The Best Bars In Amsterdam guide image


The Best Bars In Amsterdam

Here’s where to drink tiny beers by a windmill and bow down to the forefather of gin.

Amsterdam’s bar scene is much more than overly neon bars specializing in equally neon shots for parades of bachelor and bachelorette parties. Which is good news for anyone who enjoys spending leisure time over fluitjes of Heineken or, really, anything with booze in it.

Borreltijd, or “drinking time,” in Amsterdam is both dynamic and energetic. There are plenty of cafès, terraces, proeflokaals (tasting rooms), and bars where you can dive headfirst into gin (which the Dutch actually invented), plus modern cocktail and wine spots that are sprouting up over in De Pijp and Oud-West. So, in between Herengracht boat rides, museum-hopping in the Museumkwartier, or strolling through tree-lined Jordaan, quench your thirst at one of these top spots. Just don’t drink and bike.



Hitting a bruin café is a must when visiting Amsterdam. Residents gather in these watering holes, named after their plentiful use of dark brown wood, for a biertje or a kopstootje. Also known as a “headbutt,” a kopstootje consists of a tulip glass filled to the brim with genever (the Dutch-invented predecessor to gin), served alongside a beer—and the rule is you must tilt your head to take the first sip, hands free.

You can’t really go wrong when choosing a bruin café, but Café Hoppe ticks a lot of boxes, and you should make it one of your first stops in the city. Just make sure you head there before 6pm, especially on weekends, to avoid the crowds. It's located on Spuistraat near many other fantastic pubs, and cocktail bars in nearby Negen Straatjes or Leidseplein. And part of the place itself is a national monument, open since the 1600s. 

Wynand Fockink’s proeflokaal is great for those new to genever, or for people who just want to sample something else from their collection of bitters, liqueurs, and brandies. The staff will patiently guide you to the right choice no matter how busy it gets in the minuscule space, and you can join the crowd of locals lounging in the alley outside during summer. Grab a bottle in their shop next door to bring home, and pour one the next time you’re hankering for something to pair with your usual brewski.

Paindemie is a two-level spot where you enter through what looks like a Japanese subway station. Classic cocktails, sake, and beer are served in the upstairs speakeasy, where you can dine on marble surfaces lit by warm lamps and neon. Some menu items come in paper carton boxes a la fast-food burger joint, like the Big Mac-inspired Le Big Mie with goat patties and cheddar. (If you’d prefer plates and silver trays, go for the escargot toastie.) Make a reservation to eat in the bar, or just grab a beer or sake and head back downstairs to enjoy it with your egg salad sando.

Situated next to the largest windmill in the country, Brouwerij t’IJ is one of the most well-known breweries in the city for its original wheat Ijwit, several IPAs, and rotating seasonals. It’s a super fun place to burst out in song with the friendly crowds, indoors or outside along the canal, brew in hand. Drink up, then cross the water to Dapperburt, where there’s a large concentration of Arabic and Turkish restaurants interspersed with bars hardly frequented by non-locals.

For a cool vibe, come to this tea house and sip on tea-infused, alcohol-free cocktails, CBD lattes, and herby tonics while a DJ spins a groovy set. If you’re looking for something a bit quieter, book the traditional tea ceremony in one of the tranquil rooms upstairs. They offer two different types of experiences: a guided ceremony where the staff will go deep on culture and mythology, and an unguided ceremony, where you'll be shown the basics of loose-leaf brewing before being set free to do it yourself. (If the extent of your knowledge is picking between Earl Grey and English Breakfast at the grocery store, stick with the guided option.)

Vondelpark is Amsterdam’s largest and most popular park. There’s a circular pavilion right in the center where the folks behind Brouwerij ‘t IJ’s opened an outpost with a totally different vibe than the OG windmill-side brewery. There's plenty of space for strollers, pets, and large groups, and aside from the usual ‘t IJ beer lineup, there are basic wines, smoothies, sandwiches, and pastries. Grab a deck chair when you need a break from wandering around, or just enjoy the rare Dutch sunny day surrounded by greenery. There may even be a band playing on the nearby stage.

