Much more than just good coffee, Amsterdam’s cafés promise a healthy hit of Dutch culture. From the traditional Koffiehuis to the cosy ‘brown cafés’ and the infamous coffee shops, there’s a cool Amsterdam hangout for every occasion. Read on for where to find them and - crucially - how to tell them apart.

What's the difference between a café, coffee shop or Koffiehuis?

  • A Koffiehuis or coffee bar is where you’ll actually find the best, freshly roasted coffee in Amsterdam – and usually a good spot for lunch too.

  • Cafés in Amsterdam are casual bars, like a Dutch version of a British pub. ‘Brown cafés’ are a traditional breed of these, decked out with dark wood, crackling fireplaces and walls that look like they’ve been fumigated with years of cigarette smoke (which, of course, most of them have). This is where to come for an alcoholic drink and a snack, rather than the finest Arabica.

  • Amsterdam's coffee shops sell - often pretty great - coffee, but yes, they do also sell marijuana and you can legally smoke here (if you're over 18 and have photo ID). They can be interesting, friendly and artfully designed places that are worth a look even if you’re not partaking in anything more than a mocha. Look out for a green and white licence sticker in the window, but note that coffee shops are not allowed to sell alcohol.

Now that you know what you're looking for, here are our pick of the best cafés and coffee shops in Amsterdam:

The best coffee bars in Amsterdam

Screaming Beans

They take their coffee seriously here, as the name might suggest, but there are no coffee snobs behind the counter, just welcoming, knowledgeable staff. Speciality roasts come from the likes of Killimanjaro and Ethiopia, and the ‘naked’ doppio (two full shots of espresso) is one to please coffee fiends. Good for guests staying at the Hotel IX located above the bar, or anyone shopping in the 'Nine Streets' area - you can munch on freshly made toasties if you swing by for lunch. Look out for coffee tasting events and barista workshops on the Screaming Beans Facebook page. There’s a second branch at Eerste Constantijn Huygensstraat which doubles as a wine bar.

Where: Hartenstraat 12, De Negen Straatjes

Open: Mon to Fri 8am-5pm, Sat 9am-5pm, Sun 10am-5pm

Koffiehuis De Hoek

A small, unpretentious lunch joint, De Hoek is a great place to see a whole cross-section of Amsterdam come to fuel up with caffeine and snacks. Sat beside the central Prinsengracht canal on the corner of Reestraat, it comes with a pretty view and handy proximity to the Anne Frank House and other central Amsterdam attractions. With fluffy pancakes, open sandwiches and generous omelettes on the menu, they also do breakfast deals including drinks for €10. Stop by in the afternoon for a hearty slice of apple pie, a Dutch speciality.

Where: Prinsengracht 341, De Negen Straatjes

Open: Mon to Fri 8am-4.30pm, Sat & Sun 9am-5pm

Koko Coffee & Design

A coffee bar set within a design boutique, Koko will satisfy both the fashion and bean obsessives in your party. Selling unique clothes, accessories and home wares in an old canal house, the slightly seedy location in the Red Light District doesn’t do anything to deter Koko’s fans – in fact, it’s the perfect place to escape any rowdy stag parties you may run into. There’s a rotating coffee menu and good quality loose-leaf teas including a nice Massai Chai.

Where: Oudezijds Achterburgwal 145, De Wallen

Open: Closed on Mondays, Tues to Fri 9am-6.30pm, Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 12pm-6pm

Al Ponte

It’s hard to know where Al Ponte wins the most points: the homely Italian vibe, or the prime location overlooking the River IJ in Amsterdam's oft-forgotten northern half, Amsterdam Noord. Sit outside in the sunshine and watch the boats come and go as you breathe in the scent of real Italian roasting and homemade lemon cake. There’s a good vegetarian and vegan offering here - think grilled aubergines, tomatoes and vegan pesto - so it's worth making a stop for a panini imbottito sandwich before boarding the ferry back to the city centre. Find out more about artsy Amsterdam Noord, plus 19 more trendy neighbourhoods in our guide to the best hipster hangouts around the world.

Where: Meeuwenlaan 2, IJplein, next to the ferry terminal in Amsterdam Noord (get the free public ferry from behind Amsterdam Central Station)

Open: Summer - Mon to Fri 8am-6pm, Sat & Sun 10am-6pm. Winter - Mon to Fri 8am-3pm, Sat & Sun 10am-4pm

The best 'brown cafés' in Amsterdam

Café Pieper

The Leidesplein area is a popular stomping ground for nights on the town, but this well-established, seventeenth century pump room and café is a world away from Amsterdam’s club scene, with its low ceilings, stained glass windows and resident pub cat. You can nibble on bitterballen (fried Dutch bar snacks made of meat and potato) as you work your way through the wheat beer selection - supped from antique mugs, of course. Come here for a tankard on the canalside terrace in the spring, and admire the city in bloom. Visiting Amsterdam for tulip season? Check out our guide on how to find the best flowers in and around the city.

