For many, smoking weed is a ceremonial process: a welcomed reward at the end of a stressful day. A time to dim the lights, turn on the tunes and relax … albeit in an altered reality. Since the legalization of marijuana in various states, people are slowly accepting that ganja is not the devil of the plant world and its medical benefits are both legitimate and valuable.
Indulging in marijuana has been legal in the Netherlands since the 1970s, and its capital, Amsterdam, has created an environment where stoners can gather and chill. The venues for this chillaxation are the famous coffee shops where menus include potent strains of marijuana and hash, pre-rolled joints and space cakes.
With around 185 coffee shops, Amsterdam has attracted fans of herbal refreshment from all over the world for years. If your state is late on the legalization game or you simply want to experience foreign flavors, here are some of Amsterdam’s most famous coffee shops.
Baba Coffee Shop (pictured above) is on the Warmoesstraat, one of the oldest streets in Amsterdam. In a hoekhuis (corner house) next to fetish bars and sex shops, Baba resembles a 1960s-style smoking den and is known for space cakes—in particular their soft slices of chocolate-brownie heaven. If you don’t feel anything after the first few bites, give it some time before devouring another helping. If a puff is what you’re after, a jointje (joint) rolled with Baba’s finest wiet (weed), the L.A. Confidential, is known to help those who suffer from insomnia and anxiety.
The Bulldog Palace, the first coffee shop in Amsterdam, started in 1975 as an underground smokers-den in the basement of a sex shop. Since the Dutch weren’t always so tolerant, Bulldog’s founder and owner, Henk de Vries, spent many nights in the Police Headquarters. When the station was put up for sale in the early 1980s, it only felt natural for Henk to take it over. As homage to his time there, the “Politiebureau No.14” sign still hangs above the arched entryway of what is now the Bulldog Palace, where karaoke, DJs and neon lights set the tone.
One of the best strains offered is the dry-but-potent Northern Lights. This is not the kind of weed that will turn you into couch potato; it’s actually rather energizing and guarantees a night of bellyaching laughter. Other typical Bulldog strains include Bullshark, Silver Star Haze and O.Z. Kush.
There are several Barney’s establishments in Amsterdam, two of which are toke-friendly bars. Barney’s Coffee Shop on Haarlemstraat 102 is a small, intimate smokers’ bar in a 500-year-old building. This spot has added a playful spin to its decor by following the theme of a traditional apothecary without ignoring 21st century gadgets. Each table is equipped with a state-of-the-art vaporizer and a multimedia screen offering information about Amsterdam, the Barney’s establishments and of course a demo in case you’re feeling a bit intimidated by your vaporizer. Their strains, Cookies Kush and Caramella Cream Hash, were the deserving winners of the 2014 Cannabis Cup.
If you want an authentic experience in a friendly neighborhood coffee shop that doesn’t feel like a tourist trap and offers high-quality buds, squeeze in a few hours at The Stud on the city’s east side. This is a no-frills establishment with basic decorations and a quality menu featuring different Cannabis Cup-winning weed and hash strains such as Riddler Kush, Amnesia Haze, White Widow and of course decadent space cakes. You can also order freshly made Panini stuffed with chicken and cheese and a choice of free toppings like fresh tomatoes, pesto and tapenade. If the munchies haven’t quite kicked in yet, snag a smoothie or milkshake made from bananas, strawberries or mangos.
Although you can’t actually buy your weed at the Wonder Bar, you are more than welcome to BYOB—Bring Your Own Bud. Only a five-minute walk from Amsterdam’s main train station, the Wonder Bar provides everything you need to enjoy your herbals, including an assortment of shisha’s, comfortable tables, a plethora of pillows and funky vibes. This is the ultimate shop to gather with friends or to follow a football match on large flat-screens. The Wonder Bar bursts with colors and has traditional Arabic touch. There are chairs and tables with mosaic designs, walls covered in murals of far-away lands and ornate Turkish-style lanterns.
is a freelance journalist for Paste and The New Heroes & Pioneers. She’s the author of The Tuesday Series & co-author of The Pink Boots. She can usually be found covered in paint stains.