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  • Writer's pictureFernanda Matsuoka

Exploring Amsterdam's Brown Bars


Credits: Jorge Royan

Amsterdam's brown bars, or "bruin cafés," are an integral part of the city's cultural and social fabric. These historic drinking establishments, characterized by their dark wood interiors and cozy atmospheres, have been beloved institutions for centuries. In this blog post, we'll delve into the history of Amsterdam's brown bars, tracing their origins from the early ages to their status today as iconic gathering places. We'll also highlight some of the best brown bars in the city, each offering a unique glimpse into Amsterdam's rich heritage.


A Glimpse into History

The origins of Amsterdam's brown bars date back to the 17th century, during the Dutch Golden Age. As the city flourished as a center of trade and commerce, so did its social life. Taverns and pubs began to sprout up, serving as communal hubs where merchants, sailors, and locals could unwind over a pint of beer. These establishments were known for their warm, inviting interiors, often adorned with wooden beams, antique furnishings, and walls stained with years of tobacco smoke—hence the term "brown bar."


In the centuries that followed, brown bars became deeply embedded in Amsterdam's social and cultural landscape. They were places where people from all walks of life could come together to share stories, discuss business, and celebrate life's moments. Unlike the more modern and trendy bars that emerged in the 20th century, brown bars retained their traditional charm and authenticity, offering a nostalgic escape from the hustle and bustle of contemporary life.


Brown Bars Today: Timeless Charm in a Modern World

Today, Amsterdam's brown bars continue to thrive, attracting both locals and tourists who seek an authentic Dutch experience. While the city has seen significant modernization and growth, these historic pubs remain steadfast, preserving the ambiance and traditions of yesteryears. Many brown bars are still family-owned and have been passed down through generations, further cementing their status as cherished landmarks.


Visiting a brown bar is more than just enjoying a drink—it's about immersing yourself in the city's history and connecting with its past. The atmosphere in these bars is often relaxed and convivial, making them perfect spots for engaging conversations and leisurely evenings. Whether you're a history enthusiast, a beer connoisseur, or simply someone who appreciates a good story, Amsterdam's brown bars offer an experience that is both timeless and uniquely Dutch.


Our favorite Brown Bars in Amsterdam

To help you navigate the city's brown bar scene, here are some of the best and most iconic establishments that you shouldn't miss:


1. **Café Chris**

- Established in 1624, Café Chris is one of the oldest brown bars in Amsterdam. Located in the Jordaan district, this historic pub offers a quintessential brown bar experience with its wooden interior, antique decor, and friendly atmosphere.


2. **Café 't Smalle**

- Nestled along the Egelantiersgracht canal, Café 't Smalle is renowned for its beautiful waterfront terrace and charming interior. The bar dates back to 1780 and retains much of its original character, making it a favorite among locals and tourists alike.


3. **Café Hoppe**

- Founded in 1670, Café Hoppe is a landmark on Spui Square. Known for its lively ambiance and classic wooden bar, this establishment is perfect for those looking to experience a piece of Amsterdam's history while enjoying a wide selection of beers and traditional Dutch snacks.


4. **De Druif**

- With its origins in the 17th century, De Druif is a hidden gem located in the eastern part of Amsterdam. This cozy brown bar exudes old-world charm and offers a warm, inviting atmosphere, complete with original wooden fixtures and a storied past.


5. **Café Papeneiland**

- A visit to Café Papeneiland is like stepping back in time. This historic pub, dating back to 1642, is famous for its traditional Dutch apple pie and picturesque location at the corner of the Prinsengracht and Brouwersgracht canals.


6. **Café de Dokter**

- Established in 1798, Café de Dokter is the smallest brown bar in Amsterdam, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in character. The bar's interior is filled with fascinating memorabilia, creating a unique and intimate setting.


7. **In 't Aepjen**

- Located near the Red Light District, In 't Aepjen is one of the oldest bars in Amsterdam, housed in a building that dates back to 1475. This brown bar offers a fascinating glimpse into the city's maritime history, complete with traditional decor and a welcoming atmosphere.


#### Conclusion


Amsterdam's brown bars are more than just places to enjoy a drink—they are living monuments to the city's rich history and cultural heritage. Each visit to a brown bar is a journey through time, offering a taste of Amsterdam's past and a connection to its enduring traditions. Whether you're exploring the oldest establishments or discovering hidden gems, these timeless taverns provide an unforgettable experience that captures the essence of the Dutch capital.

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