Unless you’re living under a rock, you know already that the Netherlands tolerates the consumption of marijuana in small amounts. After all, it has been talked about pretty often in movies, TV shows, and popular culture in general.

If you are a first time visitor to Amsterdam, then you need to know the real meaning of a “Coffeeshop” in the Netherlands. Also, if you’d like to know about the city’s cannabis scene, this post is for you.

FYI: Just because I’m posting this, doesn’t mean I encourage the use of cannabis. But if you’d like to try it out, no judgments.

Marijuana is classified as a “soft drug” and has been legalized in many parts of the world in recent years, including some states in the United States.

What is a Coffeeshop in Amsterdam?

A Coffeeshop in Amsterdam
A Coffeeshop in Amsterdam

A “coffeeshop” in Amsterdam (and the Netherlands in general) is not your typical coffee house where one goes to buy coffee or tea but is something else. It is a place that’s licensed to sell cannabis products to its visitors. Yes, you might also get coffee here but that’s not the main point. 

Under the drug policy of the Netherlands, the sale of cannabis products in small quantities is allowed by licensed coffeeshops. Licensing the sale of cannabis was introduced by the Dutch government in the Netherlands in the early 1970s to keep the use of hard drugs and soft drugs separated.

It is a smart idea for the government to legalize things that the citizens will do anyway, this way the government can keep an eye on it and earn tax from the sales. Just so you know, prostitution is also legal in the Netherlands and the Dutch capital’s Red Light District is famous all over the world.

Amsterdam Cafe vs Coffee Shop vs Coffeeshop

So, the difference is just a ” ” space between the words coffee and shop. So, a “coffeeshop” is not a “coffee shop”. The first is a weed cafe and the latter is a normal cafe.

Yes, the only difference in the name is the lack of space ” “. Not many people in Holland call the coffee-selling establishments “coffee shops”, they are usually called cafes or coffee houses.

See my Amsterdam Coffeeshops post to get a list of some of the best ones to visit.

Fun Fact: The first coffee shop in Amsterdam was Mellow Yellow, which opened in 1972. It actually started as a “tea house” before Coffeeshops were even a thing. Sadly Mellow Yellow had to close down in 2017 because of a new restriction where Coffeeshops within a radius of 250 meters within schools had to shut down.

What Can One Find in a Coffeeshop in Amsterdam

A pack of Reefers from one of the coffeeshops in Amsterdam
A pack of Reefers from one of the coffeeshops in Amsterdam
  • Weed, Hash – the coffeeshops in Amsterdam have many different strains and buds that one can smoke. Note: you can’t buy more than 5 grams per transaction.
  • The Netherlands has a restriction of what can be put in edibles. They can only be made with raw cannabis. Edibles made from THC or CBD extracts are prohibited. So, if you want to try edibles, look for Space cakes (cakes with marijuana), cookies, and cannabis gummies.
  • Pre-rolled joints, reefers (cannabis cigarettes) – perfect for those who don’t know how to roll their joints.
  • Usually simple non-alcoholic drinks like a cup of coffee, tea, smoothies, etc. I do remember drinking a glass of orange juice in one of the coffeeshops.
  • You will most likely find snacks, quick bites, and other munchies like poffertjes, bitterballen, etc.

What Won’t You Find in a Coffeeshop in Amsterdam

  • Alcohol. You won’t find even light alcoholic beverages like beer and wine
  • Hard drugs – so no magic mushrooms, MDMA, or other substances.
  • Tobacco in many cases. Visitors who want to smoke their weed mixed with tobacco are limited to special enclosed smoking areas. Don’t worry, you will get a non-tobacco herbal filler to mix your weed or hash with to roll a joint.

What about Magic Mushrooms?

Inside a smart shop in Amsterdam
Inside a smart shop in Amsterdam

Magic Mushrooms are illegal in the Netherlands, but you can easily buy truffles in special “headshops” or “smart shops”. They are the same in terms of effect except they grow underground unlike the typical magic mushrooms.

Typical Amsterdam Coffeeshop Menu

Please note that the prices go up every few years but I hope the below picture will give you a basic idea of what you can find in a coffeeshop in Amsterdam and the cost.

Smokey Coffeeshop in Amsterdam Menu in 2019
Smokey Coffeeshop in Amsterdam Menu in 2019

Quick Tips for Visiting Amsterdam’s Coffeeshops

Here are some quick tips to help you stay safe and enjoy Amsterdam’s coffeeshop scene.

  • Don’t underestimate the potency, especially in the case of edibles. Even if you are a regular smoker, Amsterdam’s weed hits a bit more. The edibles take a bit longer but the high is usually stronger and lasts longer.
  • Respect the Dutch drug tolerance policy and stay within the rules. Understand that the coffeeshops aren’t a “party zone”. If your motive is to drink, get high, be loud and obnoxious, then you would be better off in a bar or a club. See my post about Amsterdam’s top party places.
  • Always buy from licensed coffeeshops and smart shops. Don’t buy drugs from the street dealers.
  • If you’re on a solo trip to Amsterdam and would like to experience a typical Dutch coffeeshop but are nervous to do this alone, you can opt for a tour. In that case, you will be with a small group of people and you might just make some fun friends.

Here are some of the tours of Amsterdam’s coffeeshops that you can check out. Be sure to read their reviews so that you pick the best one that’s for you.

Which Coffeeshops to Visit in Amsterdam in 2024?

Paradox Café - Amsterdam Coffeeshops
Paradox Café – Amsterdam Coffeeshops

Although the number has gone down in the last few years, Amsterdam still has more than 200 coffeeshops and a majority are city center.

I do have a dedicated post on my website listing some of the best and iconic Coffeeshops in Amsterdam that you can visit. Here a smaller list of the best coffeeshops that you can visit:

  • Kadinsky
  • Paradox Café
  • Grey Area
  • Barney’s
  • 1e Hulp
  • The Bulldog – locals don’t like this touristy chain but they were popularized by Snoop Dogg.

My personal experience is to avoid the Red Light District and the area around and pick one of the quieter coffeeshops in residential areas for a cozy atmosphere – that’s why I recommend Paradox in Haarlem.

Where to Stay in Amsterdam to Enjoy Coffeeshops?

As someone who visits Amsterdam many times a year, my best ever was in a hostel near Oostpark called Generator Hostel. It was a hostel but still felt luxurious because of the open spaces and amenities. The location was spot on – close to everything but far enough to be quiet.

Make sure to read this post for tips about visiting Amsterdam.

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