Now which pub in Amsterdam can rightfully claim to be the oldest one in town? Last week I spoke to a woman (in a pub) who claimed that the one we were at there and then (café Chris) was in fact the oldest. I begged to differ, and I think that even café De Druif (the grape) is older; it is also older than the Karpershoek, of which it was said that it is the most senior tavern our precious city has within its boundaries.
Even when I contacted the city council and asked them to search their archives, they could not provide us with a clear winner. While their documents clearly state where and when a license to serve alcohol was issued and to which establishment, it cannot be excluded that, in fact, places existed without the proper papers. Nevertheless, this is the list they came up with:
Karpershoek, Martelaarsgracht 2, 1606
Chris, Bloemstraat 42, 1624
Brandon, Keizersgracht 157, 1626
De Druif, Rapenburgerplein 83, 1631
De Drie Fleschjes, Gravenstraat 18, 1650
Hoppe, Spui 18-20, 1670
Kalkhoven, Prinsengracht 283, 1670
Wijnand Fockink, 1679
In de Wildeman, 1690 )
Oosterling, Utrechtsestraat 140, 1740
De Ooievaar, 1782 ()
‘t Smalle, Egelantiersgracht 12, 1786
De Dokter (‘t Doktertje), 1798 )
When I did a little investigating on my own, I came to the solemn conclusion that they missed one, not just one, no! They missed the oldest one. In my humble (well, let’s not exaggerate) opinion, there is no other tavern in town that can rightfully claim to be older than:
In ‘t Aepjen, Zeedijk 1, 1519
It was a sailors pub. Consequently, it was mentioned frequently in sailor stories; another thing that can contribute to its claim is that it is one of the only two wooden structures left in Amsterdam. It might not have had the proper licenses as it is not mentioned in the early records consulted, but the how, where and when, and indeed its very name ‘In ‘t Aepjen’ (link) indicate an early establishment.
The Sour Grapes
I was convinced for many years that it was indeed café De Druif (grape) that was the oldest. It had certainly laid claim to the rumour! The reason was that it too was a sailors pub, and it too was mentioned in numerous drunken sailor stories. Making up stories comes easy to some folk, but dreaming up an entire pub and its interior may push things too far. And that is what we have here, an entire pub and its furnishings described on paper by a sailor, and what for a sailor, an admiral, yes sir, nobody else than Piet Hein, one of Holland’s two famous admirals. Piet Hein became well known for his battle with a Spanish fleet carrying silver; he captured the fleet and its precious metals. For a more detailed discourse on the life, exploits and death of Admiral Hein, I will (hereby) refer you to the site of Wikipedia. While according to the official records, the pub was founded after the death of the said Admiral, he was apparently of a different opinion or at least held a different view.
I.o.w. The Druif is somewhat older than officially stated
Nevertheless, it’s still not as old as ‘t Aepjen on the Zeedijk, that place is a lot older, our dear Admiral was probably still in his mother’s womb when “t Aepjen first opened its doors.
Here are a few more pubs you could visit
Amsterdam is rich in pubs; it would take you more than a year to visit them all, actually. Pub density in Amsterdam is the highest in the nation. After examining both the oldest and the smallest tavern in town, I’d like to point out a few more local watering holes for you to consider; these are chosen for their looks, not age.
De Pilsener Club (The English Ass), Begijnensteeg 4
Lacroix, overtoom 219
‘t Mandje (link)
de Pels, Huidenstraat 25
de Wetering, Weteringstraat 37
Nol, Westerstraat 109
De Gouden en Zilveren Spiegel, Kattengat 4-6
In de Lompen, Nieuwebrugsteeg 13
Lowietje (Baantjer cafe)
Het Bossche Hofje, Palmgracht 20-26