Melissa's Travels

Street Smart Amsterdam

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 (150 Walton St.) and the vintage luggage shop Bentley’s. (Other such favorites: Charles Street in Boston, via Margutta in Rome and Melrose in L.A.)

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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 reopened after years of renovation in 2013. Stop at Antiquariaat Hoogkamp #27, a charming print shop selling maps, botanicals and nautical prints, 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 IVANA Helsinki.

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 and for those with kids in tow, the whimsical toy store Tinkerbell (Spiegelgracht 10).

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. Among the fabulous antique shops are M.C. Gasseling, selling Delft tiles starting at 40 euros and Staetshuys Antiquairs, with an enormous range of antique globes and incredible vintage toy airplanes and trains.

A good place for a take-out meal is Lombardo’s (Nieuwe Spiegelstraat 50) and the best option for a longer break and proper meal is Pompadour tearoom. For a real cabinet of curiosity type of visit, be sure to stop in the antiques shop Nelis Antiques (Keizersgracht 541), which specializes in medical and pharmacy antiques with displays of fossils, rare horns, crabs and fish—sort of like a mini Deyrolle. A fashion shop of note is Jacob, which features hand-made men’s shoes and bags (really man purses).

Contact Indagare to book a trip to Amsterdam.

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