The Amsterdam Coffee Shops
Facts About The Amsterdam Coffee Houses & Cannabis Cafes
As you may know, Amsterdam coffee shops (some foreigners refer to them as Amsterdam coffee houses or cannabis cafes) have little to do with coffee - it's where anyone over 18 can buy marihuana (weed) and hash, and smoke it right there.
But, while the coffee shops in Amsterdam are world famous for it's liberal drugs policies, it doesn't mean that just anything goes here. Soft drugs are only allowed under controlled circumstances.
This Amsterdam coffee shop guide gives you all the details.
Any look on an Amsterdam coffee shop menu will show a sometimes overwhelming variety in sorts and flavors of weed and hash. Just ask the staff, they will usually be happy to advise what's best for you.
The Best Amsterdam Coffee Shops
There are over 200 coffee shops in Amsterdam. Most of them are located in the city centre. Because their quality and style varies tremendously, we wrote some Amsterdam coffee shop reviews listing only the best ones - those with a good-to-excellent reputation over many years. These are also on our Amsterdam coffee shop map, so you'll find them easily.
Some of the best (and famous) among the best are the Bulldog at the Leidseplein, Barney's at the Haarlemmerstraat and the Greenhouse at the Oudezijds Voorburgwal.
The Coffee Shop Menu
What's on a typical Amsterdam coffee shop menu? First of all, customers can choose between weed and hash. What's the difference? They both come from the same cannabis plant, but hash is more concentrated and pressed into lumps. Some say weed makes people more active ("high") while hash tends to make them more relaxed, "stoned". Hash is stronger, too.
Then there are many flavors. Some of the most popular sorts in the Netherlands are White Widow, Amnesia, K2, Jack Herrer and Northern Light. Prices are between 5 and 10 euro per gram. You can also buy pre-rolled joints for around 3.50 euro, or space cake (cake with weed baked into it).
Coffee shops in Amsterdam aren't allowed to serve alcohol or sell other drugs, but they do serve non-alcoholic drinks and snacks.
Things To Know
Silly but true - the new tobacco smoking ban means that you can only smoke cannabis with tobacco if they coffee shop has a special smoking room where no staff is allowed (many do). If they don't, you can only smoke pure cannabis in a vaporizer or bong (water pipe) inside. Some coffee shops also sell pre-rolled joints with herbs instead of tobacco. But there's also an increasing number of coffee shops and regular bars that simply ignore the tobacco smoking ban.
Then there's the Dutch national government's plans to introduce a "weed pass" or "weed card" (wietpas), meaning only Dutch citizens who are member of a coffee shop could buy weed there. Tourists and foreigners would be excluded then. (Yikes!) Rest assured for now, this is the Netherlands: there's a lot of resistance against the weed pass, the coffee shops and the city administration of Amsterdam refuse to cooperate, so it still inclear when OR if the weed pass is ever introduced. If it is, the illegal street trade would blossom again. Smoking weed would not be banned in any case.
While on the street, you can recognize many coffee shops (but not all) by the green cannabis leave, and the green-white government permit on the door (see picture).
Coffee shops are allowed to sell a person 5 grams of cannabis a day. A person is allowed to own 30 grams. Some coffee shops refuse anyone who doesn't quite look 18, so carry an ID if there's any doubt.
Keep It Safe
- Amsterdam weed is generally much stronger than elsewhere (containing much more of the active substance, THC). If you smoke lighter stuff or only infrequently at home, don't smoke too much too quick. Ask the staff about the lighter varieties. Especially watch out for the ready-made joints and space cake (cake containing cannabis). Eat something sweet if you smoked too much, and try to relax.
- Don't buy drugs outside the official coffee shops. At the Central Station and the Red Light District, drugs sellers will whisper "Cocaine! Ecstasy!" just above their breath. In reality, they might sell you just about anything. Just ignore them or politely decline.
- Don't drive while stoned - it's a crime and you could get yourself or others killed. Police ignores alcohol and drug use of cyclists IF they can bike straight and safely. Taking public buses, trams or taxis while stoned isn't a problem, provided you behave somewhat normally.
Can I Smoke Weed Everywhere In Amsterdam?
No. Amsterdam is a tolerant, but also very ordered society and use of soft drugs has been confined to a small 'free zone'. Basically you can smoke in coffee shops and in your own house. Some hostels and hotels may be cool about it, but most won't, so check this in advance.
Smoking outside on the street used to be no big deal, but officially it's not allowed and recently police seem to be stricter on this. If they catch you smoking weed, you may get a hefty fine, especially if you're causing others inconvenience.
Inside buildings, always ask politely for permission. More often than not, you won't get it, but then you won't get in trouble for asking.
And remember, in all hotels, bars, restaurants and even coffee shops etc. there's a tobacco smoking ban - smoking is only allowed in special somking rooms where staff isn't allowed in. Technically, it's possible to smoke cannabis without tobacco (through a bong, vaporizer or herbal joint), but again, most owners and customers will not exactly appreciate it if you do.
So you can only smoke a classical joint (weed or hash with tobacco) if the coffee shop has a smoking room. However, some small bars and coffee shops are currently dodging the smoking ban as they could not install a smoking room.
But again, even if regular bars and hotels have a smoking room, or dodge the smoking ban alltogether, smoking marihuana is usually not allowed there.
What About Other Drugs?
Besides cannabis (marihuana and hash), all other drugs are fully banned. This even includes magic mushrooms these days. Here's more about drugs in Amsterdam.
Why Is Amsterdam Tolerant Towards Soft Drugs?
This goes back to the 1960s, when marihuana and hash were embraced by the Provo and Hippie movements. The government felt that police repression wasn't the right answer to the happy and peaceful hippies, and they recognized that cannabis wasn't on a par with hard drugs.
Moreover, when heroine hit Amsterdam in the 1970s, creating thousands of addicts within years, experts and the government wanted to do everything to separate the hard drug scene from the more harmless soft drugs scene. They also wanted to be able to regulate them. That's when the 'tolerated' Amsterdam coffee shops rose. They've been regulated ever since. If you're interested, here's more about the history of coffee shops in Amsterdam.
- Best Amsterdam coffee shop reviews
- Amsterdam coffee shop map
- Amsterdam weed - Frequently asked questions
- The origins of the coffee shops in Amsterdam
- Introduction to drugs in Amsterdam
- Amsterdam smartshops: where to find them
- Are the Amsterdam cannabis cafes being closed?
- The famous Bulldog Cafe Amsterdam
- Read about the annual Amsterdam Cannabis Cup, one the biggest cannabis events of the world
- What are the long-term effects of smoking weed?