Shopping in Amsterdam
As in any European capital, international fashion labels in Amsterdam are well represented. However, the city truly excels in its range of specialty shops, stocking everything from comic books and vintage vinyl, to 3D holograms and erotic toys.
A stomping ground for hordes of shoppers, pedestrian-only Kalverstraat offers a combination of classy department stores and fashion outlets. PC Hooftstraat, near the museum quarter, is lined with high-end boutiques like Tiffany, Azzurro and Ralph Lauren.
The Spiegelkwartier district is the place to go for art and antiques, with Nieuwe Spiegelstraat being a hotbed for archaeological pieces. Adventurous shoppers should comb De Negenstraatjes - a set of nine narrow streets lined with some seriously quirky boutiques, jewellers and vintage clothing outlets.
For something a little more off the tourist radar, head to Haarlemmerstraat in the Jordaan district. There you'll find everything from ethically-sourced food products to Fair Trade clothing.
One of the liveliest open-air food and clothing markets, the Albert Cuyp Markt extends for miles along Albert Cuypstraat in the eastern district known as De Pijp. Open from Monday to Saturday 0900 to 1700, this is the best place to enjoy a Dutch Stroopwafel prepared fresh here.
Noordermarkt (Boerenmarkt op de Noordermarkt) is another great market. Open on Saturdays from 0900 to 1300, it focuses on organic produce, fresh herbs and homemade cakes. There's also a side market selling various non-food products.
The colourful 'floating' bloemenmarkt (flower market) on the Singel is another worthy diversion, with its vast selection of tulip bulbs that make the perfect souvenir or gift.
In De Hallen, a cultural complex in Amsterdam's Oud-West district, you'll find De Kloffie Markt - an indoor second-hand clothing market that takes place once a month. Another great place for bargains is IJ Hallen flea market which is also held over one weekend every month. IJ Hallen is the city's biggest flea market which charges a small entrance free, but you're very likely to find great bargains from any of its 750 stands.
Right on Dam Square is the hulking Bijenkorf, the city's premier department store, with a good range of clothing, accessories, cosmetics and household items available. Nearby, behind the Royal Palace, is the Magna Plaza - an exclusive shopping centre in a fairy-tale, neo-gothic building. In addition, the Kalvertoren shopping centre in Kalverstraat has a variety of shops and two department stores.
Traditional shopping hours in the main shopping zones such as Kalverstraat are Tuesday to Saturday 1000-1800. Shops usually open an hour later on Monday and have a shorter opening time on Sunday. Many shops in tourist areas tend to open till 2000 or later during weekdays, particularly on Thursday.
Big and centrally located department stores usually open from 1000-1800, although you should also expect them to have a shorter trading time on Monday and Sunday.
Made of three vertical St Andrew's crosses, XXX is Amsterdam's coat of arms for the past 500 years. Contrary to what many people would assume, the city's XXX symbol doesn't signify the Red Light District. Anything emblazoned with the XXX symbol of Amsterdam, whether it's a useful mug or a t-shirt, makes a good souvenir.
Bicycle accessories such as bells or flower-print panniers make a practical reminder of Amsterdam's cycling culture. You can also take home traditional Dutch items in the form of blue and white Delftware pottery. For tulip bulbs, visit the 'floating' flower market alongside the Singel canal.
Edible souvenirs include cheeses (particularly the aged varieties from Gouda), jenever (Dutch gin) and 'drop' candy, a sort of black liquorice that comes in a bewildering array of shapes and sweetness levels.
The VAT is 21%. Non-EU residents can obtain a tax refund by requesting tax receipts when making purchases. Upon departure, they must have these receipts validated at EU Customs at Schiphol Airport, then apply for a refund at the vatfree.com service desk in the Departures section. See www.vatfree.com/nl/ for details.