How can I tell the difference between a "cafe"and a “coffeeshop” in Amsterdam and what exactly do they sell?

Ironically, telling the difference between a café and a coffeeshop isn’t always as easy as it looks. More often than not it’s the waft of smoke billowing from the front door that gives it away. Interestingly enough however, you will rarely see alcohol offered side-by-side at the pot cafes. Very few places have the required license necessary for this. Inside on the menus you will an overwhelming array of items like dozens of different types of pot to choose from, pre-rolled or roll your own joints, space cakes, hash, even marijuana tea if you should like. Visit for detailed explanations on the different varieties to choose from.

  1. Cafe:
    • A "cafe" in Amsterdam is similar to a typical coffee shop or bistro that you might find in many cities around the world. They serve a variety of beverages, including coffee, tea, soft drinks, and often alcoholic drinks like beer and wine. In addition to drinks, cafes typically offer a selection of food items, which can range from light snacks to full meals. Some cafes may also have outdoor seating, making them great spots for people-watching and enjoying a relaxed atmosphere.
  2. Coffeeshop:
    • A "coffeeshop" in Amsterdam refers to a specific type of establishment where the sale and consumption of cannabis (marijuana) is tolerated under certain regulations set by the Dutch government. Coffeeshops do serve coffee, tea, and other non-alcoholic beverages, but their primary focus is on providing a place for patrons to purchase and consume cannabis products. They offer a menu of various strains of marijuana and hashish, along with different methods of consumption, such as joints, edibles, and sometimes vaporizers.

To differentiate between the two:

  • Signage: Look for signage that explicitly says "cafe" or "coffeeshop." The name should give you a good indication of what type of establishment it is.
  • Menu: Coffeeshops will have a menu that lists various strains of cannabis and hashish, along with options for consumption. Cafes, on the other hand, will have a menu that includes a range of beverages and food items, but not cannabis.
  • Atmosphere: Coffeeshops may have a more laid-back atmosphere and may be decorated with cannabis-related artwork or themes. Cafes may have a more general and varied decor, depending on their style and clientele.
  • Legal Age: In Amsterdam, the legal age to purchase and consume cannabis in a coffeeshop is 18, while the legal drinking age for alcohol in cafes is also 18.

Things have come a long way since the very first “coffeeshop” ever, Bulldog’s (, was started over 25 years ago by Mr. Henk de Vries in the red light district of Amsterdam. Dating circa 1975, it is now a benchmark institution which set the trend for all others to follow. Today there are approximately 300 such “coffeeshops” in which marijuana is sold and permitted to be smoked on the premises. Believe it or not, it is still very illegal to sell and consume pot, however the authorities are pretty “laid-back” about its enforcement. Fortunately the mainstream mentality is that it is more of a health problem as opposed to a criminal one. To visit the original Bulldog’s, stop by:

The Bulldog Coffeeshop

Oudezijds Voorburgwal, 90

1012 GG Amsterdam

Telephone: (+31) 20 625 98 64

Hours: 9 am to 1 am