Brown Cafés   Bruincafé's

traditional meeting places with plenty of atmosphere and local colour

most bars stay open until 1 or 2 am

Cafe Anno 1890

What is a Brown Café?

A bruin ("brown") café is similar to a pub. What the pub is for the Londoner, is the brown café for the Amsterdammer. They are casual, neighborhood gathering spots, where people meet looking for a drink, a snack and friendly conversation.

Most brown cafes have at least different sorts of beer on tap and Dutch jenever, a spirit similar to gin. The quality of wine served in these cafés vary per location.


Anno1890  at Amstelveenseweg, Amsterdam / photo: Klaas Fopma

Why "brown"?

Brown cafés - also called "kroegen" - are located all around the city but especially in the Jordaan and in the Old Centre.

The term "brown" comes from their generally dark interiors with tottering old chairs and tables, wooden floors and stained walls that supposedly owe their hue to years of smoking patrons.

Interior and social function

Standard decor for a 'real' bruincafé are: the bar (or counter) with high stools, tap and sometimes a billiard table. Patrons often gather around the bar or around a large table, which is called the "regular table" (stamtafel). These regular guests or patrons are therefore called "stamgasten", and their favorite pub is their "stamkroeg" or "stamcafé".

The building of Cafe Oosterling  dates back to 1735. It was formerly used by the Dutch East India Company to sell coffee, tea and spices from the Far East. Family Oosterling bought the building in 1877 and started a liquor store and cafe, which it still is.

Behaviour of regulars

A regular of a brown café knows the barman's (first) name, and he or she will also know the names of other regulars.

Conversely, the barman knows exactly what a regular drinks. At arrival his drink will unasked be served to him - a hand gesture is enough. Therefore he feels comfortable and at home in the pub and he considers the staff and other patrons as good friends.

Amsterdam's 14 Best Brown Cafés

internationaal

Piet de Leeuw

Authentic eetcafe known for its steaks and sole

Centrum / Canal Belt

internationaal

Café 't Smalle   from 1786

a former liquor distillery and tasting room with an idyllic canalside terrace

Centrum / Jordaan

internationaal

Cafe Internationaal

Hotel bar with typical Bruincafé interior in one of the oldest streets of Amsterdam

Centrum / Centraal Station

tsluisje

Café 't Sluisje   from 1904

Old, brown café on beautiful spot near old, small locks.

Noord / Nieuwendam

gambrinus

Gambrinus

Friendly café in De 9 Straatjes area

Zuid / De Pijp

anno1890

Anno 1890

Lively bruincafe with a rich history and many local visitors.

Amstelveen

hegeraad

Café Hegeraad  

traditional bruincafe in a monumental house on the beautiful Noordermarkt

Centrum / Jordaan

detoog

De Toog  

Former hangout of rock 'n' roll star and painter Herman Brood

West / Oud-West

Café Het Molenpad  

Canalside terrace on the famous Prinsengracht

West / Canal Belt

Oosterling   from 1877

Large old barrels, a granite floor and wooden bar counter

Centrum / Canal Belt

't Papeneiland   from 1642

Characteristic corner canal house with 2 step gables

Centrum / Jordaan

De Druif   from 1631 or earlier

an old-style Dutch pub on a quite location

Centrum / Old Centre

Café In 't Aepjen

the oldest café in town

Centrum / Old Centre

in t aepjen

"Stay with the monkeys" in a wooden house from the 15th century.

De Doffer

Friendly café in De 9 Straatjes area

Centrum / Canal Belt

recommendation

All bars mentioned on this website are popular spots that are visited by locals and not mainly targeted at tourists