The Grasshopper Coffeeshops, Amsterdam
When you hit Dam in search of a coffeeshop you may be fooled into thinking the big coffeeshop off of DamRak is a good idea. Don't do it! Yes, the Grasshopper is well known, but for all the wrong reasons. Never has there been a bigger tourist trap. Expensive and poor quality for your money. Do yourself a favour and hunt out a different coffeeshop.
Unique Suggestions: Steal a beermat!
Fun Alternatives: De Rockerij. Take a tram or walk to the Leidsepleain, and just up the side road where McDonalds is you'll find this haven. Great interior, lots of happy people!
The Grasshopper Coffeeshops
Unique Suggestions: This place sells high priced weed that is not cured properly and the staff are rude to deal with. The one directly out from Central Station is the worst, avoid at all costs!
Fun Alternatives: Go right down the street to the De Kuil and get great, perfectly cured weed at resonable prices. The staff are terrific, friendly ,and helpful.
I must say I didn't feel trapped by any coffeeshop I visited, and my goal was to visit as many coffeeshops as I could in two weeks. I got to 33, some of them more than once.
I have to say that I loved them all for one reason or another. While expensive, The Grasshopper on NZ Voorburgwal and Bulldog on the Leidseplein have seating enclosed by glass which makes them great places for people-watching during cold weather visits. But Homegrown Fantasy, Abraxas, Tweede Kamer, the Kadinskys, the Greenhouses all are fun places to pass some time. El Guapo on a street whose name I can't spell (new new street) is a dark little place perfect for a puff. Dutch Flower has outdoor seating along the Singel in warm weather. Stix had some of the best kiff I ever put a lighter to.
Being an old hippie I was in heaven. I felt a sense of freedom unlike I've never felt. I guess it is the freedom you've never had is the one you miss most. It was nice to not be criminalized by such an innocuous act as puffing a little pot at a table in a public place.
Unique Suggestions: If you find that you must go to a coffeeshop, maybe to indulge your travelmate, have something to drink. In warm weather I recommend a mango Looza to soothe a parched throat. I cold weather you can have delicious Dutch coffee, chocolate or tea. Homegrown Fantasy serves pots of tea so you can share or sit for a while over your warm drinks.
Fun Alternatives: On this planet there is no alternative to a coffeeshop as defined in the Netherlands. I suggest if you are offended by coffeeshops you turn your head as you pass them. The beautiful, tree-lined canals, or the incredible unique and functional gables should distract you quite nicely.
One of the things we were warned about when we first arrived in Amsterdam was the Grasshopper Bars/Cafes... Supposedly catering specifically for British and American tourists (of which there are thousands, so why not?), its was labelled as very commercial. So we went to have a look...
At the end of the day, its not actually such a bad place, but it was quite commercial. Bar upstairs, coffee shop downstairs, reasonably priced... if you in Amsterdam, you may as well go, and make up your own mind.
Unique Suggestions: Don't go late. during the day its only half full (at least when we were there...
Fun Alternatives: Any other coffee shop or bar... they all sell the same thing!
I stayed away from them but the biggest one is the Grasshopper. It's nice to go in and take pictures and all, but really not worth sticking around, unless you want to hang out with basically all the tourists. Plus, if you are going there to smoke, you are going the prices are higher there than in local places. Stick to local, you will meet cool people and have a good time.
Alas, everything closes out there at like 1 am so when you are nowhere near being sober and you know you can't fall asleep, its the only place open, unless you want to hit the red light district. It is a little shady, and if you are a girl, don't go alone...trust me on this one..
Unique Suggestions: Its a good place to go if you want to be around tourists.
Fun Alternatives: The Greenhouse (has three locations in Amsterdam).