The Dylan sits squarely in the middle of Amsterdam’s densest pocket of singular shops, a kind of Lowlands casbah. Five of the best, featuring the kind of finds you won’t see anywhere else but right here:
1. Prinsheerlijk Antiques, Prinsengracht 579
This epic antique warehouse, owned by Harald van de Goot and Mirjam Slisser, is pretty much a one-stop cabinet of curiosities. Part of the attraction is Harald himself, a Dutch bohemian dandy who holds court in the front room, glad to share the provenance of every hand-picked item crowding the mammoth shop. A showcase of European finds, the avalanche of stuff constantly changes shape but usually includes a healthy selection of Scandinavian armoires, painted Dutch chests, Gustavian settees, aristocratic portraits, glass chandeliers, gilded mirrors, and various oddities (three-cornered hats, wax flowers, Frisian sleds). When the sun shines Harald and sometimes Mirjam, and sometimes their two daughters, will sit outside the shop, facing the canal, like the image of enlightened 21st century burghers, ready to give people the tour of their warehouse. One of Harald’s top discoveries, though, an 18th century Flemish commode painted with tulips, is no longer for sale; it’s sitting in my living room, like a perfect Dutch still life.
2. The Frozen Fountain, Prinsengracht 645
A few steps down from Prinsheerlijk Antiques, and something of an Amsterdam landmark, is this showcase of contemporary Dutch and Belgian housewares. Every Lowlands star designer is on display here, from Studio Job to Marcel Wanders, and the result is a fall-out of playful goods that pay teasing homage to classic Dutch tropes. What may look like a pretty porcelain vase from a distance is actually stenciled with beefcake muscle men striking a pose. The faux Delft ceramics are painted with manic images and the country tables are made out of recycled planks of wood. You can carry your haul back in the candy-colored bookbags, made of course, from recycled odds and ends.
3. Pompadour Bakery, Huidenstraat 12
This patisserie’s windows offer one of Amsterdam’s best free shows. Marzipan toad stools, Easter bunnies and Christmas elves romp behind the glass, like a sweet invitation. Things are even sweeter inside. One of Europe’s flat-out best bakeries, Pompadour features a daily selection of fresh baked masterworks. There are genoise cakes crowned by raspberries and lashings of whipped cream, feathery chocolate mousse slices, buttery cookies and napoleons glazed with sugar. The real stars though may be the bakery’s impeccable take on tarte tatins; heaped variously with caramelized peaches, apricots, prunes, and rhubarb, these perfect tarts, framed by a golden crust, are the essence of understated elegance. You can get the cakes to go or dine in, at the tearoom sitting just behind the bakery. But don’t leave without one of the Pompadour’s handmade chocolates. My favorites: the green tea bon bons and the milk chocolate squares speared by a sliver of honey crisp.
4. Laura Dols, Wolvenstraat 7
Competing with the Pompadour for best display in town, Laura Dols’ windows are a perennial explosion of pastel party dresses. Expect lots more of the same inside; the collection of vintage tulle and silk and lace dresses come in a rainbow of pistachio, azure and dusky rose colors. Even if you’re not looking for a curated party dress, though, there are other finds here. Especially collectable are the zealously sourced table cloths and sheets, hand-embroidered by farm wives in the Dutch countryside. The loveliest of the bunch come strewn with garlands of candy-colored flowers, trailing across the bleached white cotton like a summery daisy chain.
5. The Athenaeum Bookstore and Newsstand, Spui 14-16
The Spui itself is worth a visit; framed by venerable cafes like the Luxembourg, and home to weekend art shows, the square is the canal district’s living room. But its real anchor is a succession of bookstores and the best of the bunch is the venerable Athenaeum. A bibliophile’s dream, the shop stocks a thoughtful range of history and art books, along with an English language section curated by people who clearly actually read. Right next store is the Athenaeum newsstand, a legendary place that makes up for all the newsstands closing lately, as print slowly fades. Not here though. Stocked with every fashion, design, arty and indie magazine currently surviving, along with a stellar selection of savvy Amsterdam guides, it is one proud celebration of the printed word.
Raphael Kadushin is an American food and travel journalist whose work has appeared frequently in a wide range of outlets, including Condé Nast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler and the Wall Street Journal. He lived in the Netherlands as a boy and writes about Amsterdam often.