Coffeeshops are one of Amsterdam’s biggest draws, with one in four tourists visiting one. Pro puffer, Gavin Haines, has spent years researching the finest establishments to present to you his top tips for first-time tokers.
While many nations liberalise their cannabis laws, in the Netherlands weed has been part of public life since the ‘60s, when the country’s first pot-peddling coffeeshops flung their doors open. Amsterdam has more than any other Dutch city, but many have closed in recent years as the authorities controversially ‘clean up’ the capital.
Dozens remain, however, and every smoker has their favourite: some preferring the cosy familiarity of a neighbourhood coffeeshop, where they can chinwag with locals; others plumping for the anonymity of livelier venues in the city centre.
Running that gamut are these hazy institutions, which extend a warm welcome to first-timers. Expect good advice about weed, decent banter and a jovial ambiance. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and remember to respect the house rules.
Katsu, Eerste van der Helststraat 70
One of Amsterdam’s most vibrant neighbourhoods, multicultural De Pijp (The Pipe) has a strong community vibe. That togetherness is embodied in Katsu, where smokers of various ages, genders and ethnicities light up amidst cannabis-inspired art, indoor plants and photographs of musical legends.
If you can, grab a seat near the back window, which overlooks a courtyard filled with street art and a fish pond. There’s also a flowery veranda out front where you can admire the shop’s psychedelic facade and watch the world go by. Staff will merrily answer questions about the weed menu, which includes pre-rolled joints for those who haven’t yet mastered the art.
Original Dampkring, Handboogstraat 29
Brad Pitt and George Clooney famously shot a scene for Ocean’s 12 in this coffeeshop, which has pictures of the Hollywood stars hanging above the weed counter. The psychedelic orange walls are also adorned with photos of the late Bowie. No, not him; Bowie the cat, the sorely missed resident feline, who passed away in 2018 aged 21.
Despite its popularity, Original Dampkring is one of the homeliest coffeeshops in Amsterdam, with an extensive marijuana menu and friendly customer service to back it up. It also serves some of the best milkshakes in town. A bit of housekeeping: there’s a strict no-hats rule, so save the sombrero for another time.
Coffeeshop Amsterdam, Haarlemmerstraat 44
Somewhat unusually, Coffeeshop Amsterdam provides table service for food and drinks, which is entirely welcome after a few joints. Spread over three floors of a wonky town house, a short stroll from the train station, the shop’s weed menu is wide ranging and the patient folk behind the bar are always happy to talk you through it.
Coffeeshop Amsterdam also takes pride in its baked goods, with seasonal hash cakes regularly featuring on the menu (including ones shaped like ice creams during summer). The owners have been expressive with the decor too, which features exposed brickwork, leafy plants and TV screens playing trippy visuals.
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Kadinsky Cafe Zoutsteeg, Zoutsteeg 11
There aren’t many places left in Amsterdam where you can blaze up over a beer, but Kadinsky Cafe Zoutsteeg is one of them. Looking more like a trendy bar than a stoner hangout, the cafe doesn’t actually sell weed (it leaves the dealing to its sister coffeeshop, Coffeeshop Zoutsteeg, just opposite), but it does have two rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows where you can smoke the stuff while watching folk wander down Zoutsteeg.
The rest of the bar, however, is smoke-free, making it a good compromise for groups with non-smokers amongst them. Coffeeshop Zoutsteeg, meanwhile, has an altogether more intimate feel and serves a range of non-alcoholic drinks.
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Tweede Kamer, Heisteeg 6
Tucked away down tiny Heisteeg, Tweede Kamer means ‘House of Representatives’ in the native tongue, which is a nod to the Dutch Parliament. There’s certainly something stately about the décor in this handsome (but not highfalutin) coffeeshop, which is festooned with wood panelling and framed pictures of royals.
Getting a seat can be an issue – this place is very small and very popular – but it’s worth persevering because the setting is gorgeous, the weed excellent and the staff are always happy to help.
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420 Coffeeshop, Singel 387
One of the loveliest things you can do in Amsterdam on a Friday is buy a novel from Spui Book Market and read it in the window of 420 Coffeeshop, peering up periodically to admire the views across Singel canal and people watch.
Adorned with dark wood panelling, timeworn furniture and old cinema chairs, 420 has shabby cosiness more reminiscent of a coffee house than a coffeeshop. The weed menu is simple and includes pre-rolled joints and space cakes. Unusually, punters can’t just rock up and smoke their own stash; they have to buy weed on site.
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Know before you go
The listed establishments will cheerily talk through their menus, but it’s worth knowing a bit about weed before you go. The main thing to be aware of, perhaps, is the difference between sativa and indica, which are the two main strains of the cannabis plant. The former tends to provide a more energising high with lots of introspection, while the latter typically relaxes the body.
It’s also worth sounding a note of caution about space cake, which takes a lot longer than a joint to kick in. Impatient tourists often scoff more than they can handle after wrongly assuming it isn’t working. Don’t do that.