Amsterdam is not only a historic and cultural paradise but also a shopping paradise. You will find something for yourself, no matter what you are into. Amsterdam is a city for art lovers, fashion lovers, design lovers, sale lovers, souvenir lovers and basically, anyone.
Shopping in Amsterdam, you should consider:
- Bringing along a suitcase or more space
- Bringing a credit and a debit card
- To bring along your own shopping bags
- Where to buy clothes
- Getting the best souvenirs
- Taxes Refund at shops
- Opening times: shops close at 5-6 pm
- Visit Museums Shops
- Where to buy cheese
- Where to buy flowers
These are some of the tips that would make your shopping experience in Amsterdam much nicer. If you want to know why and many more nice ideas, keep reading. After several years living in Amsterdam and being close to declare myself a shopaholic, this is what I have learned:
Shopping in Amsterdam: 10 Tips
Amsterdam is a great city to do any type of shopping. For very specific purchases, you should come prepared and do your research because that would make your experience much pleasant. For general shoppers like myself and, in general terms, for anyone, these are some of my top 10 tips for making your shopping experience much pleasant.
Tip 1: Bring along a Suitcase
If you are planning on doing some shopping, you should really consider how much space your purchases would take over on your hand luggage or suitcase. I have experienced a lot of people (including my older brother and his wife) that even after bringing themselves a big suitcase each, they had to buy a new one after doing A LOT of shopping in Primark and Episode.
I recommend you calculating your free space when you are packing or considering bringing along a new bag or half-empty suitcase to fit all your shopping. Otherwise, you will have to restrict your shopping.
If you see yourself in the need of buying a suitcase, there are three places where you will be able to find one rather quickly:
- The airport: of course, in Schiphol, before entering security, you will be able to buy a suitcase, before doing the check-in luggage.
- Kalverstraat: the big shopping street in the centre of Amsterdam also features some suitcase shops for tourists in need.
- Primark: I believe the cheapest suitcases you will be able to find in Primark, on the top floor of the building. All sizes and all types for a cheap price. My brother’s choice.
Tip 2: Pay by card
In the Netherland, most of the times you will be asked to pay by card, or paying by card will be the fastest option. From public transportation, to taxis, to a chewing gum at the supermarket. If you are coming from outside of the EU or you have a different currency anyway, consider using your credit or debit card for everything before even exchanging your money to get euros. If your bank has a good rate it may be way more convenient in all senses.
Tip 3: Bring a bag along
If you know you want to do some shopping that day, I recommend you putting in your handbag or your backpack a spare shopping bag or tote bag. Dutch people are very into recycling and doing their best contribution to the environment, which means some shops may not have bags for you, you will have to pay a considerable amount for a bag or even get a fabric bag.
Most street markets won’t give you a bag, on every supermarket you will have to pay it, in some high street shops you will also have to pay for it, on vintage shops and fancier ones, you will be asked to pay for a tote bag of fabric. If you have your own bags, bringing it along is a good idea.
Tip 4: Where to go for Shopping
Last week I wrote the ultimate Shopping Edit with all the relevant information about the best shopping areas in Amsterdam. My tip here it is to focus on what you are looking for. Are you looking for a place where to get cheap clothes? are you looking for something original? are you looking for vintage shopping? are you looking for high-end?
Amsterdam is big and distracting. Shopping here can be time consuming and never ending. If you know what you want, go directly to where you need to go:
- For a lower budget: Primark has 5 floors of interesting options.
- For a high-end investment: Batavia Stad can be a good option, as well as going to De Bijenkorft
- For vintage shopping: Episode is everyone’s favourite.
- For original shops: 9 Streets or de Pijp are the areas where you will be able to find original shops.
Tip 5: Getting Souvenirs
In Amsterdam, you can get souvenirs EVERYWHERE. But if you are like me and my family and you are looking for something different, cute or useful, or something besides the typical postcard, I recommend you check out these places:
- The flower market has the most beautiful house magnets. You can get a couple of them and recreate the little tall houses by the canal.
- Believe it or not, some of the most original yet cheap souvenirs you can find in Primark. They always have tea towels, aprons, cups and many other interesting things for a cheap price. Much recommended.
- Old postcards: in Spiegelkwartier, close to the Rijksmuseum, you will be able to find a lot of antique stores and art stores. If buying art is not on your budget, you can always get some old postcards and old photos, an original gift.
Tip 6: Taxes
There are several things you should know about taxes refund and how you can get your money back when shopping in the Netherlands. Taxes work different in each country so here it is what I know about it and what you should do to get back your money after your holidays in the Netherlands:
- You can get a refund of the taxes (VAT normally a 21% of the price) as long as the total of your bill is over 40 euros. If it is lower, you can’t ask for a refund.
- Most stores give you a refund form if you ask for it. This means that you can fill it up on the store as soon as you made your purchase and ask for all the bureaucratic stuff (stamps, signature, correct articles code and so on). If you do it on the store it means that you are making sure everything is correct and that you are saving time if you forget to do it and you have to fill up the forms at the airport.
- Always remember to go to the VAT (taxes) desk at Schiphol airport. It is located on the second floor and you will only see it if you have check in luggage. If you don’t have check in luggage, go to the second floor at the airport and look fir the VAT desk. Normally, there is the biggest queue waiting for the tax refund, so go ahead of time (maybe instead of 2 hours in advance, 3 hours in advance). You don’t want to miss your flight for a 30 euros refund.
- Always keep your receipts, both for entering your country and for exiting the Netherlands. You never know and you may be asked for it at security or at the declaring desk.
Tip 7: Opening times
While working as a receptionist, one of the most common questions I would get asked is when things close down. In the Netherlands, like in most Northern European countries, everything closes between 5 and 6:00pm. There are very few shops, most of them international companies in the city centre, that open until 9:00pm (among them De Bijenkorf, Magna Plaza, Primark, AH, etc).
Smaller shops, museums, most lunch restaurants and cafes close at 5pm. If you want to make the most out of your time in Amsterdam, your time is between 9-10am until 5-6pm. The busiest hours are 2 and 3pm, the opposite to most Mediterranean countries.
It is also important to know that in Amsterdam everything opens on Sundays, some restaurants may have their own schedule but Sundays are like any other day of the week for everything else.
Tip 8: Museum Shops
The second most important part of a museum is the museum shop. I personally love visiting museums and Amsterdam is the ideal place to do so. But something I also love after visiting a museum, is checking out the merchandising they have.
Museums in Amsterdam don’t only sell merchandising but also a lot of independent designer’s items, something you won’t be able to find somewhere else. Checking out the museum shops is a great opportunity to find special and unique pieces and help out younger and living artists.
Tip 9: Buying Cheese
If you are wondering if you are allowed to buy cheese and bring it to your country, most countries, including the US, have problem with meat but not with cheese and dairy products. In any case, my tip is to always get your cheese vacuumed closed. This is something you will be able to ask at most cheese shops.
In any case, you will be able to find cheese in the following shops:
- Supermarket: they also have vacuumed closed cheeses there
- Schiphol airport: while waiting for your flight, you can do some cheese shopping
- Cheese shops: everywhere in Amsterdam. Check out the ultimate Cheese Lover Guide.
Tip 10: Buying Flowers
A lot of people want to buy flowers to bring them to their countries. I am not sure how every country works, but it is not always allowed to travel with it. In any case, if you want to bring flowers along but don’t want to buy them in the city my tip is:
Wait to make your flower purchases in Schiphol, it is not that much more expensive and you won’t have to deal with it on your way to the airport and around the city. If you are looking for bulbs, inside the airport you will also be able to find them. You can wait to pass all the security lines and then make your purchases.