If you have ever taken a trip through Amsterdam’s canals, on one of those glass-topped tour boats, you will no doubt have been alerted to what is claimed to be ‘the smallest house in Amsterdam (Holland, Europe, World).’
Those who have sailed through other canals have also been shown the smallest house — albeit a completely different one.
Something quite similar happens with cafés in Amsterdam. Several of them are said to be ‘the oldest,’ and even though they may not themselves make this claim, the sentiment is not discouraged either.
After all, the interiors of most of the brown cafés will instantly transport you several centuries back in time.
Wages Paid in the Café
That said, most people in the know consider Café Chris, in the Bloemstraat, to be the oldest cafe in the Jordaan district of Amsterdam.
Café Chris opened its doors in 1624. The story goes that it was built as a ‘lunch facility’ for the builders of the Westertoren. (The Westerkerk was built between 1620 and 1631, but the 85-meter tower was not finished until 1638). At the time, the café had separate entrances: one for ‘workers,’ and one for ‘masters.’
Another story claims that the workers received their wages in this café. If so, there is no word on whether this was a brilliant marketing move on the part of the owner, or simply a matter of convenience for the contractor.
Whatever the case may be, today Café Chris is as popular as ever.
Though it is very much a locals’ pub, it is well worth a visit when you are in the Jordaan district, or perhaps after your tour of the nearby Anne Frank House. [And may we suggest dinner at Indian restaurant Koh-I-Noor, at Westermarkt, afterwards].
A Word About the Toilet
What you’ll find is a genuinely old interior — the kind that ‘brown cafés are known for, an English speaking staff, a friendly crowd and a somewhat limited choice of beer.
While Café Chris can not lay claim to being the smallest pub in Amsterdam, space is at a premium.
The door to the men’s toilet looks like it would lead to the street, but the small room is located in the alcove created by an outdoor set of stairs.
This bit of architectural cleverness has not left a whole lot of room, however.
Thus one of the café’s curious features is the fact that the water supply — and flushing cord — for the men’s toilet are located outside the toilet facilities, and thus inside the bar.
And yes, people do make use of that fact.
Bloemstraat 42 [Google Map]
1016 LC Amsterdam
Tel: 020-624 5942 [Amsterdam phone info]
Meanwhile, the oldest continuously operated pub in town is Café Karpershoek, just across from Central Station.