Bag a bargain: Shopping in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a gold mine for those who like to browse. The narrow streets of the centre, the canal rings and the Jordaan area are home to small, independent boutiques, where you can wander for hours in search of that one-of-a-kind find. The city’s markets also represent a variety of treasure troves, as well as being brilliant for taking the pulse of particular districts and soaking up the atmosphere.

Where to shop in Amsterdam

For a great shopping experience, get yourself over to De Negen Straatjes (The Nine Streets), small alleys that form the ribs linking the Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht canals. The neighbourhood is a shopper’s delight with its specialist boutiques, vintage stores, art galleries, antiques and designer clothing outlets.

Most museums have good gift shops, especially the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, Stedelijk Museum, Jewish Historical Museum, Maritime Museum and Science Center NEMO. The Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum have an additional shared shop on Museumplein.

The Hazenstraat, a side street close to De Negen Straatjes has labelled itself "The Tenth Street". 

Amsterdammers love to shop for their homes. Although many live in small apartments, what they lack in floor space they make up for in the quality of their environments, and interior design stores feature in every shopping area. Check out &Klevering or Sissy-Boy Homeland for modern, tactile home accessories you could carry home in your luggage.

Amsterdam’s best markets

To better understand a place, you can’t beat rubbing local shoulders at a market, and Amsterdam has a good number of authentic ones, with specialisms to suit all interests.

Perhaps the most famous market is the partly floating Bloemenmarkt, which is held on the Singel every day. As well as beautiful blooms you can buy bulbs and tubers to take home.

In the De Pijp neighbourhood, the lively and colourful Albert Cuyp market has 260 stalls selling everything from textiles and household goods to fruit, vegetables and freshly-baked waffles. It claims to be Europe’s largest daily market.

Amsterdam’s first market stall was supposedly set up in 1783 in the Jewish Quarter.

The Pure Markt is a large, laid-back affair held every Sunday in a different Amsterdam park. A host of stalls sell food and drink for all tastes, with emphasis on organic or local.

The Noordermarkt, held every Saturday by the Noorderkerk in the Jordaan, is a farmers’ market, renowned for organic products. On Monday mornings the square is the setting for a flea market, with vintage clothing, antiques and curiosities.

The Sunday Market in Cultuurpark Westerpark on the first Sunday of the month, is a fashion, art and design market, held partially in the beautifully renovated buildings of the Westergasfabriek, a former coal gas factory. Every third Sunday of the month (except Sept and Oct) another design market is held at the Museumplein. The Museum Market also offers great food and atmosphere, being in such a central part of the city.

The flea market on Waterlooplein, from Monday to Saturday, is smaller than it used to be, although second-hand clothes still feature heavily. The Oost’s multicultural Dappermarkt in the east is a flea market particularly popular with locals.

A summer Antiekmarkt (Antiques Market) meets at Nieuwmarkt on Sunday from May to October. On Elandsgracht and Looiersgracht in the Jordaan is a market for cheaper antiques, collectables and brica-brac. The stalls are found inside a number of old houses, which makes it the perfect place to shop on a rainy day.

There is a Boekenmarkt every Friday on Spui in front of the private entrance to the Begijnhof. Publications in various languages are available.

What to buy in Amsterdam

Fashion

For designer fashion, visit exclusive P.C. Hooftstraat, known as Amsterdam’s Fashion District (think Gucci, Chanel and the like), and neighbouring Van Baerlestraat, which border Museumplein.

High street fashion and mainstream department stores are found along Kalverstraat, Leidsestraat and Rokin. Local fashionistas tend to prefer the independent shops, such as those in De 9 Straatjes or along the Utrechtsebuurt. The  Bijkenkorf is Amsterdam’s largest and most famous department store, often referred to as the Harrods of Amsterdam. Come for fashion, accessories, homeware, media and travel.

Looking for a souvenir that’s not too cheesy? Consider a Dutch cheese slicer... or a map of the city's canals.

Art

It’s not all Old Masters here in Amsterdam. There is a buzzing commercial art scene and the city is one of the best places to come to source your own pieces, or just take a spin around some interesting gallery spaces. Make a beeline for De Appel, one of the most respected centres for promoting up-and-coming artists, or head to GO Gallery to see street art and pop-art works staged. 

For artist-led installations and a generally edgier vibe, make your way over to W139, which has about five major exhibitions developed on-site each year. And for a look at the work of several new artists in one place, don’t forget the Amsterdam Affordable Art Fair, staged annually.

Plants

The Netherlands is famed worldwide for its flowers, and particularly the beautiful spring tulip displays in the fields to the west and southwest of Amsterdam. Yet blooms are produced throughout the year in hothouses scattered across the countryside and can be purchased, along with bulbs, at the Bloemenmarkt on the Singel.

Jenever

Only the Dutch and Belgians produce this alcoholic drink, a kind of hybrid of English gin and German schnapps. It is often bottled in distinctive stone flagons, which make wonderful souvenirs – and FYI, these make excellent rustic candlesticks when empty.

Delftware

The pottery style known as Delft (after the city southwest of Amsterdam) was produced across the country during the Golden Age and, in the 1600s, many fine pieces came out of a pottery on Prinsengracht. The blue and white finish is standard Delft, and you will find it at many high-class outlets, with prices to match the quality. Visit Galleria d’Arte Rinascimento or Jorrit Heinen, where you can buy examples of the traditional pottery styles, and some fine modern pieces too.

Dutch souvenirs

Who cares if it’s cheesy? Sometimes, you just need to bring something quintessential home as a souvenir. Here in the Netherlands, wooden clogs feature prominently, either plain or painted in bright colours, while the windmill motif is found everywhere, and if you like to garden, Dutch bulbs are available at all times of the year.

If you want something edible then the best bets are stroopwafels – the caramel waffle biscuits – or Dutch cheese, such as a small whole Gouda or vacuum-packed farmer’s cheese. De Kaaskamer has a selection of around 80 cheeses.

Antiques

The rich legacy of the Dutch colonial period makes Amsterdam an interesting city for antiques and there are dealers in almost every specialist area. This is not a place for amateur collectors, though, so you may prefer to stick to window shopping.

Diamonds

The industry is known for the quality of its polishing and the expertise of its independent traders. Let’s be honest, you may not be in the market for the most mega stones, but even if you're just intrigued by these most valuable jewels, you can see polishers at work on free guided tours of two main diamond houses. The two houses are Gassan and Coster Diamonds.

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