Wondering what to buy in Amsterdam? These quality souvenirs might just be the answer
What makes the best Amsterdam souvenir is pretty subjective but whilst The Netherlands offers stacks of wonderful gifts to bring back as mementos of your stay its fair to say that there is also a ton of tat out there. So if you feel that what to buy in Amsterdam is a bit of a conundrum, skip past the plastic tulips, hurry by the furry clogs, and give the “delft blue pottery made in Asia” a miss, here is where to find some really amazing Amsterdam treasures to take home for you and your loved ones.
Oh and don’t stop reading when you get to the kids’ section – the vast majority of these make perfect gifts for grown-ups too!
Much typically Dutch food is easily transportable. Why? Well because lots of it is sugar-based. We’ll get onto the sweet stuff in just a minute but you’re after something authentic look no further, the following all make wonderful Dutch souvenirs – that is if you can get them home before you start tucking in.
Right, this is probably the souvenir you were expecting to see top the list so here goes. Visitors to Amsterdam inevitably expect to come back with fabulous cheese but many are talked into mass-produced plastic-wrapped atrocities that are probably less good than anything you’d find in your local supermarket. If you’re after something more authentic, from a vendor who actually knows the local farmers whose produce they sell, your best bet is to start at the market. The Noordermarkt is a wonderful option if you’re in the city on a Saturday, or the nearby Linden market both of which stock a fantastic variety of cheeses from smaller producers and will happily let you sample as many as you like. If however, you’re determined to buy from a store and want your purchases vacuum packed, there are many to recommend. We strongly advise that you give Henri Willig, the Old Amsterdam Cheese Store or worst of all the shops at Schipol Airport a miss (and avoid the Cheese Museum at all costs!). Instead, make your way to one of these authentic vendors where staff can take you on a dairy safari through some quality options.
With locations in North, East and West, Fromagerie Abrahm Kef is a brilliant option. Although they also do a fabulous line in French cheeses for locals, their knowledge and supply of raw-milk small-produce Dutch cheese is no less impressive. Better still, if you can get over to their branch in Noord you can book in for an all Dutch cheese tasting in their tasting rooms accompanied by wine or craft beer or even charcuterie, pâtés and rillettes from Amsterdam artisanal butcher De Pasteibakkerij.
Cheesehouse Tromp has three branches in the city and ten beyond but this is no chain and their expertise is second to none. Samples and advice come freely and, like everywhere in Amsterdam, the knowledgable staff have a superb command of English. Ask for your cheese to be vacuum packed for travel and away you go.
For visitors exploring the foodie area De Pijp, there are lots of cheesy treasures to discover. As well as vendors at the Albert Cuyp Market, those in the know head to Le Salonard – a lovely deli offering cheese and wine in which the owner will delight in sharing the provenance of what is on offer over one his legendary sandwiches or brownies.
For visitors who find themselves South of the city in the business district, the place to head is L’Amuse at Olympiaplein. This cheese boutique once again stocks a variety of European cheeses but there are no shortage of Dutch options along with hugely informative staff who will guide you through the artisanal offering.
Syrup waffles are sold around the world in Starbucks, but trust me, those don’t compare to the real deal. If you’re looking for some to take home you could do worse than supermarket Albert Heijn where you’ll find a really good variety of flavours in tins for easy transport, but for something more handmade check out all our favourite places here – many market stroopwafel vendors will also sell bags of broken bits which would make an amazing gift for a Dutch-style banoffee pie or cheesecake base!
Spiced cookies are incredibly Dutch and speculaas spice pops up all over the place in everything from apple pie to ice cream. Buy some biscuits from ubiquitous supermarket Albert Heijn in the shape of a windmill or a Dutch house and enjoy this delicious flavour even when you are far away from the canals. (I should add that many visitors buy tins of chocolate cookies from Van Stapele – good as these might be, they aren’t typically Dutch so get them as an “and” rather than an “or”.)
Whilst we’re on the subject of chocolate, there’s one Dutch brand that’s been making waves around the world and there’s nowhere better to get it (and much of their other fabulous merchandise) than their showcase stores in Amsterdam. There’s so much to say about Tony’s Chocolonely that we’ve written a whole post about it here. Fill your suitcase and feel good.
It’s fair to say that liquorice or Drop is a Dutch obsession. Shapes and flavours can seem infinite at times but the broad quadrant forces a choice between hard and soft, salty and sweet. Again, supermarkets do a pretty good trade but stores like Jamin will allow you to pick and mix or for something more traditional try Jacob Hooey, a historic apothecary dating back to 1743 though its fair to say that in those days it didn’t find itself quite as close to the Red Light District!
Apple Pie from Winkel (or speculaas spice)
Ok, I’m going ambitious here but why not. I appreciate its pretty impractical but those in the know will tell you that Winkel does the WORLD’S BEST apple pie, and if you call a day in advance you can order a whole one to take away. You’d probably have to get a large plastic box to pack it in but honestly you’re guaranteed a true taste of the city on your return. If that does sound like too much of a faff, the next best alternative is to buy authentic speculaas spice and recreate it yourself at home. I find that Whole Foods-alike store Marqt (branches around the city) does a fabulous version (ask for a tub of ‘Speculaaskruiden’) and substitute the spices in this recipe with your authentic locally-bought mix.
