Visiting a coffeeshop in Amsterdam: etiquette, tips and tricks for first timers

Ever thought about visiting a coffeeshop in Amsterdam but don’t quite know where to start?

Don’t fret, you’ve come to the right place! The Dutch capital has about 160 coffeeshops — and each one of them is a portal transporting you right into the world of Amsterdam’s finest weed, hash, and edibles. 

Never been to an Amsterdam coffeeshop before? Well, here are some tips and tricks you should know about that’ll level you up from coffeeshop-newbie to seasoned smoker in no time!

Let’s get high in an Amsterdam coffeeshop! Image: Depositphotos

But wait a minute, I hear you say. How legal is it to visit a coffeeshop in Amsterdam?

The confusion is well-founded. Coffeeshops in the Netherlands are tolerated by the law and the consumption of weed is decriminalised. But it’s not, technically, legal. 

READ MORE | Is smoking weed in Amsterdam legal? (+ 5 best coffeeshops!)

Don’t let this put you off, however, because the Dutch are pretty chill. No cop will bother you whilst peacefully smoking your joint in the park or at the canal side as long as you’re not in an area where smoking is banned. 

Especially inside a coffeeshop, you won’t run into any problems at all.

Tip: Beware of the five-gram limit.
One good thing to know is that you’re not allowed to carry more than five grams of weed with you at a time! That’s about five to six pure joints. Want more than that? Just bring a friend. 😉

Still confused? Listen to the ever-wise Vincent Vega from Pulp Fiction explaining the whole thing!

What kind of Amsterdam coffeeshop should you visit?

Okay, now that we know you won’t be spending your Amsterdam getaway in a prison cell for visiting a coffeeshop — where should you go? 

READ MORE | 7 practical questions about smoking weed in Amsterdam, answered

Just like with restaurants, some coffeeshops are certainly better than others. What’s more, each coffeeshop comes with its very own atmosphere, specialisation and unique weed selection. 

Tip: Don’t settle for the first coffeeshop you stumble across in Amsterdam
Many coffeeshops are grimy and dingy and won’t set you in good stead for a high time. Your experience of smoking weed makes you much more sensitive to the mood and vibes of the environment around you. So, find a coffeeshop that resonates with you! Good vibes only. 🤗

Here is a very basic overview of the kinds of coffeeshops you can visit in Amsterdam and the perfect spots for first-timers.

Traditional Amsterdam coffeeshops

Look at the cosy interior of Coffeeshop Tweede Kamer in Amsterdam. Image: DutchReview

The first-ever coffeeshop licence was given to Mellow Yellow in 1967, but 50 years later, it closed down after a government-backed scheme declared that any coffeeshop within 250 metres of a school had to close.

Many of these long-standing coffeeshops still exist and are amazing to visit for their rich history. These shops are also most likely to be frequented by Amsterdam locals, making you feel right at home! 

Here’s a list of some of Amsterdam’s oldest, most traditional coffeeshops:

  • The Bulldog was established in 1975 and is now, after the closure of Mellow Yellow and others, Amsterdam’s oldest standing coffeeshop! This spot is hugely popular and located right in the Red Light District. Just for the history, The Bulldog is absolutely worth a visit. 
  • Het Ballonnetje first opened its doors in 1978, which makes it another true old-timer amongst Amsterdam coffeeshops. This is an excellent spot for coffeeshop first-timers because of the laid-back atmosphere and killer weed selection. 
  • Coffeeshop De Tweede Kamer was established in 1985 and was the first coffeeshop to start weighing and packaging products in front of customers back in the day. Here, young and old from all cultures and backgrounds come together to enjoy some seriously high-quality ganja. What’s not to love?

Tip: Don’t buy from street dealers
Yes, these exist, even in coffeeshop-filled Amsterdam. Don’t fall for these guys and their supposedly world-class prices. Coffeeshops are much more credible because they employ staff that knows their dank and the budtenders can advise you on the different strains available. Much safer and better!

New-wave Amsterdam coffeeshops

Look how classy, clean and modern new-wave Coffeeshop Sloterdijk looks! Image: Supplied

Now that we’ve covered some of the more traditional Amsterdam coffeeshops, we also want to pay tribute to the modern, young and innovative amongst the bunch!

Forget dark-and-dingy smoking dens, though you can definitely still find these in and around the city. As a first-timer, however, you might want to start with one of these new-wave establishments that will completely transform your idea of what a visit to an Amsterdam coffeeshop can be like. 

