Best Bars in Amsterdam – our top picks…

Amsterdam’s Brown cafes, Canalside bars or Proeflokaals hmmm which to choose?
To really experience the atmosphere of these great Amsterdam bars you must try at least one from all three of these possibilities.
Ancient buildings, housing charming bars, filled with friendly locals, makes for a great Amsterdam evening out or a brilliant place to just meet up.
The Amsterdam Brown (Bruine) Cafes or Bars are an institution – essentially the equivalent of an old pub, they are often panelled in wood, with atmospheric low lighting and candles and tobacco stained walls conjuring up a bygone age. Some of the best Brown cafes are in the Jordaan – the working class district (as was) now an ‘A’ location. 17th Century houses, beautiful villagey streets, artisan and designer shops and quiet small canals create a real sense of neighbourhood.
Wander around the small lanes and alleyways and discover bars such as Cafe Chris – the oldest bar in the Jordaan and the only one that still has French Billiards – originating from 1624, this is also where the men that built the Westerkerk Tower (Westertoren) had their lunch and got paid.

Canalside favourite – Cafe t’Smalle, originally the Pieter Hoppe distillery,  is now one of the most popular bar’s in the Jordaan (especially if you’re lucky enough to be arriving by boat). With its own pontoon and landing stage and most importantly, the afternoon sun – essential if you’re meeting friends after work or just before an evening out. Delicious, homemade Erwtensoep, served with black bread and speck, Gouda cheese – young and old and bitterballen are typical of the Dutch snacks on offer here.

Cafe t'Smalle, Jordaan, Amsterdam
Boats moored up at Cafe t'Smalle, Jordaan, Amsterdam

Wander through the streets of the Jordaan to the north eastern end of the district for Cafe Papeneiland, with a fantastic location directly on the corner of the Prinsengracht and Browersgracht and a popular meeting point for the Noordermarkt on Saturdays and Mondays.

Cafe Papeneiland, brown cafe, Amsterdam
Interior of Cafe Papeneiland, Amsterdam

This family run bar is beautifully decorated with Delft tiles and a pot belly stove – this is a wonderful spot on a cold winter’s evening to sit by flickering candlelight and watch Amsterdam go by. Summer days sitting on staged bench seats overlooking the canal with built in spots to place your beer glass. Good selection of beers and lager on tap, they are famous for their secret family recipe of Dutch Apple Pie! Freshly made by the owner – don’t even ask for the recipe!

Visiting a Proeflokaal – a lowlands invention, specifically the tasting rooms of a distillery dispensing genever or jenever (distilled from grain but commonly known as Dutch gin – bears no relation to the UK alternative) or a liqueur from a bank of barrels. The ‘proeflokaal’ was a serious place to visit and taste from the huge selection on offer and place your order to be delivered directly to your home. Mainly frequented by wealthy merchants and the rich these were not bars. These days, in almost museum like surroundings you can have a taste of the various liqueurs and traditional and flavoured jenevers.  De Drie Fleschjes is the House of Bols Proeflokaal serving Liqueurs and Genever and is just one minute’s walk from the Dam Square behind the Nieuwe Kerk. The concept has been extended – you can even visit a proeflokaal for a variety of tasting experiences, you can even visit a Dutch Cheese proeflokaal.

De Drie Fleschjes, the Bols Proeflokaal in Amsterdam
De Drie Fleschjes, the Bols Proeflokaal in Amsterdam