find yourself a table for an evening playing board games away from the cold.
Westerpark usually takes up most of the attention, but the surrounding area shouldn’t be overlooked, not least because of lovely neighbourhood bars like Café Pianist. Part music bar, part local watering hole, this is for the slower evenings when a night spent listening to live music and sipping on a glass of wine sounds about right. Musical performances include acoustic and folk, as well as a weekly jazz night – and expect to find co-owner Rob behind the bar’s namesake piano at most times.
Lokaal van de Staad
One of the essential bars in the summertime, Lokaal van de Staad exemplifies Amsterdam at its watery best. Its name translates to ‘Local of the City’ and embodies much of what makes a neighbourhood bar great; complete with a lovely outdoor space, a range of beers and a casual, almost family atmosphere that makes it an ideal place to get together on the weekends. You’ll find all the usual culprits in terms of beers and snacks, but this bar comes alive in the summer, when crowds spill out onto the nearby riverbank, sipping on craft ales under the setting sun.
A queer bar and popular neighbourhood hangout, PAMELA brings some welcome flavour and energy to its corner of town. As much a place for Asian-inspired bar snacks and sharing plates as a day-to-night bar, PAMELA is busy in the best way possible. And alongside nearby Bar Bario and De Trut, it’s helping create a secondary ‘village’ to the usual LGBTQI+ one found on Reguliersdwarsstraat; a place for those looking for low-key hangouts over high-octane ones.
De Groene Olifant
Leafy De Groene Olifant (‘The Green Elephant)’ takes its naming inspiration from neighbouring Artis – Amsterdam’s zoo and the oldest in the Netherlands. While you won’t find any roaming animals here, its selection of hanging plants draped over the bar and botanical-inspired wallpaper give the space a jungle-like feel. An equally good place on wintry days to huddle over tables with a beer from neighbouring Brouwerij 't IJ, and for summer days spent out on its expansive terrace, De Groene Olifant remains an excellent choice whatever the season.
Café De Vlugt
While not an outright bar, Café De Vlugt at Cinema De Vlugt brings worlds together. A retro café housed in the Vlugt cultural house, this movie-themed bar, complete with cinema seats, is one for the film-loving Nieuw-West crowd. Grab a beer before a screening, or skip the movie altogether and have a few beers with friends as you dissect the latest arthouse production for hours on end – just don’t forget the popcorn.