What market should one see when in Amsterdam??? All fingers pointed to the Albert Cuypmarkt on Albert Cuypstraat in the Pijp area of Amsterdam. About 10 minutes by taxi from our hotel, I figured I couldnâ€™t leave the city without a visit to the biggest market in town. Overall verdict? Lukewarm, at best. Okay, perhaps a blustery, wet Monday morning was not the best time to visit the market (itâ€™s closed on Sundays), and perhaps not after Queenâ€™s Day celebrations the previous Saturday which basically shut everything down. Nevertheless, the market failed to meet fairly high expectations. It was nice, but not something I would go out of my way to see againâ€¦
Over 100 years in operation and currently boasting upwards of 300 stalls, the several hundred meter long market with stalls on both sides of the street was an odd mix of produce, cheese, spices, chocolates, nuts, cheap textiles, fabric, undergarments, fake bags and animal hides. Everything I have read suggests this was much more of a produce market many years ago but it has evolved into many more dry goods or textile stalls as various reasons have driven away the original produce sellers (whether lack of sufficient market, government regulations regarding sale of goods, etc.). It doesnâ€™t help either that at 45 degrees F there probably was a shortfall of locally grown produce (except greenhouse raised) to sell!
We strolled the entire length of the market and worked our way back to the beginning so that we could review what was on offer. Frankly, we immediately dismissed at least 50-70% of the vendors for carrying stuff similar to 168 Mall in Divisoria at markedly higher prices. We did, however, find some potential gems in the roughâ€¦ a wonderful spice stall that led to a much bigger and deeper spice and tea shop in the building directly behind it, there was also a nice herring stall, some produce vendors, a cheese shop with limited but fresh offerings, an interesting hide shop and great dried fruit and chocolate vendors. The spice shop had kitchen utentsils, dozens of types of teas and an impressive selection of spices from all over the world.
We ordered some fresh herring at the herring stall but I still couldnâ€™t get over my historical dislike for the stuff. I have several photographs of the produce on offer and the green and white asparagus, artichokes, strawberries and oranges all looked tempting. There was a nice fresh crate of rhubarb which I so rarely see and since I didnâ€™t have a kitchen, couldnâ€™t cook into a strawberry and rhubarb pie or other delicious concoction. The cheese vendor was stocked but to a much less impressive state than the De Kaaskamer Cheese Shop I wrote about a few posts ago. The dried fruit selection was pretty good as were the nuts and broken bricks of chocolate on offer. My daughter bought a small chunk of dark chocolate for Euro 1.50 and she liked it a lot.
We also spent some time at a store for leather hides where you could get rabbit pelts, raccoon, mink, cowhides, etc. My daughter again purchased a tiny rabbitâ€™s foot which seemed a reasonable bargain for Euro 3.00 for a lifetime of good luckâ€¦ I was actually egging her on to purchase a deerskin messenger bag for her school books but she thought I was a bit wacky. The sheepskins were cool too but I recall when I was about her age my parents brought a similar skin home from Australia and by the rainy season it smelled wicked badâ€¦
Overall, I was glad that we took the time to go see the market. However, when compared to many other markets I have seen and was about to see during the rest of this trip, this one was a bit disappointing. Perhaps it would be better at the height of the summer months when local produce was plentifulâ€¦but in Amsterdam, that is probably only 3 months out of the year! At any rate, if you happen to be nearby and you are a market addict, spend an hour or two strolling up and down the Albert Cuypmarkt in the outskirts of Amsterdam!