Amsterdam might have one of the most underrated pub scenes in Europe. Most people immediately think of Dublin or London for a classic pub environment, but Amsterdam’s brown cafés are just on par with any other historic, big cities in the world. I’ve made it a point to try nearly every brown café in Amsterdam.
First off, a brown café (or brown bar or brown pub) is simply just a traditional Dutch pub that typically serves traditional Dutch snacks and tasty drinks, including cold beers on tap, spirits, and wines. However, if you prefer, there’s always traditional coffee or tea as an alternative.
Brown pubs are a quintessential part of Amsterdam life. These traditional bars/cafés are known for their dark, cozy interiors, made darker by years of cigarette and cigar smoke along with wood-built interiors.
Every Amsterdammer has their own favorite brown café and it is clear to see why. A cozy brown café is a must-visit during any trip to Amsterdam (or anywhere else in the Netherlands for that matter).
The Best Brown Cafés in Amsterdam, Netherlands
1. Café Hoppe
Address: Spui 18-20, 1012 XA Amsterdam, Netherlands
Café Hoppe is one of the most popular brown cafés in Amsterdam and is a great spot to relax and have a drink with friends. This Amsterdam staple is located in Spui, which is right in the heart of Amsterdam’s city center.
The atmosphere here on a Friday during happy hour is unreal, with a fun overflow of people out on the front terrace, no matter the weather – rain, snow, or shine. Even though it’s in the heart of the city, this bar is still a staple for many locals that live in the area.
Café Hoppe is my personal go-to for a cold Amstel beer. They also distill their own jenever (Dutch gin), so it’s a great place to taste new or aged jenever.
You can see the old barrels lined behind the bar. In the summer, grab a spot outside and enjoy the moment with the beautiful architecture that surrounds you. In the winter, grab a large table in the back to cozy up and enjoy some traditional Dutch food.
2. Café In ‘t Aepjen
Address: Zeedijk 1, 1012 AN Amsterdam, Netherlands
Café in ‘t Aepljen translates to “Cafe in the Monkeys.” This is the oldest brown café in Amsterdam and features an incredible story. It’s called “In The Monkeys” because when sailors would return from their trips around the world, they would bring back exotic animals, particularly monkeys, to repay their bar debts.
The sailors would usually indulge in so many drinks, and have no money or place to go, that they would simply sleep in the quarters above or below the bar. This historic building is worth a visit even if you don’t drink to simply marvel at the history.
You can even see the various monkey statues inside. Who knows if they are actually stuffed monkeys or not?
This one is definitely more popular with tourists since it’s in the middle of De Wallen and many walking tours stop outside the bar to tell the story of this legendary spot. If you’re arriving by train from Amsterdam Central Station, it’s pretty easy to stop by here for a quick drink on your way to your hotel, if you are staying in the city center.
I would visit this pub much more often, but the beer selection is based on the Gulpener brand, which is not my favorite. If you like Belgian beer, this might be the pub for you.
3. Café De Dokter
Address: Rozenboomsteeg 4, 1012 PR Amsterdam, Netherlands
This is one of my favorite places to grab a beer at the bar to relax. Café De Dokter also features an interesting backstory.
First, the English translation is “The Doctor Cafe,” as it was opened by a surgeon from the nearby Binnengasthuis Hospital. It became a staple for medical students and doctors for after-work happy hour.
The interior of this brown café features an incredible number of old trinkets on the walls, dusty lamps, and a warm environment. This ultra-typical Amsterdam brown café offers a cozy environment for friendly conversation along with ultra-nice bar staff.
It’s small in here so try to arrive early in the evening to get a spot at this amazing brown bar. The beer served here is generally Brand and their related products, which is an excellent, underrated pilsener beer.
4. Café de twee Zwaantjes
Address: Prinsengracht 114, 1015 EA Amsterdam, Netherlands
The Two Swans, or De Twee Zwaantjes as it is called in Dutch, is a cozy brown café located just across the canal from the Anne Frank House. It opened its doors in 1780, and today, it still features that ever-so-charming canal-side setting.
This café offers a great selection of Dutch beers and is the perfect spot to unwind and enjoy a drink with friends. With its traditional Dutch decor and tobacco-stained wallpaper, it’s no wonder The Two Swans is one of the best brown cafés in Amsterdam. Like most brown cafés, they accept credit cards.
See Related: Best Markets in Amsterdam to Visit
5. Café Chris
Address: Bloemstraat 42, 1015 TB Amsterdam, Netherlands
Café Chris is a popular brown pub also located in Jordaan. This cozy and rustic brown bar continues to be highly rated by travelers. It’s one of my personal favorites for its relaxed atmosphere, delicious food and drinks, and friendly service.
This is a great place to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam, offering a peaceful spot to relax with friends or family. Enjoy some of their tasty classic Dutch beers, wines, Dutch gin, and snacks while taking in the view around you. Like most brown cafés, you won’t find live music or electronics here, only newspapers, magazines, and a billiard table – oh, and some classic, good old conversation.
