Brown cafés in Amsterdam are as synonymous with the city as cycling and Van Gogh. Known as “bruin cafés” by locals and sometimes referred to as “brown bars,” these rustic neighbourhood pubs are part of the charm of the Dutch capital.
A trip to Amsterdam wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one of the many well-known brown bars, so we’ve combed every corner of the city to bring you a list of the coolest brown cafés in town.
What is a brown café?
Wondering “what is a brown café in Amsterdam?” Well, its closest cousin is the English pub. Just like our favourite English watering holes, brown cafés are casual bars that serve up local beers and regional cuisine. They typically stay open late into the night and most won’t close their doors until around 2am.
As obvious as it might sound, brown cafés are named as such because they’re typically brown in colour. The interior is usually made of dark brown wood and there’s typically very low lighting. Because cigars and cigarettes were historically smoked in brown cafés, they also turned the wallpaper and curtains brown too.
Brown cafés tend to be recognisable from their homely old-fashioned interior and furnishings, a style that can be traced back to the early 19th century. The first “bruin cafés” that appeared were usually front rooms of people’s homes that had been converted into a living room bar to make a little extra money. These were eventually replaced by properly licenced premises, but the homely, traditional style remained.
Wondering what to expect on your first visit to a brown café? You’ll normally find the traditional brown wood and old-fashioned furnishings alongside a relaxed, friendly atmosphere, plenty of local craft beers and a small menu of local Dutch snacks.
Top 20 Brown Cafés in Amsterdam
With brown cafés around almost every corner, it can be tricky to choose which ones to spend time in. That’s why we’ve searched high and low to scout out the best brown cafés the city has to offer. Take a look at the top 20 Amsterdam brown cafés that are sure to help you have a great time.
1. Café de Dokter
Café de Dokter is famous for being the smallest brown café in Amsterdam. Its name, which translates as “the Doctor,” gives a nod to the bar’s founder, a surgeon of a nearby hospital, who opened the bar in 1798 as a spot for medical staff to enjoy. Listen to some background jazz as you enjoy a house beer, wine or whisky and round off with a delicious pairing of cheese or smokey sausage.
Open Wednesday to Saturday 4pm – 1am. Rozenboomsteeg 4, 1012 PR Amsterdam.
2. Proeflokaal Arendsnest
Serving draft Dutch beers from over 50 breweries across Holland, the Proeflokaal Arendsnest is a goldmine of local beers. It organises regular intimate beer tastings for small groups and also offers cider, gin and whisky drinks for any non-beer lovers.
Opening times vary daily between 12pm and 1am. Herengracht 90, 1015 BS Amsterdam.
3. De Drie Fleschjes
De Drie Fleschjes boasts the oldest tasting room in Amsterdam and can be found located just behind the famous Dam Square. Founded in 1650, its name translates as “the three bottles” and it’s home to an original fifty-barrel organ that’s well worth a look. Along with your beer, enjoy delicious ox cheek, meatballs or cheese and mustard snacks.
Open Monday to Saturday 2pm – 8.30pm and Sunday 3pm – 7pm. Gravenstraat 18, 1012 NM Amsterdam.
4. Café Chris
As the oldest brown café in the trendy Jordaan, a visit to Café Chris is like stepping back in time. With its engraved wooden beams, dark wood and leather seats, the interior of the bar has hardly changed since it opened in 1624. It’s rumoured to have been a favoured drinking spot of Rembrandt himself and is the perfect quintessential bruin café to enjoy a local beer, a snack and a game of pool.
Opening times vary Sunday to Monday between 3pm and 1am. Closed Tuesdays. Bloemstraat 42, 1016 LC Amsterdam.
5. Café de Wetering
A hidden gem in the heart of central Amsterdam, Café de Wetering is the perfect stop to relax or warm up on a cold day. Pick up a pint of Amstel and head upstairs to enjoy a nice cosy drink by the open fire.
Opening times vary daily between 4pm and 3am. Weteringstraat 37, 1017 SM Amsterdam.
6. Café Hill Street Blues
If you’re looking for something a bit more lively, Café Hill Street Blues offers an edgier and energetic vibe. With its arty interiors, live music and infamous tasty milkshakes, it’s ideal for an evening’s entertainment in central Amsterdam.
Open daily 9am – 1am. Warmoesstraat 52A, 1012 JG Amsterdam.
7. Café Brecht
German-themed Café Brecht is well worth a visit if you’re in central Amsterdam. With vintage furnishings, this Berlin-style brown café is named after German writer and stage director Bertold Brecht. Enjoy German beers, snacks and excellent coffee, too.
Open Tuesday to Thursday 4pm – 1am, Friday and Saturday 1pm – 2am and Sunday 1pm – 1am. Weteringschans 157, 1017 SE Amsterdam.
8. Café de Oranjerie
People come from far and wide to try the speciality beers served up at Café de Oranjerie. Found on a side street of the Haarlemmerdijk, this Amsterdam brown café is full of art deco charm and arty posters. You can also enjoy a game of Scrabble in the corner while sipping your Dutch beer.
Open Sunday to Thursday 4pm – 1am, Friday and Saturday 4pm – 3am. Binnen Oranjestraat 15hs, 1013 HZ Amsterdam.
