The capital of Holland, also known as the Netherlands, is generally considered one of the hottest party destinations on the planet, and the bars here do absolutely nothing to dispel or dispute that reputation. The many bars in Amsterdam come in all shapes and sizes. From grand cafés to hole-in-the-wall proeverijen (tasting houses), the café/bar is central to Dutch life.
In Amsterdam, the perfect bar is always just a short bike ride away, but you can forget about the normal pub crawl you may be accustomed to. In Amsterdam you settle in for the night in a neighborhood establishment that functions as a home-away-from-home, off-site office, canteen, debating society and sometimes even a nightclub all rolled into one.
There are hundreds of these great haunts tucked away in Amsterdam—tucked into cozy streets, floating by on the system of canals, and spilling into the many alleyways of the city; bars that are always eager to serve up your favorite drink and preserve the city’s reputation as the premier party place in Europe.
In the following article we will profile a number of these great hotspots, and outline some of the amenities and services that make each so popular, not just among the local Holland crowd but also with the millions of tourists that flock to this city each year to experience its magic.
If good hearty beers and ales are your drinks of choice, you really can’t beat the Café Belgique. Definitely one of the smallest bars in the city of Amsterdam, Café Belgique still manages to find room for eight taps of Belgian draught beers and more than 30 bottled varieties of beer and ales from around the world. The bar is located amid several tacky tourist traps in an alley jutting off the Dam Square.
Over the years, Café Belgique has been able to maintain a measure of charm and credibility, partly because of its reputation as one of the primary stopovers for street artists and DJs in the city. Although the wide beer selection is made up mostly of hearty and heady Belgian offerings, the interior of the building displays a sense of 17th century Dutch—mixed with street art graffiti. Vintage stone walls and oak paneling have been spray painted over by the street artists known as the London Police, and despite the smoking ban in the bar, the bartenders tend to turn a blind eye when the regulars light up.
A dive bar that attracts a late night crowd, Pollux boasts two of the most charismatic bar owners one could possibly meet. The always-cheerful bartender named Frits runs the establishment smoothly with the “help” of his wife Tanja, who on most days can be found occupying the same barstool, while shouting orders, sipping vodka neat and engaging with the regular and out-of-town customers with friendly conversation.
The can’t-miss oddities of the Pollux bar are the two life-sized wax sculptures of Frits and his lovely bride, causing some of the stumbling, bumbling patrons to place drink orders with, and ask for change from, these inanimate sculptures. The neon-light, 50s style juke box is one of the other focal points of the room—a box loaded with great classic rock and soul and thus making for some interesting customer displays/dances on the in-house stripper’s pole—a feature left over from the establishment’s days as a go-go bar. Clearly not a place for a first date or romantic interlude, the Pollux definitely has a sense of character that cannot be denied.
Brouwerij ‘t IJ
Also known as the “Windmill Brewery,” Brouwerij ‘t IJ is an extremely unique and interesting place that brews its own beer in the thatched windmill that towers over the bar’s terrace. Tasting a locally brewed beer, especially in such a magnificent establishment, has a magical quality to it, which is probably why this special beer haunt is always so crowded. Of course, the low prices charged here, at just over 2 Euros per brew, do not hurt the attendance either. There are a total of five high-percentage beers on tap at the Windmill Brewery. All are served in small glasses, but don’t be deceived by the size of the offerings. Just one or two of the brewery’s Columbus ales, containing the highest alcohol percentage of the five offerings here, can have your head spinning as fast as the windmill overhead. In fact, locals and regulars of this trendy establishment have a name for the state of newcomers who wind up stumbling, or sometimes crawling away from the bar: spin-milled.
Whiskeycafe L & B
The Whiskeycafe L & B is a paradise for lovers of great whiskey. With approximately 1,400 different brands of whiskey and bourbon, produced in places like Stockton, America, Canada, India and even Japan, the most challenging task at the Whiskeycafe L & B is making just the right choice for one’s particular tastes.
In addition to the virtually endless supply of great whiskey, this fun Amsterdam bar is staffed by friendly bartenders who are pure whisky enthusiasts. As a result, they will often allow newcomers to sample a lineup of different whiskey varieties and explain each type before the customer makes his or her final decision/order. The atmosphere here is very laid back and many of the customers are known to bring in a book to read as they relax with a glass of fine whiskey.
For a little taste of Germany while visiting Amsterdam, there is really only one place to go: the Café Brecht. Owned by German expats who longed for a little of the German homeland, the Café Brecht feels like a cozy living room that just happens to serve Berlin Pilsners, Fritz-Kola and a variety of German-brewed beers on the bar’s many taps, along with a great selection of delectable bratwurst.
The atmosphere at the Café Brecht is relaxed and classy, with vintage décor, knitting needles, wool and thread for the craft-minded customers, and weekly open-mic sessions for impromptu literary discussions.
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