Note: This article was written many years ago but is still relevant enough. Prices today will be higher than indicated here
Yes, it's true. In Amsterdam or anywhere in the Netherlands, you can walk into a coffeeshop, purchase weed and light up. You can order a munchy, sip a coffee, try a spacecake, sit back to listen to music and relax. If a non-cannabis establishment is what you're after, stick to the koffiehuis!
Perhaps you'll be inclined to contemplate the absurd and ridiculous laws - not to mention the mindless hysteria - against soft drugs in the rest of the 'civilized' world.
Almost all of the coffeeshops have a menu listing the types and prices of herb and hash available. It's cheap, and either priced by the gram, by the bag, or by the joint. The price for average Dutch weed, or Nederwiet, is € 7.- for a small bag of around 1.4 gram, or € 11.50 for a 3-4 gram bag. This is more common in coffeeshops distant from the tourist areas, and applies to Dutch-grown varieties. Also generally available are Thai and Jamaican weed, sometimes sold cheaper.
Nowadays you buy by THC concentration more than by weight! For a tutorial on weed and rolling joints, other places on the net are far more suitable. Generic skunk does it for us, and the nicer and more potent strains carry a higher price tag and are best reserved for lazy weekends Try the Smokersguide for detailed information.
If you are not from around here and the coffeeshop scene looks a bit intimidating at first sight (aka reefer madness phobia), rest assured that you will find lots of normal, regular, plain people in them. Tourists and locals, investment bankers and thugs, all layers of society eventually enter a coffeeshop.
There is an annual competition aimed at finding the best weed on the planet, imaginatively named Cannabis Cup, and they merrily tour Amsterdam completely buzzed, and gather one night to share the results and communicate them to the world in general. If you do not need to join such types of tours, other guides to coffeeshops exist on the net, from 420 Tours, High Times, the Bible of the hobby, to the very, very, very comprehensive Coffeeshop Directory. Jon's and Coffeeshop Guide of the Netherlands are also good bets
If you're all thumbs when it comes to rolling your own, very often packets of pre-rolled can be bought. Pre-rolled joints come in two varieties. In the Netherlands, the ritual of rolling a joint includes mixing weed with tobacco, something uncommon across the Atlantic and in other parts of the world, and heresy for the "connoisseur." Apparently smoking kills, and therefore pure weed joints are available. Good coffeeshops will have both for you to choose, but be wary, if you are not a regular dope smoker, of the effects of pure-weed joints. The flavour is better, but the smashing effect is also heavier.
Prices for pre-rolled joints vary between € 2.50 and € 4.00, and only a limited selection of strains is available. Some hash varieties and a pure-weed joint will be on the pre-rolled menu too. If you cannot find pure-weed pre-rolled joints, do not despair. A lot of places have bongs that you can borrow, or you can bring your own. The usual etiquette is that you should order something inside a coffeeshop, either drinks or smokes, but nobody will hassle you if you bring your own stuff and just order some tea to spend a relaxed hour or two.
The myth that drugs are legal in the Netherlands is just that, myth. Soft drugs are tolerated, and that's all. This means you can buy weed or hash without risking arrest, that you can carry a small amount of soft drugs with you, that you can grow a small number of plants at your place for personal use, that you are free to roll one and enjoy it inside a coffeeshop or at your place, but this does not mean you can behave like a teenager on his first booze run and behave like a jerk. Smoking dope in public places is not ok, and even some nightlife locales will discourage you from rolling and lighting up a phat one. Smoking on the street is also not regarded in a good way by the honest hardworking folks, so do not do it unless you are alone. If you think you won't bother anyone with your joint, then smoke it, otherwise find a suitable place for the recreational break. This is sane advice, it's meant to help you avoid trouble with your neighbours or with the police. Also, some hotels are not too fond of smoking guests, so better ask beforehand in case there are no ashtrays in your room.
We receive lots of questions concerning legal age for smoking or entering a coffeeshop. The word legal is not totally adequate for this situation, given that soft drugs are only tolerated, but 18 years old or possessing a face that looks like it will get you inside a coffeeshop. Actually, there are no ID checks (or they are rare) in the Netherlands, you will just be refused a purchase of the goods if you look too young. Good advice is not to smoke dope if you are still growing and learning. There are other fun things to do when you are a teenager, so postpone brain destruction till you are in college. There are limits to the amount of drugs you can buy or carry, 5 grams per person, but nobody will care if you buy a couple of bags for sampling purposes. The best thing to do is to read the Ministry of Justice's Factsheet about drugs, from which we present a short paragraph:
The sale of small quantities of soft drugs in coffee shops (which are not allowed to sell alcohol) is therefore technically an offense, but prosecution proceedings are only instituted if the operator or owner of the shop does not meet the following criteria:
- no more than five grams per person may be sold in any one transaction;
- no hard drugs may be sold;
- drugs may not be advertised;
- the coffee shop must not cause any nuisance;
- no drugs may be sold to minors (under the age of 18), nor may minors be admitted to the premises.
