Amsterdam's brown cafés are as much a part of the city's charm as its canals and architecture. Most of them epitomize the Dutch term gezelligheid (pronounced "khuh ZEL ikh hide"), a word quite difficult to translate into English; coziness or a feeling of friendly welcome best describes it.
What You'll Find in an Amsterdam Brown Café
- A laid-back, genial feeling.
- Local and/or regional beers on tap; Dutch jenever (pronounced "yuh NAY ver"), a spirit similar to gin; most also have at least a few wine options
- A well-worn look -- think dark wood, old collectibles, quirky decorations that often go with the theme (or name) of the café.
- Limited food menu that may include small salads, sandwiches and/or Dutch hapjes ("pronounced "HOP yuhs"), which are light snacks like cheese, olives, nuts and bitterballen (Dutch fried balls of meat and potato).
Good to Know About Amsterdam Brown Cafés
- Most don't accept credit cards; bring cash.
- Most have outdoor seating.
- Some are self-service at the bar.
- Brown cafés are not places to find live music or entertainment.
- Beer glasses are often washed upon ordering; don't be surprised if a bartender grabs a used glass, dumps it into a special washing sink and begins to fill it with beer as it's still wet. He/she will then scrape the foaming top with a tool made just for this purpose, repeat if necessary and serve you a beer with about two-fingers width of head.
Examples of Brown Cafés in Amsterdam