  • Coffeeshop Sloterdijk puts an emphasis on transparency and class. We mean it. Just imagine walking into the lobby of a five-star hotel and it’s not that different from entering Coffeeshop Sloterdijk marvel countertops, shiny glass displays and golden details. The staff is expertly knowledgeable about all things marijuana — and they wear a uniform too. 
  • Coffeeshop Boerejongens West welcomes both locals and tourists, every single day of the week. This store is fresh, modern, and open to everyone, from first-timers to experienced smokers. If you’re after some of Amsterdam’s finest weed, hash, and space cakes, Boerejongens is the place to be.
  • CoffeeshopAmsterdam demonstrates that knowing your stuff and smoking responsibly is the new cool when it comes to experiencing marijuana in Amsterdam. These guys put an emphasis on making you feel as comfortable as possible. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and the three stories ensure that you’ll always find a space. Perfect for a first-time visit. (We can also recommend the edibles, especially the cakes! 😋)

Check out our map for some more of Amsterdam’s best coffeeshops of 2023. 👇

Coffeeshop etiquette: do’s and don’ts

Now that you’ve chosen the right Amsterdam coffeeshop to set you up for your first visit, here comes the next step: going inside.

And there really is no secret behavioural code specific to coffeeshops. After all, how do you behave anywhere else? With respect and consideration, of course! 

Nonetheless, here is a quick overview of the do’s and don’ts of coffeeshop etiquette.

The Do’s

Do buy something to drink. Not only will it help to forego that dreaded ‘cotton-mouth’ feeling (cannabis dries up your mouth), but it can also help stabilise your blood sugar levels. Just like drinking alcohol on an empty stomach isn’t the best idea, it’s always good to prep your high with some surgery sustenance. 

Do ask for advice from the budtenders on what strain you should buy. There really is no pressure to know whatever the difference is between Big Buddha Cheese and White Widow. Instead, ask your trusty coffeeshop employee for the desired effect. Want to feel relaxed, hyped or wish for more psychedelic effects? Your budtender will know the right pick for you. 

Do be considerate of others. A lot of coffeeshops in Amsterdam are located in residential areas. Sure, it’s exciting to smoke weed for the first time, but don’t be screaming beneath someone’s bedroom window. Always be mindful of the neighbours, tourists, and locals!

Do clean up your mess before you leave. Coffeeshops tend to be really busy, especially in the centre. Got rolling papers, weed crumbs and filters lying around? Clean up before you go. The next person and your budtender will thank you. 

At CoffeeshopAmsterdam Café, you can order alcohol AND smoke a pure joint. Image: Supplied

The Don’ts

Don’t turn up trashed. Cannabis and other drugs, including alcohol, don’t mix very well! Only visit an Amsterdam coffeeshop when you’re sober. You don’t want to be high in a club anyway, trust us. 

Don’t confuse a coffeeshop with an actual Koffiehuis, where they do just sell coffee. (This can be especially confusing on TripAdvisor.) If you want to enjoy a good coffee or even a drink next to your joint, you’ll have to frequent an Amsterdam smoker’s bar. These establishments don’t sell cannabis, but you’re allowed to smoke up there. 

Don’t smoke cigarettes, or tobacco, inside the coffeeshop. An official tobacco ban for all public inside spaces forbids this for cafés, bars, restaurants and coffeeshops in the Netherlands. This means you’ll have to smoke your mixed tobacco-weed joint outside or at home. Alternatively, some cafés allow you to smoke your weed pure (without tobacco). Our favourite for that is CoffeeshopAmsterdam Café, right at the Singel!

Don’t stock-pile weed. You are only allowed to purchase five grams at a time and every budtender will tell you so if you’re about to order more. 

Many coffeeshops have grinders, lighters, filters, and papers available for use! Image: Depositphotos

Be prepared: know your strains

While asking your budtender about the different strains available on the menu is the best thing to do, it can’t do any harm to know the basic ins and outs of cannabis, edibles, hash and its effects. 