A good thing about coffeeshops is the wide selection of teas and coffees. Your mouth is bound to get dry, and your stomach will clamour for some munchies too. Avoid the mistake of eating a space-cake: you'll be adding a full trip to the one you're currently on . In another words, Spacecakes are strong stuff. Save it for another time, and eat it slowly when you do. Give it's effects time to kick in, or you could be very sorry.
Find your own favourite place among the 300 coffeeshops of Amsterdam, we give you a few pointers below. Up-to-date information can be found on our message board, and below we present a list of addresses for you to explore.
It's not well known to tourists, but the friendly staff and cozy interior, along with a full bar, make this coffeeshop with the unforgettable name one of the local favourites. It's also highly regarded in terms of its weed selection. Located on the corner of Bergstraat, in the warm months a few tables and chairs are available for sitting outside along the pretty Herengracht. The unattractive coffeeshop-dive Grey Area is located nearby.
Oudezijds Voorburgwal 191
One of three sister shops, the others are located at Tolstraat 91, and the Waterlooplein 345. They grow their own here, in their own greenhouse, and the hybrids and mutations that they develop rank consistently high in various categories in the yearly Cannabis Cup. Internet access and fax are available.
De Tweede Kamer
A small and friendly coffeeshop just around the corner from Cafe Luxembourg, off the Spui. It's a favourite of locals and discerning visitors, like some of those who visit our message board. Now with a renovated interior, it is reputed to stock the best hash in the Western world. We tend to think these statements are nonsense and just message board talk, because our brains rarely remember anything after having smoked superlative stuff. We don't even recall going there in the first place.
De Rokerij II
Now this is a cool place, probably one of our favourite places in Amsterdam. The music, mainly chill-out sounds, is tasteful - anywhere Jimi is played from time to time gets my vote - and sometimes you get live stuff. The weed selection is great, and you cannot go wrong even with the cheaper strains. The Stardust and the Shiva(s) are to be sampled by the amateurs.
Two sister coffeeshops, one on the Amstel close to Rembrandtsplein and the other off Leidseplein, make this a chain of souvenir-selling coffeeshops, but nothing to worry. Go to Leidseplein if you want a bar-like atmosphere, lively on weekends, or sit back in the Singel for some relaxed quality time.
Jonge Roelensteeg 12-14, off Nieuwe Zijds Voorburgwal
A small, nice, conveniently located place, with internet access and good kharma. A series of small rooms, and right around the corner, their bar. Pleasant sounds and decoration, and if you want to feel even cooler, there is Supperclub so close, just across the alley.
In addition to weed, this place also features organic food and really tasty fruit shakes. No preservatives. Light up a joint after your meal and enjoy the amazing interior. Occasional live music.
Simple small interior, no bar, excellent coffee.
Around the corner from the Doors, Bulldog and Rokerij II, if you do not have your vision impaired and your lungs toasted, it should be another stop on the itinerary. The building is funky, the interior too, and the smokes match the friendly welcome. A place that announces Afroman partying there during the Cannabis Cup must be checked at least once.
Just off the Damrak, a short stroll away from Centraal Station and the RLD. Nips at the heels of Bulldog as a tourist attraction - still, it's not a bad place. You'll most often meet other yanks and Brits. Sits majestically at the unofficial entrance to the Red Light District, and, frankly, its bar atmosphere full of loud tourists is too much for the quiet smoker types. To avoid in the summer, unless you want to meet people from the place you left behind. Another is located on the Spui, near Hotel Cok City.
Oudezijds Voorburgwal 90
They claim this is the original coffeeshop of Amsterdam, dating back to the 70s. Like Amsterdam's Hard Rock Cafe (formerly around the corner from the Leidseplein Bulldog, now relocated near the casino) tourists flock here in droves, and buy T-shirt's to say they've been. Unlike recently deceased and unlamented Planet Hollywood, Bulldog reached its 30th anniversary in December 2005..
Various locations - Leidseplein, Oudezijds Voorburgwal, several more across Holland, and nowadays Ibiza and Vancouver. Also operates cafés, a budget hotel, bike rentals. Not for the connoisseur, but still a decent and convenient place to have a drink while touring the RLD.
Welcome to Barneys-Amsterdam
Coffeeshop Betty Boop
Welcome to Coffeeshop Bluebird
Coffeeshop DE REPUBLIEK
Coffeeshop Global Chillage chillout lounge
GREY AREA COFFEESHOP - THE OFFICIAL FANSITE
Coffeeshop Homegrown Fantasy
Coffeeshop Nes Cafe
Coffeeshop The Doors
Coffeeshop The Other Side
The Honest Cannabis information Foundation - Amsterdam
A directory address guide to most of the coffeeshops in Amsterdam. Includes consumer information and product information. Their Document Centre includes documentation which give the lie to many of the myths concerning cannabis use.
Of particular interest is this article: Cannabis Use, A Stepping Stone to Other Drugs? The Case of Amsterdam