The Dutch word Gezelligheid can best be translated as “a feeling of friendly coziness,” which is exactly what you will discover at the city’s signature brown bars.
Brown bars can range from high-end watering holes to comfortable neighborhood grottos, but all are characterized by their 16th-century inspired wooden decors and stained walls that have slowly aged from years of smoking beer lovers. Brown bars are similar to British pubs but, in true Amsterdam fashion, they stay open later than their Anglo-Saxon counterparts (usually till 1 or 2am). With their warm, antiqued interiors, these gems are hands down the most charming bars in Amsterdam.
Best brown bars in Amsterdam
Belgium isn’t the only country with great beers in Europe and Proeflokaal Arendsnest is here to prove that to you. This bar offers a wide selection of exceptional Dutch microbrewed beers with a variety of flavors, ingredients and alcohol content. Patrons have the choice of over 130 beers from more than fifty small Dutch breweries and the staff is friendly and excited to educate customers on their choices. Proeflokaal Arendsnest has the quintessential brown bar décor but also offers an outdoor terrace, which is situated right next to the iconic Herengracht canal.
Café De II Prinsen
If you mistakenly had the impression that brown bars are all mellow, Café De II Prinsen is here to prove that a 16th-century vibe isn’t stopping anyone from having a wild time. This no-frills bar attracts a college crowd looking to grab a beer and a sandwich in a démodé pub made complete with historical portraits and antique chandeliers. Café De II Prinsen gets packed so you can expect standing-room-only inside; in nice weather patrons can trickle out onto the street and find some elbowroom at the tables or on the terrace.
Of all the bars in Amsterdam, Café Hoppe is the most likely to make you feel like Desiderius Erasmus. This hidden gem is split into two different sections; scholars and highbrows seeking quiet conversation tend to stick to the smaller bar complemented with antique stained glass windows and a sandy floor. The other area attracts a younger crowd looking to enjoy some music and casual chatter, especially on the nights that the bar hosts special functions and college nights. Café Hoppe gets very busy, but patrons tend to spill onto the romantically lit Spui Square to finish their beers and exchange stories.
Café de Spuyt
Why choose between Belgian or Dutch beers if you don’t have to? Café de Spuyt, a former communist hangout, offers an impressive list of beers from both of these sister countries. The homey, authentic vibe of this brown bar is enhanced by the tab system which allows patrons to leave their name with the bartender, place an order, and then take care of the bill when it’s time to go. Café de Spuyt brings out a crowd of regular, artsy patrons who appreciate the bar’s no-frills personality, consistently friendly service, and extensive selection of quality brews.
Although it was once the waiting room for those looking to ride the city’s horse-drawn tram, ‘t Loosje is now a favorite of young professionals and hipsters looking to enjoy a drink outdoors. Patrons will find a modestly priced selection of locally brewed beers as well as dark wood fixtures, soft lighting, and mosaics of 16th-century Holland. During the winter months, an awning and outdoor heating system is brought in to warm up the outdoor seating space. ‘t Loosje is more spacious than the surrounding brown bars, but patrons looking to have the classic Dutch experience still pack the place to the brim on the weekends; for a more laid-back atmosphere check out ‘t Loosje during the week.