Amsterdam is a different city when the sun comes out. The locals know all too well that sunny days are precious and head for the parks, terraces and boats in masses. It’s quite amazing how everyday life just stops, everybody drops whatever they have been doing, and heads out for that perfect spot in the sun.
Not surprisingly, there are plenty of terraces and finding the right one is not easy. Having seen the standard recommendations in the recent TimeOut and the local NL20 magazine, I decided to publish my own list. Their recommendations seem to focus mostly on trendy places and ignore some of the intricacies of Amsterdam including weather, crowds and the ubiquitous lack of service.
So here are my picks for best terraces in Amsterdam where you can enjoy great drinks and a few snacks. All of them have great location, mostly off the beaten path and situated in such a way that you can actually sit in the sun if it decides to shine. Beware, many of the terraces around the canals will be in the shade from the late afternoon on. And all terraces provide a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, service with a personal touch rather than unpleasant crowds, plastic chairs and overwhelmed staff.
Bar Brandstof (Dutch for fuel) is located across from the fire department on Marnixstraat, just outside of the center and close to the Jordaan. It has a large lively terrace overlooking the busy intersection of Marnixstraat and Rozengracht. The vibe at Bar Brandstof is hip in a friendly way, similar to its older sibling Struik a few blocks down. While getting busy on the weekends, Bar Brandstof maintains its laid back attitude by serving good comfort food and mixing large artsy wall paintings with light wooden floor and furniture. While the wine selection is limited to red, white and rose – as in one of each – there’s a good choice of beers, including our summer favorite Weihenstephaner Weissbier.
Bar Brandstof on Facebook
1016 TD Amsterdam
Brouwerij ‘t IJ
At micro brewery Brouwerij ‘t IJ you can sip a range of home brewed Belgian-style beers on a great terrace under an old Dutch windmill. What more can you ask for? Its simplicity and quirkiness has made the brewery very popular. On sunny weekend afternoons the terrace literally spills over as the thirsty crowd claims each and every inch of the brewery’s pub, the terrace and the pavement of the nearby streets. There is an interesting mix of regulars, locals, families, beer enthusiasts and tourists. You have to walk to the counter to pick up your own beer, choosing from a pilsner, three trappist, a wheat and two specialty beers.
1018 AL Amsterdam
Tel: +31 (0)20 622 83 25
Gent aan de Schinkel
Gent is a mix of restaurant, local bar around the corner and lovely outdoors cafe in the summer. It’s located in an old building next to a drawbridge over the Schinkel canal by the western exit of Vondelpark. The restaurant has a monthly changing organic menu. The regulars enjoy sitting on the high bar stools and drinking Affligem, Chouffe, Palm or one of the other Belgian beers on tap. And on a sunny day it seems as if anybody who lives west or south of Vondelpark gathers around one of the outside tables on the sidewalk or in the small beer garden right by the Schinkel. In case you are looking for a place to stay, there is a great bed and breakfast in one of the small houses next to Gent with an equally great view of the canal.
Theophile de Bockstraat 1
1058 TV Amsterdam
Tel: +31 (0)20 388 28 51
Cafe Hesp is a typical Amsterdam-style brown cafe with a large terrace directly by the Amstel, down near Amstel Station. Most people head to the Amstelhaven or De IJsbreker to enjoy a few drinks and snacks next to the Amstel. I prefer to head further upstream to Hesp, which has two large terraces with sunlight until late in the evening and a great selection of 20 types of beer on tap. Hesp serves decent bitterballen and sate with fries and draws a large after-work crowd, especially on Friday. It’s fun to watch the mostly business crowd gather around the beer garden style tables and get rowdier and rowdier as another large round of Weihenstephan or Palm arrives and is downed to much cheers and merriment.
1091 ER Amsterdam
Tel: +31 (0)20 665 12 02
Cafe de Jaren
Cafe de Jaren, like Cafe Walem, is an Amsterdam institution. De Jaren has been around for years and every Amsterdammer has been there at least a few times. It’s almost as chic as its neighbor, classy Hotel de l’Europe. It’s spacious, with high ceilings, and boasts a classic chic that makes it a great destination for either fun or business. De Jaren actually has two terraces, both hidden in the back of the building, overlooking the water across from the Stopera. One terrace is on the first floor, the other downstairs, tucked away in a corner, with a dock that some guests use to arrive at De Jaren by boat. There is somewhat of an intellectual feel because of newspapers available on large tables. It’s a terrace where you would have a trendy caffe latte or a good glass of white wine or champagne.
Nieuwe Doelenstraat 20
1012 CP Amsterdam
Tel: +31 (0)20 6255771
Café Onder de Ooievaar
Café Onder de Ooievaar is a typical Amsterdam style brown cafe with a row of simple chairs and tables out on the pavement. The location is great, on Utrechtsestraat, a central yet quaint shopping street near Rembrandtplein. The guests as well as the passers-by are a mix of long-term neighborhood residents, students and tourists. Onder de Ooievaar excels at the typical Amsterdam biertje as well as Dutch Jenever. For hot summer nights, they also serve a refreshing Erdinger Weissbier.
1017 VL Amsterdam
Tel: +31 (0)20 624 68 36
Cafe ‘t Sluisje
‘t Sluisje is like a village tavern, far off the beaten path on the other side of het IJ behind Central Station. You get there by ferry and will feel great about leaving the hectic city behind. The Nieuwendammerdijk is a former dyke, lined by century old small Dutch houses. ‘t Sluisje is located in one of them, built in 1565 next to the boat lock. The same family has been running the cafe for over 100 years with a few interruptions. Everything at the cafe is simple – there is a small menu of snacks and people come to enjoy a traditional beer or jenever and not fancy drinks. It’s a great destination for a bike tour beyond city limits. Alternatively you could opt for Klein Kalfje, another great terrace out in the countryside, a few miles up the Amstel, heading south of Amsterdam towards Ouderkerk.
1025 LM Amsterdam
Tel: +31 (0)20 636 17 12?
Cafe Walem, run by the same owners as Cafe de Jaren, is somewhat of an institution and has been in its Keizersgracht location for over 20 years. The food at Walem is not great and the service can be erratic. The chic terrace, however, is great. It’s one of the few sunny locations around the canals, by the Leidsestraat bridge over Keizersgracht. The crowd, like the retro-modern interior design, is very stylish and wants to be seen. You may spot a local celebrity and Cafe Walem is also very popular by the gay scene.
1017 DK Amsterdam
Tel: +31 (0)20 6255771?
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5 thoughts on “Best Amsterdam Terraces”
All great suggestions. I’ve never been to Brandstof, but most late afternoons/evenings when I pass by it is packed and I’ve heard that, unsurprisingly, service is horrible then.
As for De Jaren, I would add that they have one of the few salad bars in town, which as an American I always find interesting.
One place you didn’t mention but I can’t recommend highly enough is Norderlicht Cafe in NDSM. Great views of the city and always has tons of light all the way through sunset.
Oh, and while the food and service is hit-or-miss, the terrace at Canvas on the top of the old Volkskrantgebouw is lovely.
Believe it or not, I have actually never been to Canvas. Norderlicht is definitely a good suggestion – so refreshing to hop on the ferry and see the city from the other side.
Bar Brandstof definitely gets busy and I’ve heard reports about bad service, too. Whenever I was there, service got a tad slow, but always remained friendly.