10 Best Brown Cafes in Amsterdam to Unwind and Have a Drink
By Jessica Lipowski
Amsterdam Local Expert
Amsterdam is home to a variety of nightlife, including pubs, bars, clubs and cafés, but one of the most famous is the brown café. The brown café, the “bruine kroeg” in Dutch, is internationally renowned for its dark wood and smoke-stained walls. The atmosphere is absolutely “gezellig,” which entices people to make themselves at home. Gezellig is not a word that can be translated to English; it’s more of a cozy feeling that you experience.
The brown café is an integrated part of Dutch culture, a place where people go for a drink after work or to chat with friends on the weekend. They are great to unwind and relax. Most brown cafes serve beer and wine, as well as jenever, similar to gin. Bring some cash with you; most do not accept credit cards.
Every brown café has its own charm and character. Some, such as Café Hoppe and Café Chris, date back to the 1600s. Part of Café Hoppe is even a National Monument. The moment you walk into these historical buildings, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back in time. Others stand out for different reasons. De Dokter is the smallest cafe in the city, while De Sluyswacht is slanted even more than the Tower of Pisa. Arendsnest provides a taste of the Netherlands, serving only Dutch beers, while De Zotte offers 130 Belgian beers, eight of which are on tap. For an authentic Amsterdam experience, visit one of the “gezellig” brown cafes.
Cafe Het Molenpad
Café Galerie Het Molenpad is not your typical Amsterdam brown café. Het Molenpad incorporates traditional elements, such as the dark wood panels, but adds a modern flare with the bar countertop and lighting fixtures. You can pop by for a drink or bite to eat, day or night. The menu, which rotates every three months, features tasty specialties such as soups, salads, sandwiches, steaks, burgers, fish and pasta. For those just looking for something to snack on, try the bitterballen, old cheese platter or mixed nuts. If the weather allows, relax alongside the picturesque canal on the café's sunny terrace. (+31 (0)20-625 96 80)
Established in 1624, Café Chris is the oldest operating bar in the Jordaan. Rumor has it Westertoren construction workers received their payments here. The famous painter, Rembrandt van Rijn, also lived in the area. He even had a studio nearby. Therefore, it is safe to suppose that he probably frequented the café, as well. Today, the interior is absolutely exquisite and full of character. The ceiling beams are beautifully engraved and the dark wood is stunning. Order an Amstel beer, grab a light snack and play a game of pool. Just relax and absorb the Dutch culture. Don't forget to check out the small bathrooms. (+31 (0)20 6245942)
Café Int Aepjen
Café Int Aepjen is the perfect mix of history and pleasure. Upon entering the establishment, you'll discover yourself inside one of Amsterdam's oldest wooden houses. The cafe has quite the history; it was once a house, trading location, inn and pub. Even the interior is striking with its beautiful wooden accents. But don't forget to enjoy a liqueur or gin from the Van Wees distillery. One of the gins, the Schoot-An, is quite special. Not in the mood for a drink? Order a slice of apple pie and pair it with a warm cup of coffee. Café Int Aepjen is truly an Amsterdam experience. (+31 20 4288291)
De Twee Zwaantjes
Spend an evening at De Twee Zwaantjes. You're guaranteed to have a good time. De Twee Zwaantjes, which translates to "The Two Little Swans" in English, is a cozy brown café in the Jordaan that welcomes a diverse group of visitors, locals and tourists alike. Grab yourself a refreshing drink; Bavaria beer is on draft. Order a snack and share with friends. Tuesday is Motown Night, while Wednesday features love songs. On Thursday, belt it out; it's time for karaoke. The café even offers live music every Sunday. You're definitely in for some entertainment. There is always something fun going on at De Twee Zwaantjes. (+31 (0)20 625 27 29)
Cafe de Wetering
