Friday, November 22, 2013

Amsterdam Off the Beaten Path - Cafe P96

Many bars, pubs, and cafes in Amsterdam might look the same. It seems like we always end up in the same places, or number of bars in the same popular spot such as Leidseplein or Rembrandtplein. But in these places the majority of bars are very touristy, overcrowded and less characteristic.

How many places do you know when you get meet the owner working behind the bar? How well do you know the bar you're getting your next pint in? Do you know what it was being used for decades ago? I bet the answer would be mostly “no”.

Well we decided to change this. We were lucky enough to get invited to a Halloween party hosted by our friends in one of the bars on Prinsengracht. We liked the place so much that we decided to share it with you, and give you our incite into the bar itself.

Café P96 is located on one of the most beautiful canals in Amsterdam. You might know it already since the location is so impressive. Just a few steps off the beaten path so still plenty of tourists, yet it's still very central. It has its own boat docked right next to the bar, how fitting to have a boat in Amsterdam where you sit back, relax right on the water overlooking the stunning view of the Jordan canals.

When you walk in, you see a pretty typical interior with cozy lights, comfortable chairs along the bar and several tables. It seems it was quite an ordeal to get the bar to what you and i see today.

It started back in 1975. The owner of the bar Alice de Waad worked at the hospital at that time. On this day she got home to receive the news from her husband that he had bought a bar. From that day on they had to quit their jobs and start a new adventure together. And what an adventure it turned out to be.

Back in 1975 The Princengracht, which appears to be a lovely, quiet, and safe neighborhood these days, used to be very popular among criminals, drug dealers and ex-prisoners. So the first several years were quite tough for the new owners. Inheriting a dark small place from the previous owner they also inherited all the dodgy customers. Going through endless fights and stressful nights, within several years family de Waad managed to cut the tie with all the terrible past of the venue. They successfully rebuilt its reputation as a nice, welcoming and very safe establishment.

Initially the bar was called “Princess”, only in 1980 when the owners decided to extend the bar to the neighboring building, undertaking a complete restoration, they decided to give the bar a brand new name. This new beginning ended an era for “Princess” and gave way for “Café P96”.

In 1983 there was yet another improvement which would allow all the customers to finally enjoy the sunny days, sitting canal side on a boat, sipping on their beers, or having a cup of tea with their famous carrot cake.

Nowadays Café P96 welcomes everybody from student to businessmen, from old Amsterdamers who frequented “Princess”, to tourists visiting the city just for a few days. Everybody would find themselves relaxed and welcome. This is what makes Café P96 so special. The owners Alice de Waad and daughter Edmee, still work behind the counter. The bar is very popular for hosting parties. Generally because of the size, which caters for a hundred people easily. That's one hundred without huge queues at the bar, plus no extra fees are required to book the venue. But you have to take into consideration that P96 would not host a private party. They love their regular customers and want to be open for them all the time.

Café P96 is one of the few places in Amsterdam that is open until 3-4 am in the morning. That is another reason for it to be so popular. It becomes a meet-up point for many employees from neighbor bars and restaurants, where they can sit down, stretch their legs after a long working day and relax enjoying a glass of beer or wine with their friends before heading back home for a well-deserved rest.

You will not find fancy cocktails at Café P96, they mostly serve Dutch and Belgium beers, and wines. But it is more about the atmosphere rather than drinks in here. Something about being in touch with the history of Amsterdam. It's good and bad history and experiences. To feel the uniqueness and character of a place which was built by the hands of those standing on the other side of the bar from you.

So if you are in the neighborhood and ready to have a quick break from the noisy city center, stop for a little bit and give yourself a chance. A chance to sit back and relax, enjoy the view and some pleasant company. Café P96 would be the best choice to feel truly at home away from home.

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