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Travel bucket list idea:

Last updated: 07 February, 2024
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.



Cafe ‘t Smalle

Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands

Canal spring scene with green trees, boats and people relaxing in small cafe.

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.

Min age 18

Best for ages 18+

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Price: Free
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 18+
When: All year around
Duration: Any

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North Holland, Netherlands

Rows of houses near a canal in daytime

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