Cafe de Wetering is a little gem hidden in the heart of Amsterdam. It is a place that welcomes people of all ages. When you walk in, make your way to the bar and order a cold beer. There are usually three on tap: Heineken, Amstel and Palm. In the case that you're hungry, the café does offer several little snacks. Although the space is relatively small, you'll find a charming area upstairs, complete with a fireplace that helps create a cozy atmosphere. Thus, De Wetering is the perfect place to warm-up on a cold day. Engage in conversation with the regulars or simply relax. Either way, Café De Wetering will make you feel right at home. (+31 (0)20 622 9676)
There are not many times in life when you can say you are simultaneously drinking a beer and standing in a National Monument. At Café Hoppe, you can. Hoppe, founded in 1670, was initially a distillery. Now it is one of the most popular cafes in the city. Situated on the Spui, the brown café spans two buildings, one located at number 18 and the other at 20. One is used mainly for guests who like to stand and mingle, while the other provides tables to have a seat. The interior of number 18 is a National Monument, with many of the beautiful original features still intact. Stop by for a drink or a bite to eat. (+31 20 420 4420)
Call your friends and meet at De Zotte, a Belgian beer cafe. Sit at the bar and chat with the bar tender or find a table and make yourself comfortable. Look around; the benches are worn in and the walls are elegantly decorated with signature beer labels. The café radiates a relaxed yet social vibe. De Zotte offers 130 different Belgian beers, eight of which are on draft. From white beers to ales and lagers and everything in between, De Zotte is truly a beer lover's heaven. If you cannot decide, opt for the beer of the month or ask your server for a recommendation. If need be, you can also grab a bite to eat. The menu offers delicious options -- steak, vegetarian quiche, homemade Flemish fries and more. This brown café promises an all-around good time. (+31 (0)20 626 8694)
Café De Dokter
Drop by for a drink at the smallest café in Amsterdam: Café De Dokter. Among the options, you'll find Brand beer and house wines. The cafe is also a great place for whiskey connoisseurs. De Dokter offers a fine selection and even features a Whisky of the Month. Pair your drink of choice with flavorful cheese, savory smoked sausage or a juicy pickle. Listen to the jazz music in the background. Don't forget to ask the owners, the Beem family, about the history. The name, which translates to "The Doctor" in English, originates from its founder, a surgeon from one of the nearby hospitals (now closed). The café opened in the autumn of 1798 and quickly became a popular hangout for doctors and medical students. (+31 (0)20 6242582, +31 (0)20 626442)
Café De Sluyswacht is more than just a popular hang out. This cute brown café has quite the history. The building, situated right next to the lock, was constructed in 1695 as the home for the lockmaster. The lockmaster operated and maintained the lock, there to ensure enemy ships did not enter the city, as well as regulate the flow of water to the canals. The building even endured World War II. Now, because the house stands alone and has little support, it is even more slanted than the Tower of Pisa. Today, De Sluyswacht is a local favorite, complete with a charming two-story interior and beautiful view. (+31 20 625 7611)
Arendsnest distinguishes itself from other brown cafes in Amsterdam by serving beer only from Dutch breweries. Therefore, if you want to receive a taste of the Netherlands, you've come to the right place. Step up to the bar. Arendsnest offers 100 different beers. In addition, there are at least 30 on draft. You may find it difficult to make a decision. Tastings are also offered downstairs in tasting room Bartholomeus. The session will teach you how to properly taste beer, allow you to sample different types and also help you learn about the history of beer and its brewing process. (+31 (0)20 421 2057)
About Jessica Lipowski
In more ways than one, Jessica has fallen in love with the Netherlands. She moved in 2011, seizing an opportunity to live abroad, a long-time dream. For two years, she worked for an online group travel and event planning platform. She understands the ins and outs of arranging anything travel related. Now she is working on a book. Jessica has always had a passion for writing. She also developed her love for travel early. She’s traveled all over the US and Europe, enjoying scenery, diverse cultures and delicious meals. She is sure Amsterdam is a city you'll never forget.
Read more about Jessica Lipowski here.