An Amsterdam coffee shop © jocelyn.aubert
Amsterdam's coffeeshops are an iconic part of the city, and for many tourists they constitute a unique and essential element to any visit to the Netherlands. In Amsterdam, 'coffeeshop' means a place where cannabis is openly sold and smoked, while 'café' refers to somewhere that sells coffee, tea and cakes. The coffeeshops sell controlled amounts of marijuana to adults over 18 years of age. Travellers are warned, however, that the personal possession of drugs is illegal, if frequently overlooked; cannabis is not legal in the Netherlands, recreational use is simply tolerated if it is not socially disruptive. There are a variety of coffeeshops in the city, from laid-back and mellow to psychedelic and loud. It is expected of customers to consume not only the cannabis but also a beverage or snack while at the venue. Most coffee shops offer several kinds of weed or hash listed on a 'menu', and the staff can give advice on the different strains and strengths before you place your order. The prices vary according to the quality and be warned: the local skunk is very strong!
For most of the country a law has now come into effect that makes it illegal for tourists to be admitted to coffeeshops. Most cities in the Netherlands enforce this prohibition, but Amsterdam is fighting the law and has so far managed to continue selling to foreigners; however, as the laws and social norms are currently in flux travellers are advised to check up on the situation prior to travel.