Passion Points: Style
When I only have a short amount of time in a city, I love to go to a street that delivers the quintessential soul of the place along with some great shopping in independent boutiques, which feature products that are unique to their surroundings. My favorite such streets always mix fashion and house wares with neighborhood cafés and quirky shops. In Paris, for instance, I head to Rue du Bac, where I have a favorite stationery shop, café and one-of-a-kind boutiques like Deyrolle and Le Prince Jardinier. In London, I always hit Walton Street, home to the fabulous children’s boutique Dragon’s and the vintage luggage shop Bentley’s. (Other such favorites: Charles Street in Boston ; via Margutta in Rome and Melrose in L.A.) On a recent trip to Amsterdam, I discovered my beloved Dutch stretch (it’s actually two contiguous streets) that offers a perfect short walk for a couple, family or traveler on their own to browse special shops and revel in the distinct charm and atmosphere of Amsterdam. Spiegelkwartier, which means the “Mirror Quarter,” is an area that runs five blocks on Nieuwe Spiegelstraat and Spiegelgracht (the latter has a canal running through it). Its charming gabled townhouses are home to more than seventy art and antiques galleries as well as chocolate and jewelry shops and lively cafés.
It’s best to start at the bottom of Spiegelgracht, just two short bridges from the legendary Rijksmuseum, which will finally reopen after years of renovation in 2013. Stop at Antiquariaat Hoogkamp #27, a charming print shop selling maps, botanicals and nautical prints (for 14 euros and up), all of which can be framed on the spot within minutes. Further along at #13 is Tamago, the chic vintage shop where classic Chanel and Missoni meet cool young new fashion by designers like Charlotte Bialas and IVANAhelsinki. Further along are antique and art galleries with wonderful silver sets, porcelain worthy of museum collections and Oriental and tribal art, ranging from 18th century Japanese screens to inexpensive collectibles such as Buddha heads and African totems. On the same street across the canal is the gallery of contemporary jewelry designer and artist Anneke Schat at #20 and for those with kids in tow, the whimsical toy store Tinkerbell at #10-12. For those who like artisan accessories, the workshop of Cindy Jeurissen, Atelier Winkel, is located just off of Spiegelgracht at Lange Leidsedwarsstraat 145, where the leather bags are sewn on site and buyers can choose from a range of handles and straps to design their own style.
Across the canal heading away from the Rijksmuseum, where the street turns into Nieuwe Spiegel are a number of luscious jewelry shops such as antique jeweler Binenbaum at #45, Mary Kaak at #47 and Il Putto at #28. Among the fabulous antique shops are M.C. Gasseling at #66 selling Delft tiles starting at 40 euros and Staetshuys Antiquairs at #45 with an enormous range of antique globes and incredible vintage toy airplanes and trains. Good places for a take-out meal or sweet pick me-up are Vanderdonk chocolates at #72, Fior di Gelato at #56 and Lombardo’s at #50. Best options for a longer break and proper meal are Pompadour tearoom and Spelt at #5A. For a real cabinet of curiosity type of visit, be sure to stop in the antiques shop at Keizersgracht 541, Antiques Thom and Lenny Nelis Antiques, which specializes in medical and pharmacy antiques with displays of fossils, rare horns, crabs and fish—sort of like a mini Deyrolle. Fashion shops of note include Jacob at #27, which features hand-made men’s shoes and bags (really man purses) and Carmacoma at #78, the city’s version of Colette or Dover Street Market, a specialist in avant-garde high fashion; it stocks clothes by Azzedine Alaia, Rick Owens and Balmain. And if you are finally shopped out by the time you arrive at the end of the arcade, you can duck into Spelt for a coffee break.
Read about other great shopping walks and neighborhoods in Amsterdam.
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