Depending on the graduation of the alcohol you want to buy, there are different places where you can get it: for wine and beer you can always check supermarkets, whereas, for stronger spirits, you need to check specific stores. For consuming alcohol it is another case. But What Time Can You Buy Alcohol in the Netherlands?
Bars and restaurants don’t have a designated time to start selling alcohol. Supermarkets and liquor stores sell it all year round from about 9 am to 3 am in the night. Cocktail bars open at 5:30-6:00 pm. You are able to buy alcohol all day long.
If you are considering what is the polite and sociably respectable moment to buy alcohol, don’t mind it, Dutch are open-minded, tolerant and self-centered enough to maybe look at you and ignore you later. Nobody will judge you and you will be able to find alcohol all day long. However, the time of the day is also related to the type of alcohol you will be able to find.
Buying Alcohol in the Netherlands
Dutch citizens are close friends with alcoholic drinks in the best possible sense: the culture of the beer is originated in those lands and like good producers of beer they are good drinkers. Besides, gathering to enjoy the sun, a party or someone’s company and drinking is a social habit in the Netherlands. I would consider that buying alcohol is considered to be good and that you are a good host. Where can you get an alcoholic drink? There are four different situations to consider, explained here for you!
Drinking Alcohol in Public
Once again, there is nothing more common than doing a picnic or just laying in the grass in any park, sitting by a canal or just being in the middle of your street next to your place drinking a beer or sipping from a glass of wine in a lovely sunny day.
In the Netherlands, it is technically not allowed by law to be consuming alcohol in public streets or walking with open cans or open bottles of alcohol. However, like many laws in the Netherlands, they forbid it by these laws are not implemented: they are not always controlled. There is a fine for drinking alcohol in public or having an open bottle or can with you, €90.
For those hundreds of times that I have seen people consuming alcohol in public spaces, including myself, I can tell you it is perfectly fine if you do it in Vondelpark, in a quiet canal on your own, on your doorstep or little improvise terrace, sitting on a bridge, etc. But forget about doing it in the middle of Dam Square, in the Red Light District or very popular areas that may have a stronger police control.
If you are at a bar or restaurant with a terrace or open space in a public street, you will be allowed to drink whatever you want, no questions asked.
I didn’t know much about alcohol and I never ever used to drink until I moved to the Netherlands. Then I had to learn to drink, at least a beer because for them it was a social invitation, a way of participating in their fun. It is a habit to offer you a beer when you arrive at someone’s place, and they expect the same. Here is where you can buy it:
Buying Alcohol: Supermarket
You can buy alcohol in most supermarkets in the Netherlands. Albert Heijn is one of the supermarkets with the broadest variety, you can also check their stock online. You can also order it.
However, supermarkets are only allowed to sell three types of alcoholic drinks: cider, beer and wine. Depending on the supermarket, one can find a really good selection of these, after all, the Dutch supermarkets are the bigger sellers of beer and wine, but if we are talking about spirits it is a different story.
Supermarkets are not allowed to have a license to sell alcohol so they can only sell specific graduation of alcohol. However, they have at least one whole aisle dedicated only to this.
Moreover, all the alcohol you buy in the store is also recyclable in the store: this also implies that when you are buying it you will pay a “rent” for the bottles of alcohol you are taking with you and you will have it back when you return the empty bottles.
Supermarkets are open at different times, yet you will find AH in Amsterdam open mostly from Monday to Sunday from 7:30 am until 10 pm.
Buying Alcohol: Specialised Store
Gall and Gall are one of the most famous liquor stores in the Netherlands, also belonging to the group of supermarkets AH. This means that if you find an AH, there are high chances there is a Gall and Gall close by.
Here you will be able to find liquor and drinks with over 15% as well as some special beers, wine, and other different drinks. There are more stores than Gall and Gall and these are licensed stores where you will find most types of drinks.
Cocktails are a bit harder to find at 8 am, yet every day of the week you will be able to find a bar or a cocktail bar where you can consume drinks. These places tend to open between 5:30 and 6 pm, a little early for some cultures but if you consider that they have already had dinner by then, more than allowed, right?
Anyway, some of my favourite ones in Amsterdam are:
- SkyLounge Amsterdam: one of the bars with the most amazing views of Amsterdam and the Ij River. It is located next to CS and it tends to be a very popular place. Open every day of the week, with indoor and outdoor space.
- THE BUTCHER Social Club: they have a terrace on the rooftop and on the down floor where they sell really yummy cocktails, original ones and with a cool design. Located in Amsterdam North, right next to Eye Filmmuseum, another cool place to go for a drink and enjoy the view of such a cool museum.
- Cafe Panache: this is one of my favourites in Amsterdam Kinkerstraat, a very local place where you will be able to find a good selection of beers and some cool cocktails in an edgy and cosy local.
What to Know About Alcohol
If you are new to this whole world of alcohol in the Netherlands, let me help you with some tips and tricks and useful information you need to know about this situation:
- Underage: If you are underage (under 18) you will not be allowed to consume or buy alcohol. Only 0,0% drinks such as beer and cider.
- Fine: If minors consume alcohol there is a fine of 45-90 euros depending on the age of the consumer who is breaking the law.
- Underage and Company: If you are underage and accompanying someone 18 years old or a little older, that person will not be allowed to buy it either.
- ID card: Always bring your ID or driving license along with you, in stores and supermarkets, you will be asked for it. If you are under 25 years old you will always have to show it. I have been showing it for years… even if you do the quick queue, someone has to come and check it for you.
- Religious Spaces: of course, there are other important and popular religions in the Netherlands such as Islam, whose followers are not allowed to drink, sell or have any deal with alcohol. There are always exceptions to the rule but it is important to be respectful in these cases.
- Towns: you will always have to keep in mind that Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht as other bigger cities, are more openminded and it is a whole different situation as when you consume alcohol in a small town. People do it a lot too, but less on the streets, less publically and more indoors.
- More Information: If you want to know more about consuming alcohol in the Netherlands, check: Price of beer or Buying Alcohol as Underage.