A few shopping streets are pedestrians-only, some are busy thoroughfares, and others are peaceful canalside esplanades or fashionable promenades. Yet others are in suburban malls, or opening up in new waterfront development zones. Each segment in this ever-growing network has developed its own identity or predominant selection of goods as a specialty. To plan your own shopping trails, here are brief descriptions of the major shopping areas and what you can expect to find in each of them:
Amstelveen -- This new town built around an old village south of Amsterdam offers up clean, efficient living in a garden city. The shopping center has many of the nonspecialist types of outlets -- boutiques, toy stores, and the like -- that you'll find throughout Amsterdam. Here, however, they're in an enclosed mall and you can visit them all a lot quicker. So if you don't like shopping but can just about tolerate it if you get through it quickly, this may be the place for you. Take the no. 5 tram from Centraal Station to the terminus, which is right beside the Amstelveen mall; the ride takes around 25 minutes.
The Jordaan -- The entire Jordaan district, a nest of streets beyond Westermarkt to the west of central Amsterdam, is a junk-and-oddity-lover's paradise, and is a good place to seek out Amsterdam's up-and-coming funky boutiques.
Kalverstraat -- At one end of this long, pedestrians-only shopping street is the Dam; at the other is the Muntplein traffic hub. In between is a hodgepodge of shopping possibilities -- trendy boutiques, mass-market clothes, athletic-gear emporiums, tacky gift stuff, stores selling dowdy raincoats and conservative business suits, bookstores, fur salons, maternity and baby stores, record stores, and more. The shopping parade that begins on Kalverstraat continues around the corner on Heiligeweg, across Koningsplein and along Leidsestraat, all the way to Leidseplein.
Pieter Cornelisz Hooftstraat & Van Baerlestraat -- Dozens of international and Dutch designer boutiques, plus antiques and porcelain dealers, are on elegant Pieter Cornelisz Hooftstraat and adjoining streets near the Museum District. Known to insiders as "P.C. Hooftstraat" (www.pchooftstraat.nl), or just "the P.C. Hooft" (pronounced pay-say-hoaft), this street is where well-dressed, well-coiffed Amsterdammers buy everything from lingerie to light bulbs. Along its 3 short blocks, stores sell furniture, antiques, toys, shoes, chocolates, Persian rugs, designer clothes, fresh-baked bread, fresh-caught fish, china, books, furs, perfume, leather goods, office supplies, flowers, and jewelry. Around the corner on Van Baerlestraat are more boutiques, shoe stores, and enough branches of major banks to guarantee that you can continue to buy as long as your plastic holds out. If you're feeling rich or simply want to feast your eyes on lovely things (fashion, antiques, and art), begin at the Concertgebouw and walk along Van Baerlestraat toward Vondelpark. Nearby, Cornelis Schuytstraat has upmarket stores selling fashion, food, flowers, and collectibles.
Rokin -- Parallel to Kalverstraat and also running from the Dam to Muntplein is Rokin. Along here, you'll find art galleries, antiques stores, elegant fashion boutiques, and tobacco.
Spiegelkwartier (Spiegel Quarter) -- Spiegelgracht, a small and quiet bit of canal east of Leidseplein, is the gateway to one of Europe's finest antiques-hunting grounds: The best antiques-store street in Amsterdam, Nieuwe Spiegelstraat, contains nearly 100 stores. All those tankards, pipes, cabinets, clocks, kettles, vases, and other bric-a-brac you see in old Dutch paintings still show up among stores' treasures here. This antiques esplanade covers only a short 4-block stretch between the Rijksmuseum and Herengracht's Golden Bend, where Amsterdam's wealthiest burghers once lived. Among the items you might see are dolls with china heads, rare editions of early children's books, Indonesian puppets, Persian tapestries, landscape paintings, art prints and reproductions, brass Bible stands, candlesticks, copper kettles, music boxes, and old Dutch clocks. Nearby, dozens of antiquarian bookstores can be found between central Spui and the Royal Palace, on Spuistraat, Singel, and Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal. For more antiques stores, look along Prinsengracht between Leidsestraat and Westermarkt.
Nine Great Little Streets -- If your idea of a good shopping day includes browsing through fashion boutiques and funky specialty stores, garnished with cool little cafes, salons, and galleries, cut a west-to-east path through the northern Grachtengordel (Canal Belt). Begin at Westermarkt and crisscross Herengracht, Keizersgracht, and Prinsengracht. By doing so, you'll pass through the Negen Straatjes (Nine Streets, though since straatjes is the diminutive of straten, which means streets, the Nine Little Streets), 17th-century side streets that connect the stately big canals in this part of town.
The streets are grouped in three lines of three, on the canal stretches that lie between Westermarkt and Raadhuisstraat in the north, and Leidsegracht and Beulingstraat in the south. From north to south, they are: Reestraat, Hartenstraat, and Gasthuismolensteeg; Berenstraat, Wolvenstraat, and Oude Spiegelstraat; and Runstraat, Huidenstraat, and Wijde Heisteeg.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.