Amsterdam coffeeshops, not to be confused with the equally well known “Brown” Cafés, have been a part of the city since the 1970s, when the Dutch government made a clear distinction in the law between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ drugs. Now they are the only places where you can legally buy marijuana or cannabis in the city. Although coffeeshops are not allowed to advertise, you will be able to identify them easily. Official Dutch coffeeshops have a green and white licence sticker in the window.
With more than 250 coffeeshops in Amsterdam, you will not find it hard to find one as you move around the city. You will be able to decide for yourself which are the best coffeeshops in Amsterdam, as every establishment is different. Some offer amazing food, others are great for relaxing and watching the world go by. Some don’t have a great atmosphere but supply the best hash in town. Some are set up more like takeaways, where people come to make their purchase and go. In others, you can meet friends, read the papers, play chess or just chill but don’t expect to be able to order a drink, as coffeeshops do not have an alcohol licence.
A tourist guide to visiting coffee shops
Even as a tourist, you’ll have no problem finding weed in Amsterdam. Just make sure that you go to a “coffeeshop.” Not a “coffee shop,” “café,” or “coffee house.” Cafés are usually the equivalent of a pub or bar, and coffee shops not selling marijuana are called “koffiehuis” (which translates to coffee house in English).
In order to enter a coffeeshop, you must be 18 or over and have an ID. To make your purchase, simply look for the menu. You will usually find it on the counter (sometimes face down) or you can ask one of the staff. Coffeeshops are permitted to sell a maximum of five grammes to each customer and the possession of this, although technically against the law, is tolerated by the authorities. Coffeeshops are taxed and strictly regulated.
Some do’s and don’ts in coffeeshops
In the best coffeeshops, you will be able to see, and sometimes even smell, the weed before you buy. The menu will offer weed by the gram, as hash oils, or joints. But be warned: “joints” are usually rolled with marijuana and tobacco. If you want something without tobacco, then look for what’s labelled as a “pure joint.” In the absence of labels, a joint that is priced under €5 is most likely a tobacco-and-weed joint. The pure weed joints are usually closer to €10. If in doubt, ask the “budtender” for a recommendation.
Don’t be tempted to smoke a tobacco-and weed joint during your visit to the coffeeshop as tobacco is strictly prohibited inside buildings unless they have a separate, sealed, smoking room.
Lastly, keep in mind that the best coffeeshops in Amsterdam may not sell the best coffee. Some only sell instant coffee, while in others the quality of the coffee can be dubious. So, if you are a lover of good coffee, you may want to indulge your caffeine-habit somewhere else!