9. Café “in the monkeys”
As one of the oldest Amsterdam brown cafés, the monkey-themed Cafe “in the monkeys” is located in one of the last two wooden houses in the city, dating back to the 15th century. The bar’s name is rumoured to have been coined after a group of sailors in the café agreed to a bad deal after one too many beers. The old Dutch saying, “to stay with the monkeys” means “to be cheated after agreeing to what looks like a good deal.”
Open daily 1pm – 10pm. Zeedijk 1, 1012 AN Amsterdam.
10. Café Hermes
Found in the De Pijp region, Café Hermes offers a warm welcome to guests old and new. With local beers on tap, a billiard table and a shuffleboard there’s plenty to keep you entertained. On warmer days, enjoy a cold beer on the lively sun terrace.
Opening times vary daily between 12pm and 3am. Ceintuurbaan 55, 1072 EV Amsterdam.
11. De Twee Zwaantjes
Translated as “the two swans”, De Twee Zwaantjes is a lively brown café known for its rowdy singalongs. With karaoke, Motown, disco and soul nights, this lovely vintage bar offers plenty of entertainment in a relaxed setting.
Open Sunday to Thursday 3pm – 1am, Friday and Saturday 3pm – 3am. Prinsengracht 114, 1015 EA Amsterdam
12. Café ‘t Smalle
Another Jordaan-based bar, Café ‘t Smalle is named after the small narrow building it occupies. Inside you’ll find beautiful vintage interiors and wooden floors, but it’s the outside seating that really wows. Its canal-side terrace is perfect for enjoying a sunny drink and watching the boats pass by.
Open daily 10am – 1am. Egelantiersgracht 12, 1015 RL Amsterdam.
13. Café de Pels
Café de Pels is a unique creative space known to be frequented by journalists, intellectuals and artists, who have also crafted much of the bar’s wall art. Found in the middle of the nine little streets, this brown café has one of the best terraces for enjoying a drink and some veal bitterballen in the evening sun.
Open daily 9am – 1am and Friday and Saturday ‘til 2am. Huidenstraat 25, 1016 ER Amsterdam.
14. Café de Sluyswacht
The charming Café de Sluyswacht is known for leaning more than the Tower of Pisa. Built in 1695, the little house owes its quirky slant to its lonesome position with no supporting buildings around it. Surviving World War II, the bar used to be home to the lockmaster who prevented enemy ships from entering the city.
Openings times vary daily between 12pm and 2am. Jodenbreestraat 1, 1011 NG Amsterdam.
15. Café Welling
Café Welling is one of the oldest Amsterdam brown cafés in Ouid-Zuid and owes its name to one of its famous owners, Hendricus Bernardus Gradus Welling. With original interiors, a cosy atmosphere and live jazz, it offers a relaxed, authentic brown café experience. There’s also a heated, covered terrace for those who enjoy an alfresco beverage.
Open daily 4pm – 1am. Jan Willem Brouwersstraat 32, 1071 LK Amsterdam.
16. Café Saarein
The quirky queer-friendly Café Saarein is the perfect cosy spot for a beer and bitterballen. There are veggie and vegan snack options too. And with music, a pool table and Friday-night bingo there’s plenty to keep you entertained.
Opening times vary Thursday to Sunday between 4pm and 2am. Elandsstraat 119-HS, 1016 RX Amsterdam.
17. Café Hoppe
Café Hoppe isn’t just a brown café, it’s also a national monument. Founded in 1670 as a distillery it later became a bar. It spans two buildings, which offer slightly different atmospheres, one more of a bustling standing vibe, with the other a seated, relaxed vibe. Number 18 is the national monument, where you can marvel at the stunning ornate original features over a beer.
Open Sunday to Thursday 9am – 1am, Friday and Saturday 9am – 2am. Spui 18-20, 1012 XA Amsterdam
18. Café Pieper
Café Pieper, found in the Jordaan, features original stained-glass windows and antique beer mugs. It sits right on the corner at the convergence of two canals, making the terrace ideal for soaking up the Amsterdam atmosphere.
Opening times vary daily between 4pm and 2am. Prinsengracht 424, 1016 JC Amsterdam.
19. Bruincafé ‘t Centrum
Located downtown, at Rembrandt Square, Bruincafé ‘t Centrum offers beautiful interiors with great terrace views. Enjoy breakfast and lunch daily until 3pm where you’ll find plenty of affordable and tasty treats like croissants, veggie breakfasts and more traditional bitterballen.
Open daily 8am – 1am and ‘til 3am Friday and Saturday. Rembrandtplein 4, 1017 CV Amsterdam.
20. Café Het Molenpad
Last but not least on our list is Parisian-inspired Café Het Molenpad. Marrying the best that Amsterdam and Paris have to offer, you’ll find traditional bitterballen and local beers alongside French classics like croque madame and Champagne.
Open daily 12pm – 1am and ‘til 2am Friday and Saturday. Prinsengracht 653, 1016 XD Amsterdam.
On a final note
A trip to Amsterdam isn’t complete without a visit to one of the city’s many traditional brown cafés. Whether enjoying local beers in a national monument, keeping cosy by an open fire, or singing the night away with friends, there’s sure to be a brown café to suit any taste. Alternatively, coffeeshops are also very popular in Amsterdam, check the best coffeeshops near Amsterdam Central Station.