There are dozens of boutique places to shop in Amsterdam and thankfully still lots of independent stores. The city authorities have worked hard to keep international chains out of the centre, strictly limiting the number of fast food joints and coffeeshops (ie: the places that DON’T sell coffee!) within the the historic heart.
If it IS a coffee you’re actually after, the chains you’ll find are, in general, Dutch ones with the likes of Bagels and Beans and Coffee Company far more ubiquitous than Starbucks and co.
But if you want is to hit the shops, then read on. Shopping in Amsterdam is a joy – IF (that’s a big if) – you know where to head.
For us, the independents are what we really love. Those little stores in the city centre that you know probably struggle to make a living, but that we all want to see thriving. They are mostly not clothes shops (though there are many lovely ones scattered around) but rather quirky little enterprises more often than not selling things that none of us really NEED but are small and perfectly formed and simply make us feel happy.
So here then is a selection from chocolate shops to football shops, stationary to sweets and even Amsterdam’s very own “Mouse Mansion”- the boutiques that are hugely unique and that will be eternally grateful for your custom.
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Amsterdammers love sugary stuff and and there are some fabulous boutiques offering world class chocolates and tempting sweets or ‘snoep’ (pronounced snoop) on offer.
Tony’s Chocolonely – a beloved Dutch brand famous for its flavours, packaging and ethos as much as the quality of its chocolate. Branching out around the world, their store in the Westerpark (with its very own rainbow chocolate vending machine) is based under the head office – expect a whole lot more quirk than Cadbury’s World!
Puccini Bomboni – high class (high price) and VERY high quality chocolates at both outlets of this lovely Dutch chocolatier. It’s rather too easy to spend a little too much. Our top tip for a very Dutch foodie souvenir is their version of hagelslag – chocolate sprinkles to be served on white bread with butter – we promise not to tell!
Dutch Homemade – although the window is full of rainbow macarons, its the assortment of sensational ganache chocolate tablets that I adore here. Whilst there are spiced flavours like ginger and coriander, rosemary and flower tea on offer, my favourites are the classics – the highest grade chocolate from around the world laced with tried and trusted flavours of cinnamon, coffee, mint, cherry and “smoky” caramel.
Whilst chain stores are two a penny, there are still lots of one-off places to head for a wardrobe makeover. So ditch H&M and Zara and instead try out these for starters.
Copa – for unique football merch and THE BEST tees in town there is no other place to explore. COPA is a true one-off – expect lots of love and admiration when you wander out in these threads.
Patta – Marc’s fave for urban streetwear – this tiny boutique serves up the hottest limited edition gear beloved by the urban fash pack.
Zipper – if you’re a vintage fiend then you’ll want to allow some time to browse Zipper. An Amsterdam institution based in the 9 Little Streets.
Amsterdam loves a concept store and you’ll find them for both adults and kids around the city offering clothes, a place to grab a coffee, perhaps even a haircut and unique and playful nick nacks that you definitely don’t need but you know you want.
Hutspot – Hutspot is Amsterdam’s original concept store (think a retail outlet and barber in one). In their words: “Hutspot offers a unique combination of pioneering fashion, innovative design and local art. Aiming to curate an accessible platform, we provide young designers and artists an opportunity to sell their goods alongside established brands.” So now you know.
Anna + Nina – jewellery and homeware in ‘cabinets of curiosities’ – lots of trinkets for the magpie in your life.
Things I Like, Things I Love – clothing, accessories, interiors and more, this concept store is the darling of Amsterdam’s lifestyle bloggers who adore its quirky mix of new and vintage cool.
MiniMarkt – looking for super cute kids wear, dreamy kids’ interiors and a place to stop for a hagelslag sandwich for your minis, MiniMarkt is definitely the place for yummy mums and their offspring to head. Park your bakfiets outside and off you go…
Stationary and Magazines
Despite the rise of digital, Amsterdammers still love paper in all its forms. Given the modest population its astonishing how many Dutch magazines and books are published each month and the ‘dead tree business’ is definitely thriving over in the Lowlands.
Like Stationary – we stumbled across this little boutique some time ago and were enchanted by its stylishly curated collection of notebooks, pens and pencils. How these speciality stores keep going is anyone’s guess so if you love all things independent, pop along and buy something to make their day.
De Kinderfeestwinkel – this ‘children’s party shop’ is packed with gorgeous party streamers, cards, pinata’s and more. A breathtaking explosion of rainbow celebration – I love browsing for stocking fillers and special party treats.
Athaneum – looking for international magazines and books in English at one of the city’s largest independent book sellers, then head to Athaneum. Located on the Spui which has a second hand book market on Fridays, there’s something slightly “Left Bank” about the place and the staff who speak excellent English are always keen to help.
Impossible to categorise
Het Muizenhuis Winkel and Werkplats – the ‘mouse mansion’ is the quirkiest and most charming store in town. Even if you don’t have kids, pop in and pick something up for a little one you know. The enchantment is contagious and ‘big kids’ love it here too.
Its a good list, but there’s so much more. If you want to explore the most boutique streets in the city head to the Haarlemmerstraat, the Utrechtstraat and the 9 Little Streets. For antiques wander the streets of the Spiegelkwartier , or spend time browsing the lanes of de Pijp including the Gerard Doustraat and Ferdinand Bolstraat.
Amsterdammers have seen a tsunami of tourists arrive over the years and many locals feel they are being priced out of the centre and are no longer able to enjoy their city without someone standing in the middle of the road taking a selfie or crashing into them on a rental bike. Airbnb hosts are now limited to renting properties out for no more than 30 days a year and there is a complete ban on new hotels opening in the centre but it has proved more difficult to keep boutique shops alive and limit the mushrooming of Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts in the city’s most picturesque spots.
So, wherever you head, be sure to reward the endeavours of boutique store owners around the city and help keep Amsterdam an independent and vibrant city rather than another homogenous global metropolis.
For more about our favourite Dutch clothes brands, this link should help.