Some of Amsterdam’s best buys can be found outside, at the city’s noteworthy markets.
While Amsterdam’s stores offer a wide range of shopping experiences, its markets have something else: a unique neighborhood atmosphere and the chance of finding something unexpected and special. There’s also the pleasure of being outdoors on a sunny fall day and stopping off for a waffle and hot chocolate, or another local variety of street food. The city has a broad assortment of weekly street markets, selling everything from organic fruit to antiques, but which ones should you explore? Here are some tried and tested options to get you started.
The Flower Market
Top of every tourist’s list, and with good reason, the Flower Market (Bloemenmarkt in Dutch) is the place to go to indulge in a real Dutch passion: fresh flowers. You can stock up on souvenirs and take advantage of some great photo opportunities, too. The market literally floats on top of the Singel canal in the heart of town—the stores are all on barges, though you’d hardly notice, thanks to the buckets of seasonal blooms and pyramids of plants spilling out onto the pavement. You’ll probably want to take home some bulbs and seeds. Don’t forget to check that the ones you buy have been cleared for export. Finding the market is easy: head for Muntplein. Open 9 a.m. (11 a.m. on Sundays) to 5.30 p.m. daily.
Oudemanhuispoort Book Market
Stepping through the arched, 18th century portal that leads to the Oudemanhuispoort Book Market is like stepping back in time. This covered arcade, which dates to 1601, once led to a city almshouse for the elderly (hence its Dutch name); these days, the almshouse is the entrance to the University of Amsterdam’s law faculty. Several stalls here sell old books, sheet music, prints and engravings. From valuable antiques to second-hand bargains, it’s a browser’s heaven. Entrances on Oudezijds Achterburgwal and Kloveniersburgwal. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (closed Sundays).
Albert Cuyp Market
In the formerly working class, now hipster-ish De Pijp area, the bustling Albert Cuyp Market stretches for more than half a mile, selling everything from food to flowers to cheap clothes. The fish stalls (about halfway down) are a favorite for photos, and souvenir hunters can find everything from Dutch cheese to fluffy clog slippers and canal-house fridge magnets. Sometimes, though by no means always, there are genuine designer bargains to be had, and this is a great place to try out Dutch street food—raw herring, warm stroopwaffel cookies and naughtily shaped chocolates are among the treats on offer. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (closed Sundays).
Waterlooplein Flea Market
In the heart of Amsterdam’s former Jewish quarter, Waterlooplein is the city’s equivalent of London’s Camden Lock—the place for subculture clothing, spray paint and incense sticks. Around 300 stalls sell vintage and new clothes, curios of all kinds, old military uniforms, bicycle parts, records, DVDs, and much more. It takes dedication to look at everything, so take a break at Coffee Company (Amsterdam’s excellent answer to Starbucks) on one side of the square. Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily (closed Sundays).
Noordermarkt and the Lapjesmarkt
There are two good reasons to visit Noordermarkt, the ancient market square next to the 17th-century Noorderkerk. The first is the wonderful farmers’ market every Saturday, selling all kinds of delicious and mainly organic goodies (there’s also a rather boho bric-a-brac section). The second is the Monday morning Lapjesmarkt (rag and bone market), which runs from here along the neighboring Westerstraat, with around 160 stalls selling vintage and new clothes, fabrics, buttons, leather, and haberdashery of every kind. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Monday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Jane Szita is on the Netherlands beat for Travel + Leisure. She lives in Amsterdam.