This champagne bar and bottle shop by the busy Rokin metro station doesn’t serve just any old bubbly. While you’ll find several names you may already be familiar with, toast to something special with a glass or bottle from their enormous list of champagnes from smaller houses. Snack on Spanish oysters or anchovies, a classic steak tartare, or seafood crisped on the konro grill. They don’t take reservations, so come early if you intend to bring a group. 

Named after the Yiddish moniker for Amsterdam, this cocktail bar dedicated to Dutch culture serves twists on classics with local slang as names (to maintain a modicum of politeness, we aren’t gonna translate them). The steep staircase where you enter from the street gets backed up with out-of-towners looking for a vibe, so make sure to reserve a seat in advance. We like the vermillion Red Light District section towards the back, but you can also try your luck at the far end of the bar. You’ll only get some olives and nuts, so either come here before a quieter dinner further in De Pijp, or afterward for a digestif.

You’ll have a blast at this Japanese-themed bar with karaoke rooms for that one friend who needs to belt it out at least once a week. (And if performing isn’t your thing, just dance to uptempo beats with all kinds of strangers who are dipping in and out of other raucous bars on Reguliersdwarsstraat.) The shoulder-to-shoulder crowd might make you think this is the type of place that only serves well drinks and watered-down shots, but you can get excellent cocktails here like the Nomunication highball with Japanese whiskey, shiso, and shochu. Beers, wines, and sake are also available if you just need to keep your vocal cords hydrated, or buy rounds for your new friends without much thought.

Hiding in Plain Sight is indeed just that—there’s no signage out front, not to mention a next-to-nil online presence. The menu changes periodically, but no matter what’s on it, cocktail fanatics will appreciate the use of more obscure spirits like grassy sotol, a liquor akin to tequila and mezcal from Mexico’s Chihuahuan Desert. Sink into the comfy seats upstairs if you plan on staying a while and get your fill of the free popcorn. The space is snug, so make a reservation if you don’t want to have to wait for a spot to open up.

Not too far from the sprawl of Albert Cuypmarkt, this wine bar was named after the sound one makes while swilling a glass of particularly light vin. The corner spot, plastered with posters of bottles, is completely focused on natural wines. Sure, you can get ‘em funky, but you’re better off just asking for whatever happens to suit the weather, whether you’re sipping under the sidewalk canopy strung with garden lights or along the indoor ledge seats as it pours. 

We’d normally steer you away from Leidseplein with its forgettable steakhouses, pseudo-taquerias, and generic pubs catering to revelers stumbling red-eyed from nearby coffee shops. But nightly shows at this local jazz haunt deliver some surprising performances that are worth checking out.

Main acts are listed on their website and there’s sometimes a cover charge, but if you saunter in by happenstance, you can experience jazz in its truest form while musicians improvise in the moment (some even get called up from the crowd). It can get packed quickly and no food is served, so come early with a full stomach if you plan to stay awhile. Sit on the stools by the bar if you don’t want to wait too long between drinks once it starts to get lively.

People in Amsterdam can't seem to get enough of the passion fruit-forward pornstar martini. At Sins of Sal, a dusky bar themed on decadence, the Adult Entertainment is a rendition that tames what’s typically saccharine with bitter Campari and aji chilis. The Cosmo-inspired Cosmic Colada that’s pulled from a slushie machine is also a popular pick, as is the Elote Paloma with mezcal and charred corn cordial. There’s a solid selection of natural wines, a couple of which are used in their sangrias, plus Latin street-food plates.

This lively canal-side café is surrounded by several others just like it. (So if all the outdoor seats are taken, as they usually are when the sun shines, you’ll have plenty of backups.) We like this one for its people watching, and you’ll get a little more than the droogworsts, kaasblokjes, and fluitjes of the usual cafe. There’s a thoughtful list of craft and local beers, sparkling wines beyond prosecco and cava, and anchovies and cime di rapa that beat pepernoten. If you need a place to celebrate solo without a full-blown feast, head here.

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photo credit: Antonina Adamkiewicz

The Best Bars In Amsterdam guide image