Where: Prinsengracht 424, Centrum

Open: Mon to Sat 12pm-1am, Sun 2pm-8pm

Café Hoppe

In true Amsterdam café style, there’s a standing (sta Hoppe) and a sitting (zit Hoppe) area in Café Hoppe, along with the essential Heineken menu and a decent wine list starting from €3.70 a glass. With a heritage that dates back to 1670, the bar is bedecked with old barrel tops and usually stuffed with friendly locals, so don’t be surprised to find yourself in conversation until the wee small hours. The tram stop ‘Spui’ is right outside the front door and Hoppe also serves a hearty breakfast until 12pm, so you can come back and nurse your hangover the next day.

Where: Spui 18-20, Centrum

Open: Sun to Thu 8am-1am, Fri to Sat 8am-2am

Café In't Aepjen

This old sailor’s tavern near the docks has preserved its atmosphere from the days of the Dutch East India Company, with carved stone fireplaces, creaking interiors (it’s one of the city’s last wooden houses) and Jenever gin bottles still lining the shelves. The legend goes that sailors used to bring back monkeys from their Asian travels to pay the bar tab – hence the name Int Aepjen, or ‘in the monkey’. Whatever you believe, this is a truly characterful spot, that also does a mean appel koek and coffee, if you’re not fussed about the speciality gin.

Where: Zeedijk 1, De Wallen

Open: Sun to Thurs 12pm-1am, Fri & Sat until 3am

Café de Wetering

An intimate townhouse cafe full of shabby charm, Café de Wetering is sufficiently tucked away from the main thoroughfares to keep things quiet and amiable. Sit on wooden benches outside, chat to the barman and the regulars by the bar or warm yourself by the big fireplace upstairs. This really does feel like an extension of your living room, as all good brown cafés should.

Where: Weteringstraat 37, Centrum

Open: Mon to Thu 4pm-1am, Fri 4pm-3am, Sat 3pm-2am, Sun 3pm-1am

The best coffee shops in Amsterdam

Dampkring

Probably the best-known coffee shop thanks to a scene in the film Ocean’s Twelve, Dampkring is worth sticking your head round the door just for the eye-bending wooden décor that makes you feel like you’ve stepped inside a tree trunk, even if you’ve not had anything of the medicinal variety. Popular for its laid-back atmosphere and comfy seating, this does mean it gets crowded in the afternoon and evenings, so pop along earlier in the day if you just want to take a few snaps. Take a look round Amsterdam's other famous sights, with our guide to the best things to see and do in the city.

Where: Handboogstraat 29, Grachtengordel (Canal Belt)

Open: Mon to Thur 10am-1am, Fri & Sat 10am-2am, Sun 11am-1am

Siberie

A mix of tourists and locals frequent this coffee shop for its community feel and weekend events like exhibitions, DJ sets and even horoscope readings. The coffee and tea selection here comes recommended and the quieter vibe during the week means you won’t get big tourist groups disturbing the peace of the beautiful Brouwersgracht location.

Where: Brouwersgracht 11, Grachtengordel (Canal Belt)

Open: Sun to Thu 11am-11pm, Fri & Sat 11am-12am

Barney’s Coffeeshop

There’s a retro pharmaceutical style to Barney’s, with cabinets lining the walls like an old apothecary, though the hi-tech monitors showing informational videos on every table bring it bang up-to-date. The Barney’s ‘family’ have somewhat cornered this part of the cool Jordaan neighbourhood, with Barney’s Uptown across the street (serving alcohol and food, rather than smoking materials) and they’ve also branched out to the south, with the laidback Barney’s Lounge, near Rembrandtplein. It’s open early for Irish and English-inspired breakfasts, and the munchie-friendly menu also includes a stand-out toffee cheesecake.

Where: Haarlemmerstraat 102, Jordaan

Open: 7am-1am daily

Want more inspiration for what to see and do on your next trip to Amsterdam? Watch this...

Is finding good coffee the highlight of your holiday? You might want to know about these destinations:

Where to find the world's best coffee

These coffee-loving cities are the perfect destinations for all you caffeine-fuelled explorers out there.

Melbourne's top attractions

Australia's coffee capital has plenty of cultural attractions and cool cafes to explore.

The best of Vienna

Vienna is festooned with amazing buildings that could come straight out of a Christmas card - and it also does a mean line in coffee.

Skyscanner is the world’s travel search engine, helping your money go further on flights, hotels and car hire.