Amsterdam's Nine Streets is the city's best boutique district, writes Shaney Hudson.
If you didn't know it was there, you could easily miss it. Located just beyond the Royal Palace and divided by the canal belt is a small grid of side streets that is home to Amsterdam's best boutique shopping district, the Nine Streets. Renowned for its concentration of Dutch designers, vintage clothing and pop-up boutiques, the area was once the treasured shopping secret of locals, fashionistas and hotel concierges.
In the past decade, the area has grown in prominence among international travellers as Amsterdam solidifies its position as a major river cruise port.
To promote the area, small blue "9 Straatjes" signs are placed below street signs in the shopping district, and handy blue maps available in shops (in English and Dutch) list the boutiques, cafes and stores on every street.
The Nine Streets were once home to a series of leather tanneries. Continuing this tradition is Amsterdam-based atelier Hester van Eeghen (hestervaneeghen.com), who established her first boutique on the Hartenstraat in 1988. Today, the street is home to two of her boutiques, one showcasing her bold and colourful shoe designs at No.1, the other, at No.37, focusing on her range of handbags, purses and accessories.
Over on Berenstraat 18, you'll discover another internationally renowned Dutch brand, lingerie boutique Marlies Dekkers (marliesdekkers.com). The designer's racy undergarments were popularised in the 1990s by the fashion-focused TV show Sex & the City. On the same street you'll also find one of three Scotch & Soda (scotch-soda.com) stores located in the Nine Streets. The Amsterdam-based lifestyle and clothing brand includes a special children's boutique.
While the Nine Streets showcases a number of Dutch brands, specialist shoppers will be delighted with the incredible selection of vintage shopping on offer, from the exclusive watches at Amsterdam Watch Company (awco.nl) for him, to the drool-worthy collection of vintage Louis Vuitton handbags at L' Etoile de Saint Honore (etoile-luxuryvintage.com) for her.
Two of the best vintage hotspots are Episode (episode.eu), a two-storey vintage paradise where the clothes are arranged according to style (trench coats on one rack, poodle skirts on another), and Nine Streets favourite Laura Dols (lauradols.nl), across the canal.
Laura Dols is the kind of specialist vintage boutique connoisseurs dream of, with three rooms of vintage clothes in exceptional condition at reasonable prices. Specialising in items from the 1950s, the lower floor is filled with vintage bridal and ball gowns, tuxedos and top hats, while upstairs you'll find ready-to-wear items, a children's section, and antique linen.
A few stores down from Laura Dols is the increasingly popular Carre d'artistes (en.carredartistes.com), a unique art store showcasing original work from more than 20 European artists, including local Jan Hein Arens. Here, a candy store of contemporary, accessible art is sold in four different suitcase-friendly sizes at fixed prices.
While there are a number of independent art and photography bookstores located throughout the Nine Streets, the area is also close to the Bible Museum, Felix Meritis European Centre for Art, Culture and Science, and the Brilmuseum (brilmuseumamsterdam.nl), which celebrates 700 years of vintage eyewear, and also sells vintage frames.
Those needing to rest their heels and fuel up for the next round of shopping can head to Screaming Beans (screamingbeans.nl), which brews one of the best cups of coffee in Amsterdam (along with offering a decent selection of sandwiches for lunch). On the weekends, foodie-minded fashionistas head to Envy (envy.nl) overlooking the canal, which has been awarded the Bib Gourmand six years in a row by the Michelin Guide. There's no shortage of sandwich shops and cafes along the Nine Streets, but one of the most exciting additions is pop-up restaurant Thrill Grill (thrillgrill.nl), which began life as a burger-based food truck.
The Nine Streets is increasingly the pop-up location of choice for up-and-coming designers and flagship brands. Most recently, online fashion store Day & Beyond (dayandbeyond.com) chose a location in the Nine Streets for its limited-edition spring retail boutique, while the retail space at Berenstraat 24 (berenstraat24.nl) operates as a permanent pop-up store, offering leases from two weeks to two months. It's a chance for fledgling brands to test the retail waters for their products - but also a reason for shoppers to return and see what is new.
Aside from the quality shopping, the key appeal of the area remains its location along Amsterdam's beautiful canal belt and away from the main tourist drag.
Crossing the bridges between the Nine Streets allows a charming view of Dutch daily life - cyclists bike along the canals, window boxes are filled with tulips, and centuries-old canal houses slag and slump against each other in a picture-perfect manner.
The writer travelled at her own expense.