Shopping Survival Tips in Amsterdam (and beyond*)

This article was originally written in 2018 by past president Rhonda Jimenez and was focused on Amsterdam shopping. It has been updated for 2020 by Marcie Asplin. 

*Most of the stores mentioned have branches across the Netherlands and you can order articles from several of the others. For shopping tips beyond Amsterdam, please watch for a  more extensive article which includes information for Haarlem, Utrecht and ‘t Gooi.

So, you’ve just arrived in Amsterdam and you have no idea where to shop for what you need. If only there was a Target! Here are some basics to help you survive without that Target or Walmart down the road, and a few go-to’s and tips to help you find what you need — fast.

Groceries: You have probably already found Albert Heijn (AH), but did you know that they deliver? It’s so much easier than balancing your bike with a full load of groceries and then carrying it up two flights of stairs. Other grocery stores are Jumbo, Aldi and Lidl. For organic groceries, try Marqt (similar to Whole Foods, although not everything is organic but rather local, ethically-sourced or sustainable) or Ekoplaza. TIP: Many items you can’t find are usually shelved in strange locations and or have unique packaging. American peanut butter can sometimes be found in the wereldkeuken (world cuisine) aisle with Indonesian foods, not with the Dutch nut butters. Sweetened condensed milk is in the Asian food section. Evaporated milk is called koffiemelk and is found near the coffee, as is sugar (rather than the baking aisle). Bleach is called bleek (or dikbleek) and looks like toilet cleaner. Ask for help if you need it. You will slowly find everything you need.

American Stuff: If you still can’t find what you need in the grocery chains, try Tjin’s Toko in De Pijp or Eichholtz on Leidsestraat. Both international stores charge a big premium but offer things like canned pumpkin puree, Betty Crocker cake mixes and frostings, Pop Tarts, Lucky Charms, and many other American treasures. Newer to the expat food store scene are Kelly’s Expat Shopping (also with locations in The Hague and Wassenaar) and The Junior’s, both located on Ferdinand Bolstraat in De Pijp. Make a trip to one; it’s worthwhile! There are also small international grocery stores called tokos dotted around the city. They are great for pan-Asian ingredients and may also have some American ingredients (looking at you, Arm & Hammer baking soda). If your local searches don’t unearth what you are looking for, you can try ordering online from My American Market

Health and Beauty: Etos, Kruidvat and Da (drugstore is drogisterij in Dutch) are like CVS or Walgreens, except you can’t get prescriptions filled. TIP: Solid deodorants are hard to find, hydrogen peroxide (waterstofperoxide) is only sold in tiny bottles and Visine isn’t sold here, so if you use any of these regularly, you should probably stock up in the US before arriving or pick them up on a trip home. To fill prescriptions, you need to go to an apotheek (pharmacy), which you can usually spot by the neon green cross hanging outside. You will also need to register at a pharmacy so your doctor can (digitally) send your prescriptions there to be filled. You can’t just have a prescription filled at a pharmacy that happens to be closest to your location at that particular time. Holland & Barrett is classified as a drogisterij but focuses on vitamins and natural soaps/shampoos, and it has an extensive range of teas and alternative (baking) ingredients (including superfoods, vegan and gluten-free items). If you’re looking for a store like Sephora, Douglas and ICI Paris XL sell higher-end makeup, beauty supplies and perfumes/colognes.

Home goods: Blokker has most items that you would find in a Target: supplies for cleaning, kitchen and bathroom items, small appliances (personal care and household), and some home decor. HEMA also has home and office items as well as food and clothing basics. Action, Wibra and Zeeman are similar to Kmart, selling inexpensive clothing and some home/kitchen goods. Big Bazar is like the Dollar Store, as is Xenos, which also has a Pier1 feel to it.

Appliances: MediaMarkt, BCC and Expert sell all things electronic — from irons to video games to TVs and refrigerators — much like Best Buy back home. They have physical stores in many locations. Coolblue (which also has 10 stores across the Netherlands), bol.com and Amazon.de are good online sources for electric appliances as well. Recently, Amazon.nl came online but their offering is still limited in comparison to Amazon.de.

