Shopping Trips

Manequin in shop windowNetherlands capital is clogged with shops

AMSTERDAM – Long known for canals, not couture, and wooden shoes, rather than designer footwear, this European gateway caught me by surprise.

With 10,334 shops, 141 galleries, 165 antique dealers and 26 markets, it’s the Netherlands’ largest shopping destination. But on the international scene, it’s long been in the shadow of familiar fashion haunts like Milan and Paris. No longer. Today Dutch Design is hip, and pictorial Amsterdam is its showcase.

Shopping options reflect the city – an atypical combination of modern styles enhanced by accents only a historical cultural centre can provide. And the best part is price – less than you’ll pay elsewhere on the continent.

Overflowing with highly specialized shops, each area has its own distinctive character and style.

I began my shopping stroll in the Jordaan district and wandered into “The Nine Streets” where unusual shops are the norm.

The area is a checkerboard grid of streets crossing 17th century canals. De Witte TandenWinkel (White Teeth Shop), Runstraat 5, is a store devoted entirely to toothbrushes and at de Glaswerkplaats (glass art), Berenstraat 41, the artist practices his craft on the premises. Cortina Papier, Reestraat 22, is an old-fashioned paper shop. Terra, Reestraat 21, is devoted to pottery.

In the clothing arena is Eva Design, Burg. Roellstraat 10, features top-quality, handmade woolen garments. At Revanche Boutique, Nieuwee Leliestraat 6, a store devoted to upscale clothing, a brightly colored Kenzo scarf enhanced with ribbons (150 euros) caught my eye.

P.C. Hooftstraat is to Amsterdam what Rodeo Drive is to Beverly Hills.

Book Traffic, Leliegracht 50, is the kind of bookstore seen in black-and-white movies. Eighty percent of the store’s stock is in English. It’s near Anne Frank’s house and its most requested book is the Diary of Anne Frank.

In the Centrum area I uncovered stores devoted to my passion – jewelry. Biba, Nieuwe Hoogstraat 26, features work by noted designers such as Rodrigo Otazu whose clients include Britney Spears and Nicole Kidman. Only doors away is Diva, Nieuwe Hoogstraat 12 – less expensive but equally as tempting.

Amsterdam’s best-known department store, De Bijenkorf, is found at Dam Square. It’s an old-fashioned bastion of elegance.

Along the nearby street of Leidsestraat, a parade of stores includes Shoe-Baloo (yes, shoes), Lush (beauty and bath products), Cream and Cynthia (both women’s clothing stores).

P.C. Hooftstraat is to Amsterdam what Rodeo Drive is to Beverly Hills. In its three short blocks are innumerable upscale, exclusive and high-style stores. An off-the-shoulder denim jacket (200 euros) appeared in T’Store Trussardi’s (No. 35) window. Across the street, Mody Mary (No. 54) carried Moschino leather pants and an assortment of furs. Then there’s Chanel, Ferragamo, Gucci, Bally and more. Along Nieuwe Spiegelstraat and Spiegelgracht are four blocks of prime time antiquing. I unearthed music boxes, Dutch clocks, pipes, even dolls with china heads.

Congratulating myself on a successful but exhausting shopping foray, I absentmindedly stepped into the street, forgetting the number one rule in Amsterdam survival: Stay alert when crossing bicycles lanes. Two-wheelers have the right-of-way.

Just the facts

The Dutch do not bargain, nor do they feature year-around sales. Sale season is in January and July/August.

Jewelry display