Amsterdam may be well-known for its infamous coffee shops (you know the kind we're talking about) but the city's bar scene is one of the most vibrant and interesting in Europe. With more than 1,100 drinking dens to choose from, here are five of our absolute favourites to enjoy a tipple...
Knock back a beer at a Brown Café
You haven’t really experienced Amsterdam until you’ve visited one of the city’s iconic brown cafes. These traditional Dutch bars embody the cosiness and homeliness described in local slogans such as 'gezellig' and 'gezelligheid', which roughly translate as 'enjoying the relaxed company of others'.
One of the city’s very best brown cafes is Café De Twee Zwaantjes over on Prinsengract, which blends the laidback atmosphere of a traditional Dutch watering hole with cheery karaoke nights and local music. On Saturday’s and Sundays, its even open until 3am.
Take in sky-high city views at Canvas
On the eastern side of the River Amstel lies Canvas (pictured), one of Amsterdam’s hippest restaurant-come-nightclubs which just so happens to offer some of the very best views of the city. To find this gem, head on over to the bustling Volkshotel on Wibaustraat and take the elevator to the seventh floor.
The swanky, spectacular interiors are adorned with hanging orange lanterns and lined wall-to-wall with giant plate-glass windows providing panoramic views all round. However, we’d suggest heading out onto Canvas’ rooftop at sunset to experience Amsterdam’s skyline in the open air. If you’re looking for a real party, Canvas plays host to some of the city’s trendiest club nights from 11pm onwards most weekends.
Kick back in a former pirate radio tower
Some of the best bars often benefit from bizarre or unique locations, and that’s certainly the case with Amsterdam’s REM Eiland. This quirky restaurant and bar can be found inside a sea rig that sits high on stilts in Amsterdam’s harbour which once housed a former pirate radio station known as 'TV Noordzee'.
Since 1964, the restaurant has been serving seafood starters and French and Italian-inspired mains, as well as killer “dark and stormy” cocktails and gorgeous wines by the glass. Head up to Deck 3, which used to be a helipad, for the bar’s best views.
Travel back to the Dutch Golden Age
If you’re looking for the very best bar experiences Amsterdam has to offer, it only makes sense to hit up one or two of the city’s oldest and most respected pubs. The wonderfully antique-feeling Proeflokaal De Drie Fleschjes on Gravenstraat has been serving booze to city locals since 1650 and hasn’t lost any of its old-world splendour at all over the centuries.
There’s a wide range of beers and spirits available at the green-and-cream hued bar, which looks more like an age-old apothecary, but we’d recommend opting for one of the traditional jenevers, like the beautifully crisp Corenwyn from Lucas Bols. Legend has it that De Drie Fleschjes is the oldest traditional Dutch 'Proeflokaal' or 'liqueur tasting room' in the city.
Hang with the hipsters at Hannekes Boom
Decorated head-to-toe with recycled handicrafts and edgy street art pieces, Hannekes Boom is one of Amsterdam’s trendiest and most unique bars. This youthful waterfront pub can be found just a five-minute walk from Amsterdam Central Station and boasts a huge iron terrace with all-round harbour views.
We’d recommend hitting up this hipster hotspot in the summertime, when locals tend to dock their boats out front and chill in the comfy seats outdoors, soaking up the bar’s super-cool beach vibes. Keep an eye on the website for special vinyl evenings, DJ sets and jazz and blues performances.