The Amsterdam Jordaan is undoubtedly the most sung about, described and romanced neighborhood of Amsterdam. Started as a district for the middle class, today it is a favorite place for students, artists and young professionals with more than healthy wagers.
The area was build at the large expansion of Amsterdam in early 17th century, as a district for the working class and emigrants. The population increase during the next centuries was enormously, caused by the stream political refugees like protestant Fleming, Spanish and Portuguese Jews and French Huguenots who mainly settled in the Jordaan. It was a poor district with small houses and slums, every little room stuffed with families and lots of children. The entire area was one ghetto with open sewers, canals served for both transport and sewer, and no running water. Remarkable: Around 1900 there lived about 80 thousand people, nowadays about 20 thousand.
Although the Jordaan is nowadays only affordable to inhabit with a large income, it somehow remained its cozy and exuberant nature. This highly reflects on its typical “brown” bars with Dutch folk music, often still owned by the original locals, preserving the atmosphere of past times.
The 10 best bars in De Jordaan
10. Cafe Nol
Cafe Nol is one of the most typical “Jordaanse” bars of the list and is therefore also one of most popular and crowded ones. In this pub it’s basically always a party with Dutch music, beer, singing and laughter. When you are visiting Amsterdam and you want to experience the true oldschool vibe, this is the place to go. Down points are that it is always very crowded (it’s a very popular place for bachelor party groups) and that they even have a bouncer (who get’s annoyed when you don’t give him money on your way out). If you are lucky enough to find an evening it’s not fully packed but enjoyably busy, you are set for a great time!
9. Cafe Saarein
Cafe Saarein was bought in 1978 by a group of 10 women from former owners Saar and Rein. Although the building and it’s interior was still preserved in the typical “brown” bar style, the collective changed it into a strictly women bar. When 1999 was taken over by the current owner ‘Dia’, she transformed it into a bar ‘for the open minded’, remaining it’s open and hospitable character. Although this place is mainly filled with Lesbian women, they don’t mind groups of guys coming in for a beer and a game of pool. Due to its queerie business and particular vibe somehow a really fun place to visit.
This bar and ‘restaurant’ (they have a menu of simple dishes) is locals favorite for weekend drinks. On Friday afternoon they are always packed for after work weekend drinks with a fun and cozy atmosphere. Great place to enjoy drinks and have a chat before partying.
7. Cafe Chris
Cafe Chris is the second oldest bar of Amsterdam (unofficially the third, since ‘In ‘t Aepjen’ on the Zeedijk is actually the oldest one, dating from 1544, but not officially recognized by the municipal office due to permits at that time). Stepping in to this bar feels like being warped back in to time and therefore a must visit when you are pub-crawling the area. Although the bar is usually visited by old people playing billiards, the bar lady is a blast and the atmosphere is warm. Don’t expect a party here, but a good place for drinks and chats.
This bar situated in the north end corner of the Jordaan at the Brouwersgracht is a lively and spacious bar, packed with locals and tourists for drinks and fun. As the crowd is slightly younger and more urban than the most other bars in the area this place lends itself perfectly for couples drinks or social get-togethers with friends. Like De Blaffende Vis this bar is highly popular for friday afternoon drinks and doesn’t close till 3 o’clock during the weekend.
Cafe ‘t Smalle is one of the most typical and coziest bars of the Jordaan. In 1780 Pieter Hoppe (from the today still existing jenever brand Hoppe, also known as Dutch Gin) established his liquor and jenever distillery at this very place. By its fame and volume growth he later on needed to move to Schiedam, as the bar became as known today in 1978. With many authentic details preserved like the stained glass windows and the winding staircase, Cafe ‘t Smalle still exudes the atmosphere of earlier times. During most nights the bar is mostly visited by eccentric older people (artists, musicians, bums etc), providing a good recipe for interesting drunk chats. During events, like Kingsnight, this bar situated on de Egelantiersgracht is one of the busiest places with people all around outside enjoying Dutch folk and heavy drinking.
Situated right across the ‘Johnny Jordaan plein’ on the corner of the Prinsengracht en the Elandsgracht, this pub is the ultimate brown bar for relaxed drinks and chats with friends. It’s cozy interior and laid-back atmosphere make it a truly enjoyable place to meet a friend a hang around the big table in the middle to play some cards and drink beer. The kind of bar that’s always a good idea to attend, whether is it to sit on their terrace during a sunny day, have a morning coffee or an evening date, it somehow never disappoints.
At the very south-end of the Jordaan on de Looijersgracht, this living-room like bar is the ideal home outdoors. With old-school couches and furniture, it feels like a 1970’s style bar where anything goes. As it also serves light food this place is always fairly busy during weekdays and packed in the weekends. Personally one of my favorite bars to have a beer without any plans for the rest of the evening.
Cafe De Jordaan is without a doubt one of the most nostalgic bars in Amsterdam, owned by a couple who are keeping it just as they like it: Unpretentious, warm and with a big smile. Although the pub isn’t always very busy, it can fill up easily in the weekends when the volume of the Dutch folk is turned up. The bartender (a big dark guy) is one of the friendliest giants you’ll ever meet.For sure a pub on the crawl to tick off.
Probably one of the most nostalgic bars and a true landmark of the city. Rooie Nelis has been existing for 77 years and is still family owned. Run by 80-year old “Blonde Sien”, this is the place to be to experience swaying on Dutch music with your arms entwined in those of your neighbors. It’s fair to say that you have to be a bit lucky to catch a good night (it can also be rather empty and dull), but when you do, this place makes you tear up about the joy of life (and of alcohol). An experience you won’t forget!