6. Café ‘t Papeneilend
Address: Prinsengracht 2, 1015 DV Amsterdam, Netherlands
This café may or may not get the full “brown bar” title. Café ‘t Papeneilend is more of the perfect place for morning coffee or an evening beer. It is one of the oldest cafés in Amsterdam, with some even claiming it as the oldest.
I call this a hybrid because it’s an excellent place for a morning snack or even just breakfast in general (most traditional brown bars aren’t open for breakfast). Café ‘t Papeneilend is known for their incredible Dutch apple pie.
It’s a popular spot on the north end of Jordaan near Brouwersgracht. If you’re going to Noordermarkt, this is a great place to stop by for a drink or a beer with the locals. In the summer, you can get a canalside spot and people-watch.
7. Café ‘t Mandje
Address: Zeedijk 63, 1012 AS Amsterdam, Netherlands
Café ’t Mandje is an inclusive brown bar with an illustrious history. The iconic Bet van Beeren opened the bar when she was only 25 years old.
From the moment she took ownership, Bet made sure the bar was a safe place for gay men and women to be themselves. In fact, during the 1950s when a lot of hate crimes happened, Bet would turn on a porcelain owl light behind the bar to warn patrons of a potential spy.
Today, Café ’t Mandje is a safe haven for all people. The staff is helpful and friendly, and the patrons are a blast to talk to.
You’ll find ice-cold Gulpener on tap as well as other beers, wine, and cocktails. Get there early if you want a seat, but soon enough the tables will be cleared for a little dancing.
Café ’t Mandje is a cozy place to visit, too. The walls (and ceiling) are covered in souvenirs from the last roughly 100 years.
Cut ties dangle from the ceiling, a bra or two is draped across the beams, and toys and trinkets line every shelf. This scenery paired with an old jukebox for music makes for a fun and welcoming experience.
8. Café Het Molenpad
Address: Prinsengracht 653, 1016 XD Amsterdam, Netherlands
Café Het Molenpad is a popular brown bar located near both Nine Streets and Leidseplein. Known for its traditional elements such as dark wood panels, a cozy atmosphere, and delicious food, this brown bar is a favorite amongst locals and tourists alike. It’s a go-to spot that offers both an excellent interior for those off-weather days, as well as charming canalside seating right on the corner.
With its outdoor seating and warm atmosphere, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a cold beer or a hot cup of coffee with friends. The bar also offers a range of beer options and has a selection of snacks to choose from on the menu.
See Related: Best Food Tours in Amsterdam to Book
9. Café ‘t Smalle
Address: Egelantiersgracht 12, 1015 RL Amsterdam, Netherlands
You’ve probably seen pictures of this historic café on Instagram or social media. Café ‘t Smalle (The Small Cafe) is one of the most epic bars for canalside seating as the seats sit above the water on the corner. It’s not just one of the most popular bars in Amsterdam because of its location, but they offer great beers, food, and service.
You’ll also get excellent views of the bridge for boat-watching and views of Westerkerk. It’s a popular area, particularly in summer, so get there early to claim your spot.
10. Café ‘t Sluisje
Address: Nieuwendammerdijk 297, 1025 LM Amsterdam, Netherlands
If you find yourself venturing over the River IJ into North Amsterdam, you’ll want to check out Café ‘t Sluisje (The Lock Cafe). Situated on a side channel of the River IJ in Nieuwendam, this traditional brown café boasts a terrace overlooking the harbor.
The historic building has been in operation for over 110 years, and much of its original decor remains intact. This is off-the-beaten-path, so you won’t find an overload of tourists in this area of Amsterdam. Enjoy a delicious beverage or meal from the cafe’s new menu while you admire the stunning views.
There are also plenty of great craft breweries in this area of Amsterdam, so you can turn your stopover into a fun brewery crawl.
See Related: Best Restaurants in Amsterdam
Why are they called brown bars?
Dutch brown cafés are usually found in the city center and old town of Amsterdam, as well as in many other Dutch cities. They are known for their cozy atmosphere and friendly staff. The walls and ceilings are covered with dark brown, wood panels, giving the pub its distinctive color.
Additionally, the interior is adorned with photographs, mirrors, and old Dutch paintings giving it a unique charm. The name “brown café” is derived from the warm and inviting interior, which provides an ideal atmosphere for a relaxing evening.
What are brown cafés in Amsterdam?
Brown cafés (or bruin cafés in Dutch) in the Netherlands are traditional pubs with dark brown wood and wooden floors. They are also known to be called brown bars or brown pubs. They are usually spots to drink a beer, a coffee, and/or a quick bite to eat.
Some even act as a tasting room for their jenever (Dutch gin). They are a huge part of Dutch culture and worth visiting multiple during any trip to the Netherlands.
What is a bruin café or brown café?
A bruin café, also known as a brown café, is the Dutch version of a local pub. These cafés are renowned for their warm and traditional interiors with dark wood paneling and furnishings.
They are informal spots that serve regional dishes and local beers and are known for being “gezellig,” meaning cozy and inviting. Brown cafés are social centers for regulars who use them as an extension of their living rooms – places to take breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drinks.
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