The Bulldog

Discover where it all started for The Bulldog and find out what makes us unique in the world.

The Living Room of Amsterdam

What makes The Bulldog unique isn’t its famous name, its iconic logo or its popular products; it’s the feeling you get when you step inside. The typical The Bulldog atmosphere can be experienced in all our locations, in Amsterdam and our many locations throughout the world.

Everyone is welcome at The Bulldog, the Living Room of Amsterdam. Here you’re always free to feel at home, no matter who you are or where you’re from.

Henk de Vries founded The Bulldog in 1975 with a mission:

“I want to create a living room atmosphere. A good vibe, relaxed. A place where people can smoke, talk and feel good. It simply doesn’t get any better than that.”

Even after nearly fifty years, The Bulldog is still true to this mission. We are committed to providing care, by offering a safe environment and through donations and hands-on care for those less fortunate.

How it all started

The seed for the first coffeeshop in the world was planted in 1970, at the Holland Pop Festival in the Kralingse Bos in Rotterdam, ‘the Woodstock of the Netherlands’. Henk brought something to smoke for his friends, but he soon noticed that they were selling his stuff.

Henk then realized just how easy it was to sell weed. He rushed back to Amsterdam to bring a lot more, stuffed in matchboxes. Back in the Kralingse Bos, Henk started selling his stuff to the festival goers, until two police officers came up to him threatened to arrest him for illegally selling cannabis.

At that moment festival organizer Koos Zwart stepped in. He told the police officers that Henk was allowed to sell his product on the festival grounds and eventually the police gave up. Koos even started promoting Henk’s ‘shop’ with a public announcement.

This was essentially the first time that anyone had legally sold cannabis in the Netherlands and at the same time it was the start of Henk’s pioneering work.

From a damp basement in an alley to an empire

In the early ‘70s, hard drugs were having a devastating impact on the streets of Amsterdam. It pained Henk to see his neighbours and friends suffer from their addiction. He decided to take action and threw all the inventory from the sex shop he had inherited from his father in the canal.

His answer to the harsh climate at the time was to open the first ever coffeeshop, a place where hard drugs were (and still are!) off-limits and where people could relax, smoke, have a drink and have a laugh.

For the first few years, Henk became the focus of the local police department. Raid upon raid took place during the first years of operating from the basement of where The Bulldog still is. Henk kept a promise to the visitors that were taken to the police station, after thirty minutes of being held they could return and receive replacement of what the police had taken from them.

By tirelessly frustrating the police in this way, the first steps towards the blind eye policy were taken. In 1976, the use of soft drugs was officially tolerated in the Netherlands. Henk’s fight was successful, but it took a lot of guts and persistence. You break the rules to create the rules.

After its rocky start, The Bulldog steadily grew on to become a global brand and one of the icons of Amsterdam. The opening in 1985 of The Palace at the Leidseplein: a grand café/coffeeshop in a former police station, was another landmark in our history. Our bars and coffeeshops became known and loved globally, attracting not only locals but also tourists and world-famous celebrities who were drawn in by our open and relaxed atmosphere.

And we never stopped breaking boundaries, by bringing The Bulldog to new locations around the world, by launching our successful line of branded clothing, accessories and 420 gear and by collaborating with exciting brands.

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