What You Should Know When Visiting Amsterdam’s Infamous Coffee Shops

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In Amsterdam, when you want coffee, you go to a cafe.

Marijuana is, with some restrictions, legal in Amsterdam. One of the restrictions is that the drugs must be purchased in what are called “coffee shops,” and consumed there or at home. Coffee shops are everywhere in the city and, like bars and restaurants, each has its own personality.

What to Do First: Cash is Your Friend

Amsterdam Coffee ShopsImage Source: Coffee Shop Menu

Upon entering a shop, ask to see the menu. In most places it is a printed list, in some, it can be an interactive touch screen. Either way, you’ll see minimalist “tasting notes” for the various strains of weed for sale, along with prices, in English and Dutch. The person behind the counter will likely be quite knowledgeable about what’s for sale, and you can describe the kind of effect you’re after much as you might ask a bartender to suggest “something with vodka, but not too sweet.”

In most cases, you will buy your chosen weed in a small clear package, carefully measured out. However, you can also buy “spacecakes,” brownies laced with marijuana and designed to hit you hard and long. There are also loose joints for sale. A “regular joint” will be cut with tobacco, while a “pure joint” will be 100 percent weed.

Prices vary depending on what you choose. The lower end loose joints start from about $4.50. A gram of weed can vary from $12-20 on up, depending on quality. Look for “bio” products, weed organically grown, albeit sold at higher prices.

While many coffee shops accept credit cards, think that through, McFly: do you really want to create a paper trail showing you bought stuff likely illegal in your home country? Cash is your friend here.

Choosing the Best Coffee Shop

Amsterdarm Coffee ShopImage Source: Prospect bro

While always the place to buy marijuana, coffee shops are also usually the place to smoke it. Here the experience can vary considerably. Choosing your coffee shop is part of the experience, and with a little shopping around, you can find a place that fits your vision of perfect. And take the suggestion to walk around seriously; Amsterdam has over 250 coffee shops to choose from. There are also plenty of “best of” coffee shop lists online to get you started, or to see what is in the neighborhoods you’ll be visiting.

Some shops are basically holes-in-the-wall, dark, with a few tables and lots of burned out faces barely visible in the low lighting. The music can be anything and is often too loud, and the air thick enough that just standing around can hot box you into space. People tend to keep to themselves, except for those American 19-year-olds in the corner who keep announcing their stoned status every five minutes using the word “dude” twice in each sentence. In addition to your marijuana, you might also be able to buy a few snacks or soda. These places are a bit cheaper, more prevalent, and very anonymous.

Other shops are set up more like a friendly neighborhood bar, with plants, decent lighting, video games, WiFi, and some nice music. They tend to sell better food, sometimes even coffee, but it’s weirdly illegal for coffee shops to sell alcohol. No guarantees, but people in these higher-end places seem more in the mind to chat if you like to do that.

Some Suggestions Before Smoking

Amsterdam coffee shopImage Source: Zambeza

You must be 18 or over to enter a coffee shop. Smoking in parks and on the streets is common, but technically illegal, as is possession of more than five grams, or reselling. Remember who looks at your Instagram feed (boss, Mom) before posting that picture of yourself.

Marijuana grown to spec, as it is in the Netherlands, is often more potent than what’s grown behind someone’s garage in Ohio. Start slowly. For those who may be trying marijuana for the first time or after a few decades of child raising, start very slowly. You’re in a strange city stoned out of your skull, so think your exit strategy through. The good news is that because marijuana is fully legal: if you do seek medical help there is no possible criminal liability. Most of all, remember rule number one: drugs are not for stupid people. Amsterdam is awash with stories of foreigners who overdid it and embarrassed themselves, so don’t be that person.

The other thing is to be very careful not to bring home any souvenirs. Don’t forget that last bit of weed you stuffed into your pocket and don’t try to take home the cool little test tube-like vials loose joints come in. Think it through, Chief: if you were U.S. Customs with a brand new sniffing dog to try out, would you target the elderly folks coming off a flight from Vienna, or the guy arriving from Amsterdam?

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