Differences Between a Head Shop and a Coffeeshop

Although both terms are commonly used amongst the marijuana community, it isn’t always clear what the difference between a head shop and a coffeeshop is — especially, for example, if you’re a tourist walking the streets of Amsterdam!

Even if these terms are sometimes referenced interchangeably, the fact is they each have unique qualities that set them apart from one another. The coffeeshop experience is one that became popularized in the Netherlands, while head shops seem to be present globally, particularly in regions where marijuana is legalized or recreationally recognized.

Both coffeeshops and head shops have their respective places in the lovely world of pot, but each features its own individual qualities that in essence can only be discovered by visiting one location or the other.

Regardless of whether you plan on executing a trip to one or the other, though, the information presented in this article will hopefully help clarify any misconceptions and serve as a tool for those who are unfamiliar with some of the cannabis terminology that is floating around these days. Ultimately, the only similarity that a head shop and coffeeshop truly share, is that they are both somehow connected to marijuana.

Keep reading to discover everything there is to know about the difference between a head shop and a coffeeshop…

What Exactly Is a Head Shop?

Interestingly enough, if marijuana is what you are looking for you won’t find it at a head shop. These storefronts specialize in the sale of cannabis/tobacco consumption devices (and other types of paraphernalia relating to cannabis), but they do not actually sell any green. Instead, once you enter a head shop, you’ll be met with a massive variety of pipes, bongs, one-hitters, grinders, pipe screens, vapes, rolling papers, weighing scales and more. And believe it or not, the stock doesn’t stop there.

Most head shops also display products that pertain to marijuana culture, which could include magazines about cultivation, clothing, and even home decor that is 420 related. Some head shops are notorious for being a bit extreme or odd (like the ultra-modern Azarius in Amsterdam), and take the experience to another level by also selling things like 420 walking sticks, various antiques, and even sex toys. Each head shop is its own unique experience, so you never truly know what you will find in one of these stores until you’ve actually stepped foot inside and seen for yourself what there is to offer.

On top of the cannabis related items and oddities, some head shops also sell other legalized highs, which can include empty whipped cream containers (for nitrous oxide), Kratom, and Salvia divinorum – three potentially mind-altering substances that are allowed in some states and regions of the world.


  • Many shops offer products beyond those related to cannabis, including plenty of band merchandise.
  • A fun and creative experience often times, where you can never really be sure what you will discover.
  • Head shops are much more widespread than coffeeshops, meaning that many cities and towns offer locations where cannabis paraphernalia can be purchased.


  • No actual cannabis for sale, simply merchandise and paraphernalia pertaining to marijuana.
  • At some head shops they might offer so much variety that it becomes difficult for you to find what you are looking for.
  • The experience is not usually very social, so those who go to head shops usually have an idea of what they need to buy and do not stay at the storefronts for long.

What Exactly Is a Coffeeshop?

The term coffeeshop is a bit more niche when compared with a head shop. Head shops are present all throughout the world, while coffeeshops are by definition only located in the Netherlands. Drug policies in the Netherlands made it legal for small amounts of cannabis to be sold at licensed stores, which became termed as coffeeshops.

These venues are much like cafes; you can sit down with your friends and enjoy a meal, some coffee or tea and chat as much as you want. You may even spark up a new conversation with a stranger sitting next to you. Sounds like a pretty normal ordeal, but the thing that makes these coffeeshops one of a kind, is that fact that you can be doing all this stuff with the added in factor of weed.

These hangouts not only offer some of the best cannabis in the Netherlands, they are also a time for people to meet up, hang out and enjoy some socializing. They serve as a hub for not only human relating, but also for a common interest of marijuana. Unlike head shops, coffeeshops are not normally selling much paraphernalia, for these cafes are more concentrated on offering food and non-alcoholic beverages, in addition of course to the variety of weed options they’ve got.

It’s worth noting that the sale of alcohol and hard drugs is strictly prohibited in coffeeshops, as well as the sale of marijuana to minors (people under 18 years old). The shops that partake in any of this banned behavior face serious consequences, including losing their right to operate and sell marijuana to patrons. Many regions in the Netherlands have at least one coffeeshop close by, but big cities like Amsterdam, which is notorious for its cannabis, offer numerous shops on every block.


  • Coffeeshops have some of the best cannabis that Europe has to offer, which is why they continue to be frequented.
  • Massive variety of strains to choose from, many of which are local grown and are freshly harvested.
  • The perfect time to socialize and maybe even meet some new people and spark up intriguing conversations.


  • You’ll have to travel to the Netherlands to experience a coffeeshop, which of course is not a viable option for everyone.
  • Only marijuana can usually be purchased at coffeeshops (and only in small amounts) so don’t expect to purchase any cannabis related merchandise.
  • If you want to sip on something alcoholic with your weed, you’ll have to go somewhere else. The sale of alcohol in coffeeshops is strictly prohibited.

Differences Between a Head Shop and Coffeeshop

Ultimately the fundamental differences between a head shop and a coffeeshop are as follows:

  • Head shops don’t actually sell marijuana, only paraphernalia, while coffeeshops mostly only sell marijuana and little paraphernalia.
  • Coffeeshops are a sit-down experience typically, which can involve socializing all while enjoying cannabis, while head shops are more of a retail experience and involves purchasing items pertaining to marijuana.
  • Coffeeshops can only be discovered in the Netherlands, while head shops are present globally.

Which Option Is the Best Choice?

You wouldn’t really describe a coffeshop vs. a head shop as one being “better” than the other; at the end of the day, both are suitable choices. It really just depends on what you want and your own individual needs. If you aren’t in the search for cannabis or a safe, comfy space to smoke it in, but rather need to restock on some paraphernalia or devices to consume cannabis with, then a head shop is really the only choice for that.

On the other hand if your purpose is to get high as hell, relax, and socialize in an ultra-laid back environment while treating yourself to some sweet treats, then the coffeeshop is the perfect environment in which to do so. There is really no right or wrong, best or worse answer here. The choice of whether to enter a head shop or a coffeeshop is directly tailored to what you would like to experience and/or purchase.

Final Thoughts on Head Shops vs. Coffeeshops

If you have ever wondered what the difference is between these two popular cannabis hotspots, then hopefully this article has helped clarify any confusions and misconceptions. Both choices present their own charms, plus pros and cons, but most of all the decision to experience one location over the other is solely personal and depends immensely upon what exactly you would like to purchase or encounter.

We hope you not only found this article to be entertaining but also educational and informative. It is important to remember that the consumption of marijuana is the sole responsibility of the user and discretion should always be taken.