In our 5 Shops series, we’ll point you in the direction of our favorite independent shops across some of the world’s best cities. From food markets to bookshops, vintage and homegrown design, we’ve found a diverse and exciting mix of local retailers where you can pick up one-of-a-kind pieces.

Despite the growing presence of upmarket shops, Amsterdam has successfully maintained its free-spirited and alternative energy. You'll still find a wide variety of independently owned shops, hidden away along the cobblestone streets of the compact Dutch capital.

If you're planning a visit to Amsterdam in the near future and seeking something unique to bring back home, start by checking out five of my favorite independently owned shops.

Collage of images from a brightly-lit Amsterdam store with shots of colorful homeware, accessories and prints

Best for souvenirs: The Maker's Store

Amsterdam is one of the most visited cities in the world, and souvenir shops are ubiquitous. But if you want to tap into the city's homegrown creative scene for a gift to take home, try The Maker Store for something special. This is where local, sustainable, and handmade products get the spotlight. Here, you can explore independent brands on display, from art, homewares, clothing, books, and jewelry to delicious goodies to eat and drink — mostly created by locals. From hot sauce to scented candles, I've picked out plenty of unique treats from The Maker Store. Next, I want to add a colorful illustration from Pansy to my collection (€25). 

Keep an eye out for their monthly Makers Market, where vendors display their bespoke products. Located inside De Hallen, a renovated tram depot turned cultural complex, the surrounding area also has cafés, a movie theater, more shops, and the ever-popular Foodhallen market.

Collage of images from an Amsterdam women's fashion boutique including shots of dresses, fluffy hats and colorful shirts

Best for local design: X Bank

Located in the heart of  Amsterdam’s city center, X BANK is a bright, 300-sq-meter (3230-sq-ft) store that's packed to the rafters with high-fashion brands. The staff here are really welcoming and on my visits they've been happy to chat and share insights about the hundreds of brands in their collection. Fashionistas will appreciate renowned brands like Viktor & Rolf alongside distinctive, emerging designers such as 1/OFF and Atelier Reservé. When exploring their lifestyle products, a box of handcrafted soaps from Het Amsterdamse Zeehuis (€29) and the Marie-Stella-Maris Lemon Notes candle (€39) both caught my eye recently.

It's a cool place to explore even for aesthetics. X BANK shares a building with W Amsterdam, and inside the building (a historic bank) nods to its previous function are still evident, including antique safety deposit boxes that form the cashier’s desk. 

Collage of images from Amsterdam thrift store including a shot of the store exterior and close-up images of colorful clothes on display

Best for thrift/vintage: Penny Lane

There are several flea markets and second-hand shops across Amsterdam, but Penny Lane Vintage is my favorite. You'll definitely find something special here among the handpicked assortment of neutral-toned trench coats, colorful knitwear, statement sunglasses and silk scarves. When browsing their selection, you'll likely discover designer gems from Burberry, MaxMara, or Jean-Paul Gautier in the mix too. That means that prices generally run higher than buy-in-bulk shops. On a recent visit I was tempted by a stylish tweed blazer (€69), but it wasn't the perfect fit, so my hunt continues.

Penny Lane is located in the lively De Pijp neighborhood so I recommend giving yourself time to explore the area too. It's home to numerous concept shops, cozy bars, and the popular Albert Cuyp market

Collage of images from the American Book Center in Amsterdam including shots of the shop exterior and shelves of books

Best for books: American Book Center

The American Book Center (ABC) has served English-language readers in Amsterdam for over 40 years. Today, this family-owned bookshop also hosts literary events, launches and author readings. The floor-to-ceiling stairway leads you upstairs on a winding course through three floors packed with everything from paperbacks to coffee-table books, along with an extensive selection of magazines and Manga titles. They also have a cafe – cleverly placed near the cookbooks – where you can have a coffee while flicking through your latest purchase.

I recently picked up The Atlas Paradox by Olivie Blake (€24) and the Dutch kid's classic, The Cow Who Fell in the Canal by Peter Spier (€5), as a gift for my friend's newborn. The historic Begijnhof, a former convent, is hidden around the corner, and the square outside of the store offers a Friday antique book market and a Sunday art market

Collage of images from an Amsterdam cheese shop including shots of the bright yellow exterior, olives and tapendaes and barrels of cheese

Best for food: De Kaaskamer

The Dutch have a long tradition of cheesemaking, and I find the best selection in Amsterdam at De Kaaskamer (The Cheese Room). This artisanal cheese shop in the Nine Streets (De Negen Straatjes) neighborhood is stacked to the brim with over 350 varieties of Dutch cheeses and other savory European imports from gourmet olives to nuts, tapenades, and chutneys. This cheerful little store with the bright-yellow awning carries everything you need to create a delicious charcuterie board. Fresh sandwiches are also available for lunch on the go. 

It's often busy inside, but I find the staff are happy to help me find the perfect cheese for a dinner party, boat ride, or picnic. I recently took home a chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano (€6) and a bottle of Pino Grigio (€10) to complete our meal.

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