Home Bars and Restaurants What Is a Brown Cafe in Amsterdam

What Is a Brown Cafe in Amsterdam

by Rafal Sulowski

Amsterdam is a city where you never get bored. It’s full of attractions, things to do, events, restaurants, and bars. When you visit Amsterdam you will most probably hear the term “Brown Cafes”. In Dutch they say “Bruin Cafe”. So what is a brown cafe and what is special about it? What Is a Brown Cafe?

A brown cafe is a bar where locals meet, drink and have some snacks. The name Bruin Cafe comes from its traditional look and wooden interior. Brown Cafes serve beer, wine, stronger alcohols, for example, Jenever – the traditional Dutch Gin

In this article, I will elaborate on the topic of Brown Cafes and of course, I will recommend some of them. There are 500 Bruin Cafes in Amsterdam. Keep on reading and enjoy your time in Amsterdam. There is plenty to see so don’t waste your time.

History of Brown Cafes in Amsterdam


So, what’s the history of brown cafes? In 19th-century people started serving alcohol in their living rooms. It was a way for them to earn some extra money. Often it was happening when a man lost his job and family needed additional income. After some time there were so many pubs that it became a problem so the government implemented regulations regarding Brown Cafes. Since then people needed a license “vergunning” to run a pub. Back then it was much easier to get a “vergunning”.

Very typical for Brown Cafes is that its name is painted of the windows of the bar. Theses kind of bars are visited mostly by local people.

Style of Amsterdam

Many people see Amsterdam through the perspective of parties, weed, red-light district and museums. But there is much more than that, and Amsterdam is a very diverse town. I like local small restaurants, where you can enjoy a cup of great coffee, bars – where you won’t find crowds but friends. I love little events in the rhythm of friendship, multiculturalism and openness. Brown Cafes are places I like a lot in this city.

Each and every bar has its own special atmosphere. You won’t like all of them but definitely, you find places you enjoy a lot. Some of them were even established in the 1600s, so you basically feel like you move back in time. It’s a great feeling when you think of that. You are in a place where people were having fun for hundreds of years.

There are some bars with a very exceptional appearance and some that serve a wide variety of beers, so you won’t try all of them even if you stay in a bar for a week. To enjoy Amsterdam to the fullest it would be nice to visit one of these places.

List of the Best Brown Cafes in Amsterdam









Of course, there is much more than what you can find on my list, but these are my favorite. If you want a suggestion which one to choose for an evening in Amsterdam I would like to recommend Cafe Chris. It’s a very old bar located in the Jordaan area. It’s the oldest pub in this district because it was established in 1624. You can play a pool there and enjoy a bottle of a local beer. This bar is located near the former Rembrandt studio, he was living just around the corner, so who knows? Maybe he was spending here some time enjoying a glass of Dutch beer.

Other Bars in Amsterdam

Of course, there are plenty of bars in Amsterdam. Here I would like to mention some of my favourites. Amsterdam is expensive and if you plan to grab some beers it can be pricey. That’s why I put together a list of cheap bars in Amsterdam. Here you can find it.

The Mulligans


I am a little afraid to talk about my favorite bar publically. It’s a very small bar and I wouldn’t like to see there crowds, but of course, I can’t keep this only to myself.

The Mulligans is an Irish bar. I love Ireland, Guinness and their music. At The Mulligans you can listen to live music. 4 times a week there is a live music session. Here you find an event calendar.

Café De Dokter


It’s a very specific bar, one of the smallest in Amsterdam. It measures only 18m2 but the atmosphere is amazing. It’s run by the same family for six generations. It’s really a place to be in Amsterdam.

Beer Tasting

Beer brewing in The Netherlands is very popular. When you think about crafted beer in this part of Europe you most often think about Belgium. Of course, they have a great beer ( and a strong one :] ) but Dutch beer is also top-notch. There are a lot of little breweries in Amsterdam and what’s better than a finely-crafted local beer?

You can visit breweries on your own or go for an organized beer tasting with a local. If you would like to do it on your own, it’s best to rent a bike and cycle around the city. Below I mention a few breweries worth visiting:

  1. La trapp brewery
  2. Proeflokaal A. van Wees
  3. Brouwerij Homeland
  4. Brouwerij ‘t IJ ( It’s also an amazing place but most of the time is full, I wouldn’t recommend it in a full season on a sunny day )

If you have one full day you can visit ‘De Molen’ in Bodegraven or Jopen and Uiltje in Haarlem ( Haarlem, by the way, it is an amazing town. I was living there for 5 years and I can definitely say, go for it ). Highly recommended.

If you are a real beer enthusiast you can also consider visiting Belgium. You won’t be disappointed.

Best Beer Tours

There are many different tours you can choose from. I don’t really like these organized by big agencies. They don’t feel special, they are not personalised and when I travel I love to spend time in an amazing atmosphere. I don’t want to feel like the next tourist taking part in a cheap event. That’s why I would like to recommend you a website where locals organize tours for people visiting their town. Website is called withlocals.com

When you find a tour you can even watch a video of a person who will be your guide. So you can get to know available guides and choose your favorite. I like this concept because I can see a city from the perspective of a regular guy living in this town. You can contact a host and personalize a tour. I found two beer tours in Amsterdam and I mention them below.

Jordaan Evening Tour

On this tour, there are 6 different local guides available and you can choose a person that you like the most. On the website there are videos of these guys. Here you can check this offer.

Beer Festivals

There are quite a lot of beer festivals in The Netherlands each year. Below you can see festivals in the area of Amsterdam.

  1. Bierfestival De Groote Dorst
  2. Oost Tapt Festival
  3. Fresh fest Uiltje
  4. West Tapt Festival

There are much more festivals happening in The Netherlands and here you can find an updated list of upcoming beer events.

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