Istanbul has its Grand Bazaar, Marrakesh its Jamaa el Fna, Cairo its Khan Al-Kahlili. But of all the great outdoor markets of the world, Amsterdam’s Albert Cuypmarkt may be the most laid-back. And certainly the most laden with quintessential Dutch fare and no-nonsense humor. In a city with almost as many street markets as world-renowned museums, the oldest and largest of the former is the Albert Cuyp market, a repository not of fine art and antiquities but rather everything and anything you might need or desire for daily life in the Netherlands and beyond.
Looking for a bike to get around Amsterdam and a chain to lock it up? Need some trendy clothes that won’t leave you strapped for cash? Hungry for anything from Vietnamese spring rolls to freshly made Dutch kibbeling (fried, battered cod) or super sweet stroopwafels (gooey caramel sandwiched between thin waffle cookies)? The Albert Cuypmarkt is the place to satisfy both essential needs and indulgent desires, from urges for edibles to cravings for fantasy lingerie.
By some accounts, family-run Echte Goudse Stroopwaffel is the place to try out a secret stroopwaffel recipe that’s been passed down through generations. Others recommend Wally’s Waffles for warm waffles hot off the press, dusted with powdered sugar or topped with sweet apple or cherry filling, Nutella or candy sprinkles.
Whatever delicacy you opt for in the bustling hive of vendors, tourists and locals, you’ll be shopping in an ambiance nothing like the serene pastoral landscapes of the 17th-century Dutch painter after which the market is named—especially if you visit on a Saturday or sunny weekday. Crowds can be dense on any nice day, but the jostling may be worth your while if you’re searching for bargain textiles, fresh produce at below-supermarket prices, or a wide choice of Dutch breads and cheeses.
Set in the heart of de Pijp, Amsterdam’s bustling Latin Quarter, the Albert Cuypmarkt snakes along its namesake, the Albert Cuypstraat, between Ferdinand Bolstraat and Van Woustraat. Like its counterparts in Europe, Asia and Africa, its tantalizing sights and smells offer insight into the collective soul and culinary palate of a nation, as well as the demographics of its capital.
Products targeted to Amsterdam’s Surinamese, Turkish and Moroccan residents lend a strong multicultural vibe, as do vendors ranging from an Indonesian grandma proffering homemade satés and other delicacies to enthusiastic Dutch merchants selling culinary favorites of Holland.
Reflecting Amsterdam’s diverse melting pot, edible offerings are rich with ingredients from far and wide, befitting a market set in a country that ruled the world’s spice trade in its 17th-century heyday. Along with Albert Cuyp, the landscape painter known for scenes of the Dutch countryside and coast, the market also commemorates singer André Hazes, whose musical gifts were allegedly discovered in the Albert Cuypmarkt. A statue of the late Dutch singer stands at the corner of Albert Cuypstraat and Eerste Sweelinckstraat.
What began as a makeshift collection of pushcarts on the southern outskirts of the city had become a chaotic mess by the early 20th century, inspiring city government to organize a public Saturday evening street market in 1905. The popular event soon morphed into a daytime affair open 9:00–17:00, daily except Sundays, closed to automobile traffic during market hours.
Today’s Albert Cuypmarkt is an eclectic commercial hodgepodge catering to a wide range of needs, from personal grooming and travel to produce, raw herring, flowers, toys, fashion accessories, and sweets. With some 300 stalls operating on both sides of the Albert Cuypstraat rain or shine, there’s something for everyone in the sensory overload.
Multicultural De Pijp
Like the bustling market it surrounds, Amsterdam’s De Pijp is a mosaic of ethnic eateries, shops and casual bistros oozing bohemian flair. Popular with creatives, students and anti-establishment rebels since the ’60s, the neighborhood is home to an eclectic range of restaurants that reflect its multicultural makeup. If you’re craving a sit-down meal after the hubbub of the outdoor bazaar, you have many options along the Albert Cuypstraat.
Far East flavors infuse sushi, yakitori, tempura, and other Japanese finger-food at De Japanner, while family-run Pho 91 serves up healthy Vietnamese fare. Both vegetarians and carnivores can fill up at Venkel, where a make-your-own salad bar brims with fresh greens, grilled veggies, cheese, meat, fish and crunchy toppings. Latin flavors are on the menu at Calle Ocho, named after Miami’s Little Havana main street, a haven for Cuban, Mexican and Caribbean immigrants, evidenced in zingy tacos, salsas and ceviches. Bite into some of the best burgers in town at The Butcher or sample Middle Eastern and North African classics at Bazar.
For dessert, more retail therapy awaits behind the stalls of the Albert Cuypmarkt. Tucked away and largely obscured from the outdoor action are shops proffering computers, pets, furniture, haircuts and more—virtually anything you need or never imagined you desire.