Shopping in Amsterdam

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Amsterdam Shopping

What will be your perfect gift? A folkloric koekeplank (cookie mould)? A Makkum ceramic herring platter? A box of those delicious hard candies called Haagse Hopjes? A cutting-edge vest styled by Viktor & Rolf? A psychedelically hued ski cap from Oilily? Or one of those other delights that have made contemporary Dutch design the darling of high-style fans the world over?

Whether you go for Baroque antiques or for post-millennium fashion, the variety of goods available in Amsterdam energizes a continuous parade of boutiques, street markets, and department stores. Be it for the millionaire trade or economy-minded nabobs, hunting in Amsterdam for that special purchase is akin to grand entertainment.

Where do shop-till-you-droppers love to melt their credit cards? Amsterdam's priciest street: the P.C. Hooftstraat, located in the Museum District and affectionately called the P.C. (pronounced "Pay Say"). Here, staff members treat customers like visiting royalty, BMWs are parked along the street, and many shop interiors mimic stately Dutch mansions, replete with marble floors, crystal chandeliers and antique furnishings arrayed for your comfort. Even if shopping the P.C. is beyond your budget, you might indulge voyeuristic tendencies and drink an overpriced glass of wine at one of the chic outdoor terraces while watching the Beautiful People parade by. Don't neglect the Van Baerlestraat and the Willemsparkweg, (just steps away from the P.C. Hooftstraat), where you're likely to discover a stunning lamp or home accessory.

At the other end of the scale, tackle the more youthful crowds on the Damrak and Nieuwendijk, where shops blasting deafening music stand shoulder to shoulder, selling inexpensive fashions and club/street wear for the young and trendy, along with cheesy souvenirs. If it all gets too noisy and crowded, but you're not shopped out yet, traverse the Rokin, where it's more refined, spacious and quiet, with proportionately escalated prices.

Amsterdam is an antique-lover's paradise. Collectors, museum curators, and antique dealers routinely shop here for old Delft and Makkum treasures. The Spiegel Quarter is home to elegant antiques shops whose beautiful displays include a variety of antique art, maps, furnishings, jewelry and clocks. If you enjoy the thrill of the chase, explore the short, maze-like streets of the Jordaan, where you'll stumble upon a surprising number of tiny specialist antique businesses. The perfect Dutch "antique" is a piece of authentic Delftware. The key word is "authentic." A variety of blue and white "delft" is available in a range of brands and prices, and you can pick up attractive souvenir-quality "delft" pieces at any giftware shop. But the real McCoy is known as Royal Delft and it can be found in the better giftware shops, such as those on the Rokin and the P.C. Hooftstraat, and bear the worthy name of De Porceleyne Fles. Blue is no longer the only official color; today, you can find "New Delft," a range of green, gold, and black hues, whose exquisite miniscule figures are drawn to resemble an old Persian tapestry; the Pynacker Delft, borrowing Japanese motifs in rich oranges and golds, and the brighter Polychrome Delft, which can strike a brilliant sunflower-yellow effect.

Another great gift is chocolates, as Holland is a chocoholic's mecca. Everyone knows the mmmmmmm-boy flavors crafted by Droste and Van Houten but, droolingly, we recommend one of the city's noted "chocolateries," such as Puccini Bomboni.

If you have enough time during your stay, shop at one of the outdoor markets for a "total immersion" experience and a sense of how old this city is. At the Albert Cuypmarkt, while bombarded by vendors hawking their wares, the multi-lingual hubbub and ethnic diversity of the crowd, and the exciting selection of goods, keep in mind that the scene before you is pretty much unchanged from centuries ago. Go to it, and how we envy you!

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