Getting your shop on in Amsterdam won't require GPS. Just down the road from Centraal Station is Nieuwendijk, the city's oldest shopping street, today a pedestrians' paradise for chain-store-hopping and basics at a bargain. The Dam forms the delta of Kalverstraat, the city's other roaring river of international retailers and favorite Dutch franchises open seven days a week. Nearby Leidsestraat is a scaled-down version equipped with an escape route of canalside cafés. Just east is the Spiegelkwartier, one of Europe's most fabled agglomerations of antiques shops.
Peek around the Rijksmuseum and you'll find P.C. Hooftstraat. The "Pay-Say," as locals refer to it, is Amsterdam's own little Madison Avenue, bustling with global luxury brands and their new-moneyed fannies. For those less loco about their labels, head to the adjoining Van Baerlestraat, offering concessions to match the area's well-heeled cultural consumers. Get back to Amsterdam's more egalitarian enterprises in The Pijp, where shops appealing to young and old, tried and trendy, native and newcomer offset the market-frenzied Albert Cuypstraat. Continue farther south, through to the other side of the Vondelpark, and you'll come upon Cornelis Schuytstraat. Footballers' wives and fashionistas love "De Schuyt," an undeniably cozy cluster of chichi clothing and shoe boutiques, sleek homeware, and fancy delis.
If price tags listed in more than one currency leave you cold, get off the tourist trek. Chic boutiques, vintage stores, and quirky gift shops dot the Nine Streets, a sweet li'l hair comb of a neighborhood tucked behind the right ear of the Dam. From there, head northward through the Jordaan, where trendy and traditional cross-fertilize to produce quintessential Amsterdam charm. Don't miss the gamut of high-end specialty stores on Haarlemmerstraat, which goes over into Haarlemmerdijk. Here you'll find the finest chocolate, fantastic gelato, Spanish ham, Portuguese pastries, and the best hummus in town. And besides all that, there are also many non-food specialty shops and funky boutiques. Still haven't found what you seek? Take a foray into classic Amsterdam shopping on Utrechtsestraat. This beloved neighborhood main street is so close to Rembrandtplein you can hear the clubs' bass lines pumping yet so civilized you would think you were invited to a private sale, eight blocks long.
As for art, modern to contemporary, many of the best galleries that deal in modern and contemporary art are centered on the Keizersgracht and Spiegelkwartier, others are found around the Western Canal Ring, and the Jordaartists have traditionally gravitated to low-rent areas. De Baarsjes, a neighborhood in Amsterdam West, is increasingly attracting small galleries that showcase exciting works of art. With a rough charm reminiscent of the early days of New York's SoHo, it's worth a detour for adventurous art lovers. The tourist office website www. iamsterdam.com is a reasonable source of information on current exhibitions. Also helpful is the bilingual art zine PRESENTeert, available at select galleries and online at presenteert.wordpress.com.
Acne Studio (Oude Spiegelstraat 8, The Canal Ring, Amsterdam, 1016 BM. 020/422–6845. www.acnestudios.com..)
Denham (Prinsengracht 493-495, The Canal Ring, Amsterdam, 1016 HR. 020/331–5039. www.denhamthejeanmaker.com..)
Tenue de Nîmes (Elandsgracht 60, Jordaan, Amsterdam, 1016 TX. 020/320–4012. www.tenuedenimes.com..)