Once a major seafaring and trading powerhouse, the Netherlands has a rich history when it comes to steadfast bargaining. So it’s no surprise that even today Amsterdam boasts no fewer than 32 markets, some of which have been going for nearly 100 years, each with their own distinct character (and plenty of eccentrics behind the stalls).
Whether it’s vintage clothes, flowers, bric-à-brac or antique furniture you’re after, there’s an outdoor shopping destination for you. So if you’ve ticked off most of the major attractions and things to do, ignore the bland high street chains and tourist tat, and head instead to one of these unmissable Amsterdam markets.
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Best markets in Amsterdam
If you only visit one street market while you’re here, make it ‘the Cuyp’. Going since 1905, it’s a one-stop shop for fresh meat, fish, fruit and veg, clothes, jewellery and just about everything else, and is well worth wandering simply to soak up the atmosphere. If you’re peckish, do try the roast chicken or herring; stroopwafels will do the trick for those with a sweet tooth. And make sure to hang out at the intersection between Albert Cuypstraat and Eerste van der Helststraat – it’s awash with cafés, bars and cool little boutiques.
Tulips are synonymous with the Netherlands, and if a visit to Keukenhof is out of the question, Bloemenmarkt is the next best thing. The world’s only floating flower market consists of huge number of stalls strung together along one of the centre’s longer canals, selling all manner of blooms. Tulip bulbs are an obvious gift, but you can also find roses, orchids, seeds and intricate bouquets for every occasion.
A haven for foodies, Jordaan’s plush Noodermarkt showcases the region’s finest organic produce every Saturday. It’s not cheap, but everything here is premium quality, and utterly delicious. Check beforehand what’s in season – asparagus in May, mushrooms in October – or simply ask what’s good; stallholders are more than happy to advise.
Originally known as the ‘Jewish market’ because of its location in the former Jewish district, this site has drawn stallholders since 1885. More than 300 now trade here, with a focus on vintage clothes, cheap bric-à-brac and secondhand goods. Bargains are plentiful – particularly when it comes to bikes, antiques and jewellery – and you’ll find plenty of locals hanging around what’s thought to be the biggest and best flea market in Amsterdam.
Art markets may conjure images of tacky caricature drawings or the terrible paintings found on the walls of cheap hotels, but this Spui Square fixture is one for genuine art lovers. For more than 25 years Dutch and international artists have showcased their painting and sketches to in-the-know locals looking to pick up classy bargains. Sculptors, glass-smiths, jewellers and mixed media artists exhibit here, too, making it a fun way to while away a few hours (even if your baggage restrictions mean you can’t take all that much home).
It might be smaller than Noodermarkt, but the quality is just as good at Nieuwmarkt. Farmers have been coming here, the site of an old city gate, since the 17th Century, and many still prefer it over its glitzier Jordaan rival. Ultra-fresh organic produce is on offer every Saturday – and at wallet-friendlier prices too – alongside a few flower and wine vendors. Don’t miss out on the freshly squeezed orange juice stall, and make sure to drop by the stand selling corn on the cob, boiled in front of you and slathered in rich, salty Dutch butter.
Forget about dog-eared copies of old books no one cares about – Boekenmarkt is run by experts who really know their stuff. Merchants here travel from all over the country to man their stalls on Fridays, selling rare and out-of-print books, vintage maps and postcards, and hard-to-find periodicals. If you’re a collector or after something specific, ask around; chances are, somebody here can help. Or simply browse the beautifully organised stacks of books – they’re all killer, no filler.
Held in a converted shipbuilding warehouse one weekend a month, this is the largest flea market of its kind in Europe. Anyone can rent one of the 500 stands, but the market has one simple rule: everything must be secondhand. For some, it’s a chance to offload whatever junk is clogging up their home, but there are plenty of vintage finds to be had for the intrepid bargain hunter. It’s worth a trip for the free ferry ride from behind Centraal station alone.
This is where many Amsterdammers choose to do their grocery shopping. Food is obviously the real star here – great-value meat, fish, fruit and veg – but there are also stalls selling home essentials, clothes and electrical goods. Some decent cafés and an array of excellent restaurants can be found in and around the area, too.
Not strictly a market, this indoor street food mecca is still unmissable. Housed in a refurbished tram depot, the food truck-style stalls and bars that line the main hall offer cuisine from all over the world, from Mexican to sushi, BBQ to Italian. There’s plenty of seating, but if it’s nice out many choose to get their food to go. Independent stores sit alongside the food hall, and there’s a multiscreen cinema next door if you want to make a day of it.
On Sundays from May to October, the site of Nieuwmarkt turns into a haven for budding Lovejoys. Ornaments, furniture and assorted bric-à-brac jostle for attention in stalls crammed full of curios, and there are plenty of vintage clothing vendors too. It’s not quite as eclectic as the Waterlooplein Market, but the standard of goods sold tends to be higher – you can dig out some dazzling period pieces here. The pace is also somewhat more relaxed, with a definite ‘Sunday vibe’ encouraging idle browsing.
Vintage clothing will always have a certain cachet, and in Amsterdam those in the know head to the Noodermarkt site every Monday morning for Lapjesmarkt. Really two markets in one, there’s a clothing side – shoes, denim, leather and fur coats are just some of the delights on offer – and a craft market selling fabric, textiles, buttons, ribbons, yarn and anything else you might need to do a spot of sewing.
Looking to tick off the big-hitting sights?
Here’s a challenge – name a European city that’s more fun, diverse or simply eclectic than the Dutch capital. Difficult, right? However long you’re here for, a packed, personalised cultural schedule can be cobbled together in no time. Museums? Clubs? Outdoor sports? There’s no place better.