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Bucket list experience:

External view of a brown cafe with red awning
Last updated: 10 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Jennifer Ceaser

Amsterdam’s version of the classic London pub – brown cafés (or brown bars) – have served as traditional drinking establishments for centuries.

So named for their dark wood interiors and nicotine-stained walls, brown cafes are cosy spots for sampling local beers or shots of jenever (Dutch gin) while soaking up the historic atmosphere.

While these casual, convivial neighbourhood bars can be found across the city, some of the oldest are located in the Red Light District. Many brown cafes in the Canal Ring and Jordaan also sport lovely canalfront terraces in the warmer months.

Price: Free
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 18+
When: All year around
Duration: Any
Canal spring scene with green trees, boats and people relaxing in small cafe.
Experience

Cafe ‘t Smalle

Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands

Dating from 1780, small in scale, wood-panelled, with candles on the gleaming, low-slung bar, ’t Smalle ticks all the boxes of a classic brown café. The icing on the cake is its dreamy terrace, projecting out over a picturesque Jordaan canal. Though discovered by tourists, it’s still a locals’ haunt, too.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay near this experience, closest first

De L’Europe Amsterdam

Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands

Ultra-plush five-star luxury in a landmark hotel. Perfectly located on the southern of the character-filled Canal Ring, walking distance to the big art museums.

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Ambassade Hotel

Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands

Character-filled hotel in historic canal-facing buildings. The quintessential heritage stay, and perfectly located for exploring the city and enjoying up the Canal Ring atmosphere.

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Hotel Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht

Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands

Eclectic interiors, a stellar canal-front setting and the almost perfect location make this design hotel a true standout.

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Canal House

Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands

An intimate hotel in historic canal-facing buildings, with stylishly updated interiors. One of the trendiest places to stay in Amsterdam.

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Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

Amsterdam

North Holland, Netherlands

Picturesque Golden Age canals, premier league art, cosy cafés, and liberal urban living combine to make Amsterdam one of Europe’s most vibrant capitals.

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