The best way to get to know the real Amsterdam is to visit one of its many markets. A microcosm of city life, these are the perfect places to experience the city’s unique urban rhythm as you mix with residents from all walks of life and savour the sound of market sellers plying their trade. Whether you’re looking for books, antiques, flowers or food, here are the best markets to visit in Amsterdam.
The IJ-Hallen, which calls itself “the largest flea market in Europe”, is the best place for bargain hunters who love a good haggle. One weekend a month, over 750 vendors – most of whom are artisans or private sellers – cram into two giant warehouses on the post-industrial NDSM wharf. Shopping here can be a bit of a sport, as there’s a lot of stuff to wade through, from mid-century West German vases to vintage jeans and rare vinyl. But if you have the patience and a keen collector’s eye, chances are that you’ll find something fabulous here. What’s more, prices are reasonable, so you could bag a steal.
Originally home to a 17th-century pottery market, the Noordermarkt is still a marketplace almost 400 years later. On Mondays, there’s a famous flea market where you’ll find a wide range of secondhand goods for sale and a by-the-yard textiles market that runs down the length of the adjacent Westerstraat. On Saturdays, the busy market square is split between an antique market and a renowned organic farmer’s market, where vendors enthusiastically sell products from their farms while dispensing handy advice and, sometimes, even recipes. Don’t miss the brilliant Portabella, a mushroom trader that deserves a special mention for its service and sheer variety of freshly picked mushrooms. After you’ve sampled several kinds of seasonal cheeses and stocked up on local fruit, honey and nuts, stop by Winkel 43 for the city’s best apple pie.
“The Cuyp”, as the local people call it, has been open for business six days a week, come rain or shine, since 1905. Sure, it’s a bit touristy, but it’s still a good one-stop shop for fresh fruit and veggies, quality fish and poultry, affordable flowers, cheap clothing and overpriced souvenirs. It’s also centrally located south of the Canal Belt and offers an unbeatable atmosphere of typical market hustle and bustle. While you’re here, get your syrupy stroopwafels (waffle-like caramel cookies) hot off the griddle at Original Stroopwafels or try traditional Dutch herring from Vlaardingse Haringhandel, if you dare. Visit early on weekdays to avoid the worst crowds, or late in the afternoon to score the best deals.
Every week, thousands of culture vultures descend on this small square in Centrum for its must-visit book and art markets. With an abundance of everything from ancient hardbacks to rare art books (much of it in English), the Boekenmarkt, which takes place on Fridays, is a great market to quietly browse, connect with book lovers and barter with merchants. Or visit Artplein Spui, on Sundays, a contemporary art market with an emphasis on paintings and sketches. Here, you can purchase works directly from local and international artists without the additional charge of a gallery commission. The atmosphere is lively and fun, with the shouts of haggling mingling with the bang of drums from nearby street performers.
Officially open since May 2019, Amsterdam’s latest food hall has breathed new life into the monumental Magna Plaza behind Dam Square in the heart of the Old Centre. Lining the top floor of the former post office is a winsome marketplace of world cuisine, with 14 food stands and three bars. Whether you’re a meat or veggie lover, there’s something for you – though Bepita’s Israeli arais and sabich (lamb- or grilled-aubergine-and-egg-stuffed pita pockets) are particularly good – so be sure to pack your appetite. If you can’t get enough of the concept, do take the time to visit the Foodhallen, too. Situated in the refurbished belly of a former tram depot in the Oud-West neighbourhood, there are 21 globally focused food stands and four bars. The latest addition to the line-up, Pastrami, pairs brioche buns with flavourful Dutch pastrami, house-made pickles and horseradish mayonnaise (mustard optional).
Forget the floating Bloemenmarkt, which now, controversially, sells more flowery souvenirs than actual bouquets and bulbs. Instead, on Mondays, head to the little-known Amstelveld in Centrum where, next to a white wooden church from the 1670s, you’ll find a picture-perfect flower and plant market surrounded by canals and trees. It’s small yet authentic, and it’s where the Canal Belt crowd go to stock up on all that is green, leafy and gorgeous, before heading to one of the many square-side cafés for coffee.