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Coffeeshops, Amsterdam

Amsterdam
Netherlands
Concierge.com's insider take:

First things first: Marijuana is not fully legal in the Netherlands, although possession and consumption of small amounts are tolerated—a prime example of the Dutch personality trait called gedoogbeleid, or turning a blind eye. Amsterdammers are also realists, who recognize that—as with prostitution, euthanasia, and same-sex marriage—people are going to smoke pot anyway, so they might as well do it safely. Coffeeshops (as marijuana cafés are called) are permitted to sell up to five grams of the stuff to each customer. There are also "smart drugs" shops, which dispense magic mushrooms and the like. There are as many types of coffeeshops as there are visitors to Amsterdam, from fancy and literate to down and dirty. One classic is Dampkring—you saw it in Ocean's Twelve—near the University of Amsterdam. The painted and sculpted central column, like a giant toadstool, is hallucinatory even if you don’t smoke (29 Handboogstraat; 31-20-638-0705; www.dedampkring.nl). Don't want to toke up with the college kids? Siberië looks out on a handsome canal in central Amsterdam and could pass for an East Village café were it not for its mind-altering wares. Show up on the right night and you might find DJs spinning or get your horoscope read (11 Brouwersgracht; 31-20-623-5909; www.siberie.net). If it's all about the pot, go to tiny, straightforward Grey Area, a frequent winner of the Cannabis Cup (Oude Leliestraat; 31-20-420-4301; www.greyarea.nl). When buying any variety of marijuana, make sure that you ask its properties and be prepared for the effect—if the menu doesn't give you a solid description, the staff will be happy to. And remember, a coffeeshop is emphatically not a coffee house (koffiehuis in Dutch). The latter serves a concoction called coffee; don't even think about lighting up in one.

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