After Amsterdam was destroyed by fire in 1452, the old city was rebuilt using brick. Of all the old wooden buildings that had made up the historic city, only two survived. One of these premises was an inn, located on the corner of the old Zeedijk (sea dike), near the infamous red light district.
Called “In’t Aepjen,” it has provided ales, jenever, food, and lodgings since 1519, and is one of Amsterdam’s oldest bars. “In’t Aepjen” literally means “In the Monkeys,” and refers to a time in the golden age of the Dutch Empire, when sailors returning from such distant colonies as Indonesia, and finding themselves short of guilders, would offer up their newly acquired pets as payment, often literally paying their bills in monkeys.
Soon the In’t Aepjen was overrun with so many monkeys that customers began to complain of the fleas. The monkeys were given to a regular customer at the tavern, Gerard Westerman, who kept them in his large garden in the east of the city. Westerman’s animal garden would eventually become Amsterdam’s Artis Zoo, one of Europe’s oldest.
Today the venerable old tavern is decorated with monkeys everywhere you look; carved statues, vintage posters, and oil portraits hanging from the bar. You may no longer be able to pay your bar tab with one, but one of the oldest buildings in Amsterdam is still very much “In the Monkeys.”