Top 10: Best Alternative Bars in Amsterdam

Kerti Kulper • 27 Jan, 2015

Amsterdam is a city with its own unique vibe. Besides checking out the iconic coffee shops and infamous Red Light District, there are many alternative bars where you can hang out and enjoy a nice drink. Our local Rick has written about some of his favourite bars in Amsterdam.

1. If you like punk music, visit Soundgarden

When you open the door of this place, there are some things you can be sure of. It will smell like stale beer, it won’t look very fancy and the tattooed guy in the leather jacket behind the pinball machine will look at you with one eye to check out who’s entering his bar. One thing you can never be sure of, however, is the kind of music that’ll be playing. Depending on the night or event, you can hear (heavy) punk rock, acoustic sounds or, on occasion, DJs spinning vinyls. With pool tables and a big room for smokers, Soundgarden is an ideal hangout.


Photo credit: Peter Robinett

2. OT301 offers various cultural activities

This building was occupied by squatters in the late 90s to prevent it from being torn down and replaced with a bicycle path. Now it functions as a place where independent subcultures get to do what they want. OT301 organises parties that last until the morning. On Tuesday nights, bring along your table tennis gear and participate in their famous tournaments. There’s a cinema upstairs that screens movies from all around the world, which are sometimes accompanied by a typical dinner from the country of origin. Just hanging out here is highly recommended.

5168331632_a020bb9e2b_bPhoto credit: Bauke Karel

3. Canvas op de 7e has good food and great views

If you’re looking for a place with a great view, look no further. Set in the former building of a Dutch newspaper, Canvas op de 7e offers amazing views of Amsterdam. You can enjoy breakfast here or stop by for a nice late-night cocktail, however it’s probably not the best place for a quick bite. According to some visitors, the service is friendly but it can be somewhat slow. If you have the time, check this place out – they offer good food, good music and good vibes.


Photo credit: Peter Robinett

4. Roest – the hidden living room of Amsterdam

Roest is a place where you can go to escape the city rush without having to leave the centre. It’s a place where no one will judge you. There’s a self-service bar with a variety of beers brewed in Amsterdam. The interior constantly changes because Roest is open to everyone’s creative input. Don’t be surprised if people take off their shoes inside. You won’t find many tourists here simply because it’s a bit tricky to find. You’ll realise the journey was worth it as soon as you walk in. There’s a cosy fireplace, old cinema seats, second-hand Chesterfield sofas, cool art and funny details. It seems innocent, but at night it can get quite naughty.


Photo credit: macchi

5. Basis Amsterdam is filled with creativity and love

This is probably the most laidback place in Amsterdam. Bring your own food, heat it in one of the microwaves and grab a plate and cutlery. Otherwise there’s an even easier option – check one of the many order-in menus on the wall. As long as you order drinks, everything is cool. Basis also serves some tasty dishes. Besides bringing your own food, you’re also welcome to bring your own ideas and talents. Want to play your favourite LP? Practice your DJ skills? Play the keytar? Just ask!


Photo credit: Basis Amsterdam

6. Pool enthusiasts should head to Club 8

Club 8 is a place where you can play pool and discover the music that you’ll be listening to years from now. It might look a little cheap, but so are the drinks. If you don’t mind graffiti on the walls, there’s more than one reason to visit Club 8. The first floor has 19 pool tables and three snooker tables. The top floor is a spacious club. If you feel like a great underground party, you might want to try Club 8. Every Wednesday from 18:00–03:00 it’s “International Night”. Show your foreign passport and you can play pool for free.


Photo credit: Club 8

7. Pllek – raw, yet comfortable

Built out of old shipping containers (and a lot of love), Pllek’s main mission is to keep on surprising its customers. That goes for both the food and the events. A big plus is t
he artificial beach! Pilek serves responsible food. Organic meat, sustainably farmed fish and seasonal organic veggies show that they care about the planet. Most ingredients are locally grown. It’s a great place for lunch, dinner or relaxed afternoon drinks, but keep in mind it also houses Amsterdam’s biggest disco ball.


Photo credit: TijsB

8. A true hotspot: Hannekes Boom

Hannekes Boom is located just five minutes’ walk from central station. Built and decorated with recycled items, this bar/restaurant looks a bit like a beach bar. It’s nothing special, but this is precisely what makes it special. It’s very popular among young professionals. In summer, it’s packed with locals who arrive by boat. If you want to meet locals in their 20s and 30s, this is the place for you. The prices are good and the food is okay. The service isn’t the greatest, but the variety of events more than makes up for it. They host vinyl evenings, jazz and blues nights, DJ nights, 60s and 70s nights and more.


Photo credit: Hannekes Boom

9. Noorderlicht – an oasis in Noord

The location of Noorderlicht Café is truly one of a kind. You’ll find it on the shore of the old NDSM industrial neighbourhood. Take the ferry and walk east for five minutes. Noorderlicht mainly serves ecological dishes and drinks, but this isn’t reflected in the prices. Visiting Noorderlicht equals a little holiday with great food, fair prices and guaranteed cosiness. You won’t find another place like it in Amsterdam. Mostly built with recycled materials, it might look like a mess from the outside, but once you’re inside it’ll all make sense.


3746584475_512bd5ce44_bPhoto credit: Elvin

10. Plantage Doklaan has food, art and music

This building has been a church, a school and a printing business. And it was occupied by a collective of creative internationals in the 90s. The group gained official ownership of the building in 2000 and now organise lots of events. Every Thursday the “Dokkers” open their bar and cook for visitors. Come here if you want to have an intelligent conversation with one of the regular visitors or maybe even the Dokkers themselves. There’s plenty to chat about – the artwork on the walls, liberal arts, this history of Amsterdam, the great food they make you for just €5… If you’re curious, respectful and open to all kinds of art, this might be one of your best experiences in Amsterdam.

For more local recommendations read:
What locals like to do in Amsterdam
Where locals like to eat in Amsterdam
Where locals like to party in Amsterdam

Special tip:
For a more authentic Amsterdam experience, get the Like A Local mobile app

Opening photo credit: daniMU

Kerti Kulper
Freelance translator and editor at an online women's magazine. A Tallinn gal who previously resided in Helsinki, Brussels and Tartu.

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