Although the Netherlands was once known as a safe haven for people who enjoy the herb, conservative politics and a new national law have sent many a foreign toker looking for less turbulent shores to have a joint. A new national law states that only residents of Holland may buy and smoke soft drugs like marijuana and hash at coffeeshops. Although more strictly enforced in other areas of the country, the wise and commerce driven Amsterdammers have done what they usually do when they don’t like a law. For the most part, the city and the police have turned a blind eye to this new law fearing a catastrophic loss of tourism euros. Obviously, when in doubt just ask the staff at a coffeeshop and hope for the best.
Whether you smoke the herb or not, coffeeshops in Amsterdam are a tourist attraction by themselves. Choose the right one and it'll be an experience you'll never forget.
There are many different types of coffeeshops, for different kinds of people. Some look more like nightclubs, others like Tibetan monasteries (once you're stoned) and others like super-modern cafés. And in the summer, many have outside seating, sometimes near the canal.
Coffeeshops in Amsterdam have a particularly long history (Mellow Yellow was the first one in 1973), even during times of cannabis prohibition. The idea has been imitated across much of Europe, as well as the Americas, proof enough that the system works (for the 'evil' criminal gangs anyway).
Given the city's status as a major shipping hub and its maze of canals, it's not hard to imagine how drug trafficking in this city was an attractive option. Coffeeshops could easily be supplied straight from shipping containers via the many canals on small boats, and even emptied in the same manner should the authorities decide to pay a visit, before the premises had even been entered.
Today, they are mostly supplied by car, a much less romantic option. Naturally, one could dream up other ways, especially when sitting in the den of creativity that can be a coffeeshop.
After extensive wandering around (and getting lost in) Amsterdam, a list of dozens of coffeeshops (of the 280 available) not to be missed during your stay is provided here. They are selected from across the city, so that you're never at any point far away from one of these exceptional Dutch institutions.