Today’s broadcast is brought to you by fabulousness, otherwise known as one of the most desirable shopping areas in Amsterdam; De 9 Straatjes.
De 9 Straatjes or, ‘The 9 Little Streets’, is a network of three parallel shopping lanes that start at Singel and span Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht until they reach the Jordaan. These streets are generally home to independent boutiques and flagship stores for brands that carry (or want to carry) more cachet than a spot around Kalverstraat would muster for them.
Further west, the Harlemmerstraat & Harlemmerdijk twins carry similar content, with plenty of relatively attainable contemporary luxury up for sale there. But whilst you’ll find those opportunities mixed in with a dose of reality thanks to coffeeshops and mainstream high-street retailers (an observation, not a criticism), you can keep the glorious fantasy alive for as long as you like in The 9 Streets. It offers an unadulterated opportunity to Live The Dream during your time amongst the cute, picture-postcard lanes.
Listing off places is a little bit pointless given how many there are and how subjective your experience will be… but we’re going to have a go anyway. Here’s a few we recommend looking out for, you get bonus points if you spot them all on your travels.
The Mendo flagship will make your coffee table proud (and your wallet light) with a great selection of fancy hardbacks; the Toms store offers guilt-free shopping if you’re in the market for a new bag, pair of sunnies or the brand’s trademark espadrilles; Urban Cacao – one of several chocolatiers and patisseries in the area – happens to have the best hot chocolate we’ve ever tasted.
Also on the food front, Bussia is recommended to us as one of the best food experiences in the city and Pancakes Amsterdam is also widely regarded as best-in-town for the world’s thinnest cuisine. At the time of writing, Team Kompas is yet to eat at either restaurant and while we typically don’t recommend anywhere we haven’t sampled, our sources are very close to us and very reliable. Meanwhile, Goodies is a popular lunchtime destination for its belly-busting sandwiches and fresh juices, and Cafe de Pels offers a safehaven from the bustle outside in the form of a cozy, traditional boozer.
If your belly isn’t busting from one of those eateries, your clothing options are seeming limitless regardless of whether you’re a man, woman, teenager or toddler. Dutch brand Scotch & Soda has an impressive footprint in The 9 Streets, rivalled on that front only by Denham – a booming denim/indigo brand in the Netherlands. For the infant in your life The 9 Streets will provide more baby-relevant couture than you can shake a Pooh stick at.
If you’re in the mood to actually buy, none of these are thrifty places but thankfully there’s a healthy peppering of nice vintage shops for the younger, the hipper and the rummager. If you’re seeking mementos there won’t be a shortage of things to take to rapturous, inquisitive applause back home.
If you’re wondering what might be missing from The 9 Streets, please stop. Nothing… there’s nothing missing. The area also houses at least one butcher, baker and I think even a candlestick maker.
It’s all there but it’s not entirely about the shops themselves. It’s really about the atmosphere you’ll feel whilst you’re spotting boutiques and crossing canals. It’s a quaint idyll, but in a thoroughly modern way. If you can image Richard Curtis turning his obsessive romanticism from North West London to Amsterdam, The 9 Streets is the location he’d use to portray Julia Roberts going shopping, albeit for Leerdammer instead of farmhouse cheddar.
The 9 Streets are aspirational but in most stores (particularly during a weekday when the streets are quieter) you’ll find staff that are friendly, have time to talk to you, and are knowledgeable about their products. It’s not so common to find that in Amsterdam.
The joy is that you can participate however you feel most comfortable. At best it’s a network of streets full of classy character, portrayed by the shops’ content and by the proprietors. But even ‘at worst’ it’s some of the most beautiful wallpaper you can hope to see.