DIY stores / Garden centers: Praxis, Gamma and Karwei are the Home Depot equivalents; most sell garden supplies, and larger ones will have plants and flowers, too. You can search for a bouwmarkt + (the name of your city) to find the DIY store closest to you. There are also places to rent tools and equipment for building projects; Boels and Bo-Rent are two of them. There are also large garden centers around the country if you are really into plants and gardening. Search for tuincentrum + (city) for the garden center nearest you. Intratuin has several locations in Noord Holland and Tuincentrum Osdorp is one of the larger garden centers near Amsterdam. DIY stores and garden centers also sell holiday decorations as well as live and fake trees if you celebrate Christmas.

Fashion: The trendy Nine Streets and busy Kalverstraat are always fun shopping destinations. But when it’s wet or cold, try the Stadshart mall in Amstelveen. There is a large De Bijenkorf department store in the mall. Closer to Amsterdam you’ll find the Gelderlandplein shopping center in Buitenveldert. They have free underground parking for the first 1.5 hours. 

Furniture: Ikea is a mainstay, but stop by Loods 5 and the outlet behind it — together, they take up a full block — for a huge selection of furniture. There is also a woonmall (home furnishings mall) called Villa ArenA located near the Amsterdam ArenA — you’ll experience long waits, but also good quality custom furniture. In the Bovenkerk area of Amstelveen, there are several furniture stores to be found, including De Troubadour, Leen Baker, Kwantum, and more. Online, try Woonexpress and Wehkamp

Outlet Shopping: Not an outlet per se, but the T.K. Maxx discount store has arrived in the Netherlands. There are a few locations, including Osdorpplein in Amsterdam. There is also a huge outlet mall about 1.5 hours away in Lelystad, called Batavia Stad. The outlets will remind you of home, with many of the same outlets you know and love — from Nike to Michael Kors. There are other similar outlet malls in Roermond and Roosendaal, as well as Maasmechelen Village in Belgium. 

School Supplies: HEMA and Gebroeders Winter have stores all over the Netherlands. Big stores like Office Depot do exist (OfficeCentre is one) but you need to have your own business to become a customer. 

Sporting Goods: If you’ve got kids, or are a sporty person yourself, chances are you’ll need sporting goods of some kind. You can find shoes, clothing and equipment for various sports at places like Decathlon, Intersport, Sport2000 and Bristol. Hockey District in Amsterdam and Special Sports in Amstelveen specialize in field hockey equipment and also carry clothing for some clubs. Voetbalshop.nl is a great place to find football basics online, and your (child’s) club may get their uniforms from there as well. If you are a runner, Runnersworld has stores in Amstelveen, Bussum and Utrecht (among others), and Run2day has stores in Amsterdam, Haarlem, Hilversum and Utrecht. Bever, with stores across the Netherlands, is the place to look for your hiking and camping needs. You can also shop for those things online at Trekkinn or A.S. Adventure.

Second-hand Shopping: If reducing, reusing and recycling is more your style, there are lots of places to find second-hand goods. A thrift store is a kringloopwinkel in Dutch. A second-hand (children’s) clothing store is a tweedehands (kinder)kledingwinkel, some of which are consignment shops. There is a list of stores in central Amsterdam and, to find a second-hand store near you, check Alle Kringloopwinkels. There are also consignment shops in Amsterdam Zuid that offer designer clothing, like Mooi and Freddy’s. For children’s clothes and toys, you can try Lino & Moos, JunJun and Kids & Queens (which also has some women’s clothes). Boomerang in Amstelveen has clothing and accessories at one location, and another location a few blocks away sells furniture and home goods. Rataplan is a large thrift shop which has household goods, appliances, clothing and furniture. They have three locations around Amsterdam. If you are moving and have things to donate, they will come and pick it up by appointment (there is often a wait for pick-ups, so book your appointment in advance!). Online, Marktplaats is a cross between Craigslist and eBay; you can find almost anything you need or want there (also from businesses)! While plenty of items are offered by genuine, individual sellers, there are also some dishonest people selling items there, so it is better to (agree to) buy something you can collect in person so you can check that it’s legitimate (certainly for big-ticket items like secondhand phones). There is also Facebook marketplace, where you can set your location and then search based on a certain distance to find items you want in your area.

Good luck on your next shopping adventure: you will survive! Remember, look carefully — and you can probably find it!