Top 5 Most Unique Pubs in Amsterdam

After spending 3 and 1/2 years of our lives in Amsterdam, we became quite the Dutch (and Belgian) craft beer aficionados. This top 5 list of unique pubs in Amsterdam offers a recommendation for beer lovers of all tastes (unless you just like Budweiser). While some of the pubs listed here do draw a fair few tourists, none are tourist traps because you’ll also find a solid mix of locals at each. Keep in mind that Amsterdam is a small city that’s very touristy, and there’s no shortage of tourist trap hangouts in the center.

5 Most Unique Pubs in Amsterdam

1) t’Arendsnest – If you only visit one pub in Amsterdam, this is the place for a quintessentially Dutch drinking experience. They offer the best selection of Dutch micro brews in all of Holland, and they also have a uniquely outstanding menu of jenevers (Dutch gins). All of this is housed in a typically Dutch bar on the beautiful Herengracht canal. When the weather is warm, this is a great place to sit outside and watch the Dutch cruise the beautiful canal in their motor boats. On unpleasant days (most of the year), this is an awesome place to sift through their massive beer book and lap up the ambiance.

Enjoying a great Dutch brew at t'Arendsnest, unique pubs in Amsterdam. Ask for a recommendation to suit your tastes, for the optimum experience.
Enjoying a great Dutch brew at t’Arendsnest. Ask for a recommendation to suit your tastes for the optimum experience.

2) In de Wildeman – A traditional ‘silent’ pub, this establishment never plays music. Instead, the focus is on great beer and hopefully the same quality conversation to pair with it. They feature one of the most diverse beer menus in Amsterdam, with over 150 brews on offer. You’ll find pretty much every Belgian Trappist (monk brewed beer) and a great selection of German beers, local beers and an adequate assortment of world beers. On a couple occasions, we even received a rare dose of Dutch hospitality, receiving a free beer from the bar staff. This is unusual in Amsterdam as in some places we frequented many times, we never received a free drink. Good customer service is generally not in the Dutch repertoire, but In de Wildeman has proven it can buck the trend.

3) Brouwerij ‘t IJ – Housed in an old Dutch windmill, this brewery boasts a fine selection of beers brewed on site. Their signature amber colored tripel beer, named Columbus, packs a punch at 9%. You can also enjoy Trappist style cheese, made from cows who fed off the wort the brewery traded with the dairy farm. Tours of the brewery are offered Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 3:30pm and 4pm. The cost is only €4.50 ($5.50 US) and includes 1 free beer. While open daily, the pubs opening hours are just 2pm-8pm. Take a break from sightseeing and try to get here close to opening. Just 45 minutes after opening, even in winter months, it can already start to become difficult to get a table inside. In summer, their large outdoor terrace is a popular place with locals. Again, arrive early, as sunshine draws big crowds to any good outside venue in Amsterdam.

The IJ Brewery- Great beers with friends and family, unique pubs in Amsterdam.
The IJ Brewery- Great beers with friends and family.

4) Beer Temple – Europe’s first self proclaimed American beer bar. And honestly in our travels throughout the continent, we haven’t come across anything else like it. If you’re American and hankering for a taste of home, this is the place to go. If you’re American and wanting to forget home, you should probably skip it, because the decor resembles a TGI Fridays gone Dutch. But this bar boasts a better American beer selection than 98% of American bars in the United States. They feature 30 small batch brews on tap, mostly American, and over 100 additional choices in bottles. Some great options include varieties from the Great Divide and Left Hand breweries, as well as the not too shabby Rogue, Anchor, Sierra Nevada and Flying Dog breweries. They also have rare special edition American brews that will set you back a pretty penny.

Beer Temple, unique pubs in Amsterdam- because what's more American than a native American.
Beer Temple- because what’s more American than a native American.

5) De Prael – The only other active brewery in Amsterdam (along with the above mentioned IJ). This establishment, located in the famous red light district, brews 5 beers year round, with the occasional seasonal beer. Their beers are all named after former Dutch singers. They recently re-modeled the pub’s dining room and it’s also a nice place to grab a quality sandwich, or typical Dutch snacks like bitterballen (fried balls of mash potatoes and beef). An added bonus of patronizing this place is that you are supporting a good cause. De Prael staffs several mentally challenged people that work in the dining room and gift shop. Unique for Amsterdam.

Honorable Mentions:

Cafe Belgique is a hip pub for Belgian beers, though they have a smaller selection than In de Wildeman, offering about 30 choices. Though the pub is one of the smallest in Amsterdam, they strangely manage to squeeze in quality up and coming dj’s. Particularly in summer months, people spill into the small alley and the area permeates of weed. This is honestly pretty unusual for a good pub in Amsterdam. Very few tolerate marijuana smoking, even outside. We do think it’s funny that some choose to combine 9% beers with powerful weed. If you can find a seat here, like we occasionally did, it has one of the funkiest vibes of any Amsterdam pub.

Amsterdam canal, unique pubs in Amsterdam
Cafe de Dokter is tucked in a small alley in the center with an atmosphere all its ownThe pub was founded by a surgeon in 1798 and has remained in the family for 6 generations, with the current generation operating it for the last 40 years. Beautiful candles, dusty chandeliers, jazz music and old artifacts provide an old world charm. It’s unusually romantic for a pub, even with all the dust. And despite being one of Amsterdam’s smallest and most unique pubs, you can frequently find seats. It’s definitely worth a visit but doesn’t crack our top 5 because of its poor beer selection and service. After your first drink, the owner seems more interested in chatting with his friends or reading the newspaper rather than asking if you want another. We literally lived 50 feet away from de Dokter for 3 years and for this reason we barely ever went, except when guests visited, because it’s a worthwhile place for a nice whiskey, jenever or wine. Just don’t expect a Cheers type vibe, because he doesn’t care what your name is, or seemingly whether you came in the first place.

Cafe de Dokter in Amsterdam
Cafe de Dokter’s unique charm, complete with thick layers of dust on the chandeliers.

Gollem – For Amsterdam beer snobs and mainstream travel guides we’ve certainly left this list open to argument. We’ve left the commonly #1 ranked pub off it. Gollem has a great beer selection (though 95% of it is Belgian) and it is a cool pub. Our main issue is that it’s virtually impossible to find a seat and it doesn’t have so many distinguishing features. So frankly we believe it’s overrated. But if you happen to swing by on a late afternoon and find a seat, grab it, it’s one of the most popular places in town.

Perhaps we should have made this a Top 10 List, but at least we covered our asses from most criticism 🙂

3 thoughts on “Top 5 Most Unique Pubs in Amsterdam

    1. Thank you Amber! Yes indeed, and no matter how many times we went I almost always found it difficult to make a decision. So many obscure choices!

Have something to share?