Amsterdam Sights

Brown Cafés (bruincafé's)

→ traditional meeting places sometimes very venerable with plenty of atmosphere and local colour

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.

Cafe Anno 1890
Café Anno 1890 at Amstelveenseweg, Amsterdam. Foto 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.

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.

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".

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 best brown cafés

most Dutch brown cafés stay open until 1 or 2 am

 Old Centre 
De Druif (from 1631 or earlier) - Rapenburgerplein 83
In 't Aepjen - Zeedijk 1

 Canal Belt and Jordaan 
De Blaffende Vis - Westerstraat 118
De Doffer - Runstraat 12-14
Festina Lente - Looiersgracht 40b
Hegeraad - Noordermarkt 34
Oosterling (from 1877) - Utrechtsestraat 140 - large old barrels, a granite floor and wooden bar counter
't Papeneiland (from 1642) - Prinsengracht 2 - characteristic corner canal house with 2 step gables
't Smalle (from 1786) - Egelantiersgracht 12 - a former liquor distillery and tasting room

 in other neighbourhoods 
Anno 1890 - Amstelveenseweg 1124 (Zuideramstel)
De Toog - Nicolaas Beetsstraat 142 (Oud-West)
Gambrinus - Ferdinand Bolstraat 180 (De Pijp)
Quinto - Frans Halsstraat 42 (De Pijp)
't Sluisje (from 1904) - Nieuwendammerdijk 297 (Noord)
Van Buuren - Sarphatipark 4 (De Pijp)

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.

More Cafés and Bars...   (Amsterdam Directory)


small - dark - cozy

Taste genevers, liqueurs and beers

in one of Amsterdam's authentic tasting rooms

Cafe Hegeraad
Cafe Hegeraad
at the Noordermarkt