Amsterdam's Coffee Shops
A Look Inside Pot Places And Do's and Don'ts Of Drugs
The popular Grasshopper marks the main entry to the Red Light District.
A haven for some and an oddity for others, coffeeshops are unique Amsterdam establishments where it's okay to smoke a joint.
The brew they serve comes not in a cup but in a bowl, digestible as joints, space cakes or through a bong.
Some Brothels, Coffee Shops Closed
It worked fine for decades, but Amsterdam has now apparently has said enough is enough. It announced it will close half of the brothers (which would still leave quite a few of them) and coffee shops that openly sell marijuana to clear the city of organized crime.
This reduced the number of windows to 243 from 482 and closed about 35 of the 75 coffee shops.
About The Coffee Shops
Cafe 36 in the Red Light District serves space cake.
Walking into one of these joints is a trip all by itself. You are immediately enveloped by a cloud of smoke so thick it can induce a residual high without ever having to light up.
A good coffeeshop is one that has a menu and a staff that will fully explain the expected effects of each type of weed. If they do not have a menu, find one that does. There are so many coffeeshops in Amsterdam...don't waste your time on a shady one.
Technically, it's illegal to sell and consume pot, but years of tolerance have taught the Dutch to look the other way. At least that's what they print in the tourist books. In reality, use is permitted only in designated areas so Dutch officials can keep an eye on people. Out-of-control drug use was a huge problem in the past and useage is not tolerated outside designated areas. Use of hard drugs is dealt with harshly.
Only a few bars offer both drinks and drugs, so combining the two activities is difficult. At the places that do, it's fl5 for a hash or marijuana cigarette and fl15 for a "popper," a quick high that freezes the brain cells for about five minutes. Fortunately, the cells do recover.
Coffeeshops are hardly the liveliest places in town. They are quiet hangouts with soft conversations, softer music and very little activity. Consumption is the passion here. Most have their own house specialties with names like "Double Bubble," "Exploder" and "Flying Dutchman." The bartenders are friendly and willing to explain the menu.
Cost is approximately 12-15 euros for a two to three gram bag of marijuana or for four pre-rolled joints. Most places supply rolling papers and filter tips. Save the "happy snaps" for the bars; taking photos are highly discouraged. Sodas, coffee and water are often the only beverages available.
There are about as many coffeeshops in Amsterdam as there are museums. The "Hard Rock" of these is The Bulldog. Veterans will tell you to avoid the one in the Red Light District and instead visit its cousin in the Leidseplein. In addition to being less touristy (which in Coffeeshop-speak means better smokes) it is a favorite hangout of flight attendants in town on layovers. The Leidsplein Bulldog is known as the all-in-one stop because it has a bar next door to the coffeeshop, which makes it very easy to travel between the two.
Dutch Flowers on Prinsengracht is a different type of coffeeshop, complete with bright plants, an indoor pond and waterfall. Barney's Coffeeshop on Haarlemmester Street serves tasty meals as part of its menu.
Coffee Shop 36, located in the restaurant corridor adjacent to the Red Light District (Warmoestraat), is one of the few coffee houses in town that serves space cakes in addition to smokes. These tasty treats have buds baked right into the pot, so to speak. While this might give Betty Crocker a heart attack, it will give you a good buzz about a half-hour later, making Coffee Shop 36 an ideal stop prior to strolling through the Red Light District.
The potency of space cakes has been reduced in recent years in response to the recurring habit of people wandering aimlessly through town after eating these crazy concoctions, so its a safer practice than it used to be, but limit consumption to one per customer.