Over here in Holland, when I want to go shopping, I head far, far away. I head to Amsterdam.
Perhaps that’s a bit harsh. There are shops in Dordrecht – including some lovely little independent boutiques – but Amsterdam is in another league. I’ve usually stuck to the main shopping districts; the Kalverstraat, Haarlemmerstraat and the Negen Straatjes in the Jordaan, but one weekend I decided to shake it up a little. I headed for something a little different; the markets of Amsterdam.
Amsterdam boasts quite a few markets, but I’m going to cover the best ones here; the Book Market, the Albert Cuyp Market, the Flower Market and the Sunday Market. As the Book Market runs only on Fridays and the Sunday Market is only open on the first Sunday of the month, it’s best to plan your visit. You can find accommodation in Amsterdam online on sites like here; staying centrally means that you’re only a short tram or bike ride from all of the markets.
De Boekenmarkt op het Spui
Amsterdam’s book market isn’t your typical book market; this is the place people come when they’re looking for the rarest books of all. There’s only a couple of dozen booksellers here, and they all specialise in old, hard-to-find and out of print books.
I wasn’t interested in buying anything at the Boekenmarkt; instead, I came to people-watch. Some of the booksellers operate from your average stalls, which are all covered in books. Nothing overly special there. But what is special is the half a dozen or so old men who are perched upon white wooden chairs (as pictured above); these are the guys to see if you’re after something truly unique. These men, who all looked well over eighty, were the market to me.
People-watching is the name of the game here and I stood there, fascinated, for a good half hour or so, just observing the buyers and sellers do their thing. It seemed to be a tradition frozen in time; there weren’t any eBooks or Kindles here, just old yellowed pages and dusty covers.
De Boekenmarkt op het Spui is open every Friday, whatever the weather, from 10am to 6pm. It’s located on the square called ‘Spui’, which is a 5 minute walk southwest of Dam Square. Walking down the Kalverstraat, you should see it about halfway down towards your right.
By far the most touristy of the four markets, the Bloemenmarkt is on most tourists’ itineraries as it’s the only floating flower market in the world. Established in 1868, the market houses all sorts of flowers and plants for sale to the public, and also supplies hundreds of Amsterdam’s businesses. The most popular flower? The national flower of Holland; the tulip, of course.
If you’re expecting stallholders on barges and rowing boats, you will be disappointed. The market is technically a floating one, but it does resemble a sort of covered quay. There’s also a few souvenir stalls which seem to cheapen the experience a bit; try and block them out and focus on the tulip sellers, they’re the mainstayers of the market.
The Bloemenmarkt is open every day between 9am and 5pm (opens at 11am on Sundays), though some stalls stay open until later, particularly in the summer. It’s situated on the canal called Singel, between Muntplein and Koningsplein in central Amsterdam.
Albert Cuyp Markt
I’d heard of the Albert Cuyp Market before I’d ever had a chance to visit. ‘Oh, that’s where you’ll find the real Amsterdam, without all the tourists,’ one Amsterdammer told me. So off I cycled to Dep Pijp, Amsterdam’s Footscray.
The neighbourhood is similar to Footscray in Melbourne in that it has all the ingredients needed for gentrification (a working class history, good location and transport connections, iconic architecture and ethnic diversity), yet gentrification hasn’t set in yet. Sure, gastro-pubs are opening every month and there are studio apartments on each street, but it truly does still feel working class. It was rough around the edges, but not in that ‘we’ll keep it looking rough so it’s true to its working class roots’; no, it was rough around the edges because that’s what De Pijp simply is.
The Albert Cuyp Market fits its neighbourhood to a tee, and it’s very much a part of its history; it’s been running for 98 years. Numbering over two hundred stalls, it runs along the Albert Cuypstraat, right in the middle of the buzzing De Pijp. It’s very trash ‘n treasure, and you’re likely to find two stalls next to each other, one selling five packs of socks and undies and the other flogging homemade leather handbags. There’s a couple of souvenir stalls, there’s plenty offering fruit and vegetables and perhaps best of all (to me, anyway) some selling the most beautiful but inexpensive jewellery.
The Albert Cuyp Markt is open every day except Sunday, from 9am to 5pm. The market runs along the Albert Cuypstraat, in the Amsterdam neighbourhood of De Pijp. It’s a bit far to walk from central Amsterdam, so either cycle or catch trams 4, 16, 24 or 25 from Amsterdam Centraal.
The Sunday Market
I absolutely fell in love with the Sunday Market, but you have been warned; it’s as hipster as they come. And Amsterdam’s got quite the hipster population – here they’re in full force.
The Sunday Market is set in an old gas plant in the west of the city (the opposite side to the Albert Cuyp Market). Most of the stalls are outside, but there’s also a few dozen inside if you need to escape the omnipresent rain. Also scattered outside are a number of food trucks, which specialise in every cuisine from Moroccan to southern American. There’s also a large beer garden and often a band playing.
I didn’t buy anything at the Sunday Market except a beer; I couldn’t afford anything. There’s all sorts of bits and pieces here from jewellery and accessories to things for your dog and your kitchen. Most stallholders sell homemade products and for many it’s a hobby; some of the wares are absolutely beautiful and if you’re the type to buy souvenirs that aren’t in-your-face souvenir-sy, then this place is a good bet.
The Sunday Market is held on the first Sunday of every month (the next one is 3 March) from 12pm to 6pm. The market is located in the Westergasfabriek, part of the Westerpark, and is about a half an hour walk from Amsterdam Centraal. It’s an easy cycle, or you can catch tram 10.