Bulldog Palace Coffeeshop, technically The Bulldog Havri, which is the name for the shop below the Palace, is located in the Leidseplein (Leiden Square), at the southern edge of the canal ring. This busy section of the city is packed with restaurants, nightclubs, and various facets of shopping. The Bulldog is not a minor business here. In fact, it seems to be a very cornerstone of the square. With its large neon signs, three separate businesses (coffeeshop, nightclub, souvenir shop) on premises, and an ample area of outdoor and indoor/outdoor seating, one simply cannot miss this place when visiting the Leidseplein.
There is interesting history behind this coffeeshop. The Bulldog Palace opened in 1985, in what was once Amsterdam city police station #14. There is some irony here, or perhaps poetic justice, depending on how you look at it. The original Bulldog coffeeshop was Amsterdam's first, with roots dating back to the years of cannabis prohibition. The owners were notorious for defying Amsterdam's cannabis laws. In a city suffering from many problems from hard drugs (at the time), they wanted to provide a safe place for soft drug consumption. The original Bulldog location was raided so many times, the exact number escapes everyone's recall.
When tolerance to cannabis finally grew in the 1970s, and then officially in Amsterdam in 1980, the Bulldog was in a perfect position. They thrived. The Bulldog would go on to become the largest chain of coffeeshops in the city, and amass enough resources to buy former police headquarters #14. This has to be the coffeeshop scene's ultimate example of vindication. The Bulldog has gone from an illegal operation under constant threat by the police, to owning a former police station in the center of the Leidseplein, which once housed some of the very officers that gave them grief for so many years.
Police station #14 is one of the largest and most grand buildings in the Leidseplein. Similarly, The Bulldog Palace is a "must-see" establishment when in Amsterdam. First, you should know that the coffeeshop only makes up a small portion of this building. Alcohol cannot be served in such shops, so this part of the operation is housed in the lower right section. This might be the most interesting part, however. It sits inside the old jail, where management has built a museum. On display throughout are old photos and artifacts from alcohol prohibition era, 1920's and early 30's. There is even an original (deactivated) Thompson 1928 machine gun hanging on a back door, arguably one of the most emblematic pieces of this era's history. Original cell bars are found throughout, and an old jail cell remains standing in the main room. Another cell seems to house the shop's closed-off smoking room.
The vibe changes considerably upstairs. Here, you will find the largest bar/restaurant associated with a coffeeshop in the city. The decor is modern, perhaps barring the giant classic Wurlitzer jukebox that is actually a DJ booth. It is positioned over the entrance, so you walk below it as you enter. The atmosphere in here is "Grand Cafe". Think of it as part high-end nightclub, part restaurant. They keep the place clean, the furniture well maintained, and the atmosphere lively. They even host free events on many nights. On Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday it is Karaoke at 9:00PM. On Wednesday, a famous saxophonist Hans Dulfer performs at 9:30PM. Clearly, The Bulldog Palace is not be one of the most traditional Dutch coffeeshops. It is, however, certainly one of the most popular. Expect to find a crowd.
- Hot Food
- Outdoor Seating
- Tobacco Room
The Bulldog Palace
The Bulldog Palace (Bulldog Havri) resides in an old police station, now museum to prohibition-era crime and punishment. This is one of the most interesting shops to visit in the city. And with its large nightclub and restaurant upstairs, perhaps most fun. We rate this establishment a must-see.