Amsterdammers are traders to the tips of their fingers, as you'll quickly find if you visit a street market, but they won't bargain with you -- they have much less interest in haggling, or margin in their prices, than their counterparts in countries farther south. They're simply too practical to quote a ridiculous price in the expectation that it'll be cut in half or that you'll be fool enough to pay it. No, Dutch street merchants exhibit their enthusiasm for trade in a more stolid way -- simply by being permanent. Many of Amsterdam's open-air salesmen are at the stalls, vans, tents, and barges of the city's markets 6 days a week, 52 weeks a year. In all, Amsterdam and its outlying neighborhoods have more than 50 outdoor markets every week, on any given day, except Sunday, when you have a choice of several.
Finding a bargain-basement souvenir is easy at the Waterlooplein Flea Market, on Waterlooplein (tram: 9 or 14). All kinds of stuff is here, not all of it junk, and a constant press of people with good buys on their minds. This is Amsterdam's classic market: It's often said that in its glory days before World War II, when it was a fixture of the city's Jewish community, you could find amazing antiques amid the lesser goods -- possibly even a dusty old Rembrandt. Today, however, your luck is more apt to run in the opposite direction. Most merchants work out of tents, and some sell patates frites met mayonnaise (french fries eaten Dutch style, with mayonnaise) from vans that are a long way from the pushcarts of yesteryear; but among old CDs and leather jackets, you'll still find cooking pots, mariners' telescopes, coal scuttles, bargain watches, nuts and bolts, and decent prints of Dutch cities. The market is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm.
At the Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market), Singel (tram: 4, 9, 14, 16, 24, or 25), at Muntplein, awnings stretch to cover some 15 stalls of brightly colored blossoms, bulbs, and potted plants. This row of permanently moored barges is one of Amsterdam's stellar spots, though you might find it overrated, especially since it doesn't look like it's actually floating -- and indeed, most of it isn't. Still, this is probably the most atmospheric place to buy fresh-cut flowers, bright and healthy plants, ready-to-travel packets of tulip bulbs, and any necessary home-gardening accessory. A stroll down that fragrant line is surely one of Amsterdam's most heart-lifting experiences. An added plus is that tulips here cost a few cents less than at the flower stands around town. The market is open daily from 8am to 8pm.
At the colorful, kilometer-long Albert Cuypmarkt (www.albertcuypmarkt.com), Albert Cuypstraat (tram: 16, 24, or 25), you find just about anything your imagination can conjure: 350 stalls sell different types of food, clothing, flowers, plants, and textiles. Cheesemongers slice wedges from Frisbee-shaped disks of Edam. The market is open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 6pm.
The Friday Boekenmarkt (Book Market) on Spui (tram: 1, 2, or 5) has around 25 booths with second-hand books. You can often find some great deals (even for books in English), and perhaps even a rare book or two. Just about any subject is available, both fiction and nonfiction. The market is open Friday from 10am to 6pm.
Local artists mount outdoor exhibits at the Kunstmarkt (Art Market) on Spui, April to November, Sunday from 10am to 6pm.
Kunst & Antiekcentrum De Looier, Elandsgracht 109 (tel. 020/624-9038; www.looier.nl; tram: 7, 10, or 17), is a big indoor antiques market spread through several old warehouses in the Jordaan. Individual dealers rent small stalls and corners to showcase their best wares. The old armoires and other heavy pieces of traditional Dutch furniture are likely too large to consider buying, but many dealers offer antique jewelry, prints and engravings, old porcelain table settings, bathroom fixtures, 19th-century tin toys, Delft tiles, furniture, Dutch knickknacks, and much more. De Looier is open Saturday to Thursday from 11am to 5pm.
Local artists come to show off their wares at the Modern Art Market, Thorbeckeplein (tel. 0527/201-559; www.modernartmarket.nl; tram: 4, 9, or 14). Picking your way through the tables, you'll find sculptures, ceramics, paintings, jewelry, and mixed-media pieces. The market runs from April to October, Sunday from 11am to 6pm.
The Boerenmarkt (Farmers' Market; www.boerenmarktamsterdam.nl) at Noordermarkt (tram: 3 or 10), also known as the Biologische Markt (Organic Market), caters to Amsterdam's infatuation with health foods and natural products, sold by green-living enthusiasts who know and love what they do. Popular items include fruit and vegetables, homemade bread, colorful Dutch cheeses, and natural soap. It takes place on Saturday from 9am to 5pm. A similar Boerenmarkt (Farmers' Market) at Nieuwmarkt (Metro: Nieuwmarkt) operates on the same day and hours. Bargains may be thin on the ground but quality is pretty much assured. The crowd browsing here is invariably large.
Other notable street markets are the Westermarkt, which sells textiles and clothes on Westerstraat, at Noordermarkt, Monday from 9am to 1pm; the Lindengracht general market, on the long Jordaan street of the same name, Saturday from 9am to 5pm; the Bloemen en Planten Markt (Flower and Plant Market), at Amstelveld, on Prinsengracht, Easter to Christmas, Monday from 9am to 6pm; the Curiosamarkt (Collectors' Market), at the same Amstelveld location, from 9am to 6pm on the last Friday in June, July, and August; the Postzegelmarkt (Stamp Market), around Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 276, on Wednesday and Saturday from 1 to 4pm; and the Antiek en Curiosamarkt (Antiques and Collectors' Market), Nieuwmarkt (Metro: Nieuwmarkt), for antiques and curios, May to October, Sunday from 9am to 6pm.
Market Makers -- Amsterdam has more than 50 outdoor markets every week. Some are permanent or semipermanent, and others just pass through. Three you shouldn't miss are the floating Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market) on Singel, the Waterloopleinmarkt Flea Market on Waterlooplein, and the Albert Cuypmarkt, on Albert Cuypstraat.
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