Food is all well and good, but many visitors to Amsterdam are after something a little more long-lasting. Fret-not! Here are suggestions that will keep the memories long after you’ve returned back home.
One of the most typically Dutch specialities is Deft Blue pottery however 99% of what you’ll find now are cheap reproductions made in China. If you’re after something more authentic, take your time (and your wallet!) and browse the gorgeous antique stores in the Nieuwe Spiegelstraat. Alternatively, for more modern but truly beautiful pieces look out for Blauw Bloesem designed by Debbie Wijskamp. Inspired by old crockery and pottery these textured pieces are stunning and I for one would be delighted to receive one. Look out for them in the disappointingly touristy Heinen Delfts Blauw stores around the city.
Taking bulbs home to plant in your garden can be one of the most magical options for sensory mementos of your trip. Do not, I repeat DO NOT buy these at the horrific “floating flower market” or in the tourist stores. If you need persuading, it was recently revealed that just 1% of bulbs bought here actually flower! Instead, shop direct from amazing sellers like FAM Flowerfarm or from Annemieke’s Pluktuin (picking garden) who have a stand at Saturday’s Noordermarkt.
Even if you can’t or don’t want to transport cheese, a kaasschaaf (literally cheese shaver) could be a lovely alternative. Available from cheese vendors around the city, try to get yours from a proper cheese expert rather than a tourist shop if you actually want to pull cheese with it rather than keep it as decoration.
Speculaas biscuit moulds
Even if you take biscuits home with you, for many the urge to bake your own can take over. As well as bringing back speculaas spice as mentioned previously, why not buy a beautiful mould for the ultimate in home bakes. The delightful Dille and Kamille has many gorgeous homeware treats but we can highly recommend these biscuit moulds for bakers keen to fill their homes with the smell of Dutch baking.
Art and Jewellery
It’s hard to recommend physical stores selling Amsterdam Art that goes beyond the tat however its always worth a look at the iAmsterdam store in Central Station; in local markets like the Sunday Market and at places like the Maker Market in De Hallen. Other quality stores include Entrepot Holland; Art Unlimited and Spiegel. Online look for designers like Studio Ellessi or the gorgeous papercuts done by Famille Summer Belle – one of which graces our very own wall.
Anyone who knows a keen cyclist may well want to bring back a typically Dutch cycling gift. Seat covers are a fantastic option for two-wheel fans living in countries as wet as The Netherlands or how about a shiny new bell. There are many specialist bike shops but you can do a lot worse than head to beloved Dutch institution HEMA (branches across the city) who always have a fun and enormously affordable selection.
There are many native Dutch clothing brands – details here but if you’re looking for something that literally shouts Amsterdam please give the horrible Bulldog merchandise a miss and instead check out Nuff Said. An Amsterdam Problem Child tshirt could just be the perfect memento.
For football lovers, another option is to check out our very favourite store COPA. Here you’ll find the coolest football merch around and a large number of retro Dutch football jackets and shirts as well as some Ajax specials (see more below in the kids’ section!)
Gifts for kids (and big kids!)
Keep reading! Even if you aren’t looking an Amsterdam gift for the kids in your life, the suggestions below may very well appeal to big kids too.
Food gifts for kids
I wasn’t sure whether to create a separate section for kids’ food or whether to leave these treats in the main list but suffice to say that I know some VERY big kids who still enjoy all of these options.
Yup we’re on the sweet stuff! Astonishingly Dutch kids manage to be healthy AND eat sugary sprinkles for breakfast. Supermarkets are the easiest place to get this (head to one of the large branches of Albert Heijn for our kids’ fave – hagelslag vending machines!) or go for the quality option at the wonderful Puccini Bomboni. It may be about 5 times the price but it’s at least 10 times the quality as its made with real chocolate.
If you’re in Amsterdam in November/December you’ll be hitting peak “Sinterklaas” season. A little like Santa Claus, Sint brings foodie treats for young ones along with other gifts and the city is full of delights at this time of year. Chocolate initials are particularly wonderful. You’ll find everything from fun aand affordable at stores like HEMA, to mid-price versions at shops like Jamin or go more upmarket Dow proxy but high-quality chocolate at shops like Puccini Bomboni and Van Soest.
Non food gifts for kids
Miffy toys and gifts
Dick Bruna’s Nijntje or Miffy is one of the most adorable and adored children’s characters of all time. Toys shops and museum stores across the city will have lots of merchandise on offer, but for the complete selection including books in English, head to De Winkel Van Nijntje (or Nijntje’s shop) and immerse yourself in this rabitty world.
The Mouse Mansion souvenirs
Amsterdam has a unique and magical store called the Mouse Mansion where author Karina Schaapman has let her imagination run free creating dioramas which she photographs for her books about Sam and Julia. Buy her glorious books (in English) and mousey mementos in her boutique.
Ah Ajax… too much to say about this magnificent fooball club here, although this post will give you far more detail. Ajax merchandise is a brilliant option for young fans and old alike. Head to the store in the Kalverstraat or make your way to the Amsterdam Arena for the full selection.
That’s just about it, but if what you really really want is actually the (admittedly rather cute) crochet tulip in the main picture, you’ll have to download the pattern here.