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Tips for Potheads in Amsterdam

Going to Amsterdam and not visiting a coffeeshop is like going to India and not seeing Taj Mahal. Coffeeshops set Amsterdam apart and they are one of the reasons why the city is fun to visit. But be aware: the fragrant fumes drifting from within are not just from coffee. All coffeeshops sell hashish and marihuana and feature a menu card displayed on the bar or just behind it from which you can order.

The menu card in Dutch coffeeshops sports a bewildering array of pot. Hash is named after the country of origin e.g. Kashmir Ice, Trans Himalaya or Afghan Polm. Weed is more complicated. Bush weeds are grown naturally like Orange Krush. Nederwiet or skunk is home-grown in controlled light-dark conditions for a maximum THC-content, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive compound. If this is your first time in Amsterdam, you may find it difficult to decide which coffeeshop deserves your visit.

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Here are 6 tips for Amsterdam coffeeshops and psychedelic sights.

1. Kadinsky,
Rosmarijnsteeg 9, Lange Brugsteeg 7, Zoutsteeg 14
All three Kadinsky shops are small but famous for reasonable prices and delectable chocolate-chip cookies. Popular place, friendly vibe, no reggae, but global music soft enough to hold a conversation. Try Nepal Special, black like the night and a smell of ripe fruit. Grab a seat on a bench in front and do some people watching while listening to Brazilian samba and smoking a (pre-rolled) joint. Watch tourists, locals and cyclists battle through the small alley. Try their space cake if you want to experience the effects of cannabis without smoking marihuana. But if you only want to taste the atmosphere, Kadinsky serves excellent coffee.

2. Hill Street Blues, Warmoesstraat 52
When you hear loud music wafting out into the street, you have found Hill Street Blues. This low-key place attracts all kind of people. If you are not interested in mind-enhancing stuff, curl up on one of the comfortable sofas. If you want to be more active try out the pool table, table football or beat your opponent at chess or backgammon. Hill Street Blues has the full range of smoking accessories, but also milkshakes, smoothies, ice-creams and fruit shakes. As is the case in all coffeeshops no alcohol is served.

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3. The Bulldog, Oudezijds Achterburgwal 90
The Bulldog is easy to spot. Look out for a big, round sign outside showing a wrinkled bulldog and psychedelic painting on the facade. It took the Australian Harold Thornton six years to finish this colourful mural with or in spite of mind enhancing means. Buy one of the Bulldog funky souvenirs to remind you of your visit. Their Gottahaves are irresistible. The Bulldog is good place for beginners. There are enough tourists to make you feel comfortable. If you don't want to indulge, simple order a coffee, sit back and observe. The canal side outdoor seating in summer is the best place to see the world turn round

4. Dampkring and Nieuwe Dampkring, Handboogstraat 29 and Haarlemmerstraat 44
Dampkring translates as Earth's Atmosphere, but this is not what the name refers to. Dampkring suggests people puffing away, enveloped in a haze of smoke. If you want to meet the locals and only few tourists, Dampkring is your place. The interior is a feast of swirling shapes and stunning colours that stimulate your senses without the help of mind-enhancing stuff. The interior design caught the fancy of Hollywood producers who used Dampkring to shoot scenes for Ocean's Twelve starring George Clooney and Brad Pitt. If it is only the interior you want to see, just go in an order an espresso.

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5. Baba Coffeeshop, Warmoesstraat 64
Baba is popular with locals and tourists, veterans and first-time smokers. After a few tracks of trance and house music, you might even like the thumping that blasts from the sound system. Conversation is impossible. Sit in peace and enjoy your smoke. Look out of the tinted windows on to busy Warmoesstraat without being seen from the outside. Baba is also famous for space cake and marihuana desserts.

6. De Kuil, Oude Brugsteeg 27
De Kuil looks very much like a bruin cafe, a place where people from the neighbourhood gather, gossip, snack and drink. The name brown cafe refers to the dark, often wooden interior and the smoke stained walls. This is the place to go if you want to drink coffee. This coffeeshop is housed in an old building with a beamed ceiling, a small seating area in front and a long bar along the wall. The music is a good mix of classic rock. Grab a window seat and stare at the pastry shop across the road while you are getting high. If it all gets too much, get out and buy one of these tantalizing cakes or focaccia covered in olives and rosemary and dripping with melted cheese.

Heavenly Music
The music sounds much better than before. The food tastes heavenly. You talk about subjects you have never thought about before (and probably will never do afterwards). In the middle of a discussion your mind goes blank. You ask your friends to remind you of what you were talking about. Then you all laugh, not just once but throughout your coffee shop visit.

If some or all this happens to you, it means you are high. The coffee shops described above are safe places to experience this feeling. Hang about, until you feel safe to go back home again. Don't smoke in your hotel / hostel. If the room has to be cleaned, the cost will be added to your bill.

photo credit Marianne Crone

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