Just so, if someone asks you whether you prefer Sativa or Indica, you know just what to say. 😉

Tip: Avoiding a bad trip

We’ve all heard of it — the dreaded bad trip. Just like with any other mind-altering substance, including alcohol, everyone reacts differently to cannabis. There are a few basic principles that can help you avoid a high-gone-wrong:

✅ Smoke in a quiet and relaxed environment with people you trust.
✅ Try CBD joints instead of THC joints, to keep your head level and your body relaxed.
✅ Consume cannabis on its own, without alcohol or other drugs.
✅ Make relaxing plans after and chose the park over the club anytime.
✅ Smoke slowly and enjoy the process. You’ve got nothing to prove.

Weed versus hash

On the left, you can see a block of hash, and on the right a weed bud! Image: DutchReview

Maybe you’ve heard someone say before that they prefer smoking hash over weed because it gives them a more stable high. But what is the difference, exactly?

In essence, what is commonly referred to as weed is the dried cannabis plant, cultivated mainly from flowering buds. Weed is the green, marijuana bud that you grind up and the roll in your joint. 

Hash, on the other hand, is a concentrated paste made from the resin and sap of the plant. It usually comes pressed in small bricks and can be smoked crumbled in a joint or pipe. 

For both substances, the effects really depend on the strain that you chose. Generally, hash is considered to be stronger than weed. Ask your budtender!

Indica versus Sativa

Choose Sativa if you want good chats and energy, chose Indica if you want some rest and relaxation. Graph: DutchReview

Here’s the most basic distinction between cannabis strains that you should know about: Indica and Sativa.

Both are subspecies of cannabis, just like apples and pears are both fruit but with very different tastes. Regarding Indica and Sativa, the difference lies within the varying effects both of them have. 

On the most basic level, Indica will provide you with more of a body-high that is calming and level. Sativa, on the other hand, produces more of an active head-high that will have your thoughts run wild and offer you an energy boost. 

THC versus CBD

Only a few drops of CBD oil before bed can potentially help with sleep or aid with stress. Image: Depositphotos

Let’s put our crazy scientist glasses on for a second and think about what actually makes us high when smoking the holy greens. In essence, it’s the thousands of chemical components found in the cannabis plant, called cannabinoids, that bind to receptors in the brain. 

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) are the most common cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. 

READ MORE |  The miracle cure-all? Everything you need to know about the CBD oil in the Netherlands

THC is the stuff that makes us high and produces a psychoactive effect. (Do you see the pink elephants, too??). CBD, on the other hand, does not produce a head high but is known for its positive effects on the body.

This cannabinoid is hailed as a miracle worker for pain relief, easing mental stress and assisting sleep. When visiting an Amsterdam coffeeshop, you can ask to have a joint that is high in CBD if you want to have more relaxing effects. 

Tip: Discover the world of CBD
If you’ve never visited an Amsterdam coffeeshop or smoked wee before, it might be a good idea to start with CBD as opposed to THC. A pure CBD joint will help you ease into the process of smoking, without stripping you of the coffeeshop experience.

Edibles — yay or nay?

Look at the glorious space-tries (like pastries 😉) from the Tweede Kamer Coffeeshop! Image: DutchReview

If you don’t like smoking (or just have a sweet tooth) and still want to get high in Amsterdam, you might want to try an edible. 

Edibles are weed-infused, mostly sweet, food items such as cakes, cookies or gummy bears that will get you high just like a joint does.

However, because you’re ingesting the THC instead of taking it in through your mouth and lungs, it will take a little longer for you to feel the high from an edible. In fact, it can take up to 20 minutes or even two hours for your body to absorb the THC contained in a weed brownie or space cake. 

READ MORE | Edibles in Amsterdam: the ultimate guide [2023]

Because of this, it’s especially important to resist the urge to eat more. For beginners, ask your budtender how much you’re supposed to be eating at a time. Edibles tend to be quite strong, so the answer might be just a quarter of a brownie. 

So there you have it, everything you need to know about visiting a coffee shop in the Netherlands. Go and enjoy the experience but just don’t make the rookie error of falling asleep. You don’t want to be the tourist that ends up slumped in the corner after one puff.

Have we missed any tips or tricks that first-time visitors of Amsterdam coffeeshops just have to know? Tell us in the comments!

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in October 2018, and was fully updated in August 2023 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Freya Sawbridge
Freya Sawbridge
Freya was born in Edinburgh but raised in New Zealand (cue every person she meets saying “oh I have always wanted to go there but it’s so far away!”). A restless and curious nature has led her to move countries 5 times in the last 3 years in attempt to find a place she can call home. She contacted DutchReview on a whim and arrived in the Netherlands in summer 2019 to start her internship.

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