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

Things to do in Amsterdam: Coffeeshop in Amsterdam, Netherlands

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.

  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 "coffee shop" 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. You can tour Amsterdam's red light district and tour coffee shops here.

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.

In Amsterdam, the distinction between a "cafe" and a "coffeeshop" is significant, particularly for tourists seeking different experiences. Cafes in Amsterdam typically serve coffee, tea, pastries, and light meals, much like cafes in other parts of the world. These establishments are family-friendly and cater to a wide range of customers, including locals and tourists alike. On the other hand, coffee shops in Amsterdam are known for selling cannabis products, such as weed and hashish, alongside beverages like coffee and tea. While smoking tobacco is permitted in coffee shops, it's important to note that they do not sell tobacco products due to Dutch regulations. As such, coffee shops attract a different clientele, including those interested in recreational cannabis use. For tourists visiting Amsterdam, understanding the distinction between cafes and coffee shops can help them navigate the city's diverse culinary and cultural offerings while ensuring they engage in activities aligned with their preferences and interests. These establishments are popular among locals and tourists alike, providing a comfortable setting to enjoy a cup of Amsterdam coffee while taking in the bustling city centre. When in The Netherlands there's many things to do in Amsterdam.

A cafe, in the traditional sense, serves coffee, tea, and other non-alcoholic beverages. These cafes can be found throughout Amsterdam and cater to locals and tourists alike, offering a cozy atmosphere to enjoy a cup of cappuccino or espresso. On the other hand, an Amsterdam coffeeshop is known for selling cannabis products, such as marijuana and pre-rolled joints. These establishments are unique to the Netherlands and are tolerated by the government for the sale of soft drugs.

When walking around Amsterdam, it's best to pay attention to the signage and the ambiance of the establishment to determine whether it's a cafe or a coffeeshop. Cafes typically have a more traditional Dutch feel, with inviting interiors and outdoor seating areas, while coffeeshops may have a more relaxed or "mellow" vibe, with green and white decor. Additionally, don't be afraid to ask locals or check online resources like TripAdvisor for recommendations on where to find the best coffee or cannabis products in the city.

It's true that many coffeeshops in Amsterdam also sell coffee and other beverages, but their primary focus is on the sale of cannabis. If you're looking for a place to enjoy a cup of coffee or tea without the presence of cannabis, opt for a traditional cafe instead. Remember, while Amsterdam's drug policies may be more lenient than in other countries, it's important to respect local laws and regulations. Enjoy your time in Amsterdam, but don't overdo it with the cannabis consumption, as excessive use is still punishable under Dutch law.

In conclusion, navigating the differences between a cafe and a coffeeshop in Amsterdam may seem daunting if you've never experienced the city's unique culture before. However, don't worry or panic - with a bit of awareness and understanding, you can easily distinguish between the two. Remember, cafes are traditional establishments that serve coffee, tea, and other non-alcoholic beverages, while Amsterdam coffeeshops specialize in the sale of cannabis products. So, if you find yourself craving a cup of coffee in Amsterdam, seek out a cozy coffee house with a welcoming ambiance. And if you're interested in exploring the city's renowned coffee shops, just remember to respect local laws and regulations regarding the purchase and consumption of cannabis. Enjoy your time in Amsterdam, whether you're sipping a cappuccino in a quaint cafe or sampling the offerings of Amsterdam's coffee shops.