I'm not much of a shopper, but some cities just seem to hold irresistible consumer appeal -- not least of all Amsterdam. And even within such cities, department stores can pose such sensory overload that to some, these are best avoided -- but De Bijenkorf has lured me in even on its positively chaotic, yearly sale days. What's so special about it, anyway?
De Bijenkorf (pronounced BUY-en-korf), Dutch for "The Beehive", is one of those classic department stores -- think Macy's Herald Square, Harrods of London, KaDeWe in Berlin -- that's equal parts history, culture and retail therapy. De Bijenkorf Amsterdam, just one of 12 locations in the Netherlands, is housed in an authentic Dutch monument on the corner of Damrak and Dam Square. Before the department store moved here in 1915, it had operated out of a small storefront on Amsterdam's Nieuwendijk since 1870 -- historical, indeed.
But avid shoppers will first notice its six floors of wares, which offers cosmetics, apparel, household items, art, media, electronics and more -- as well as a cafe and restaurant for tired shoppers to rest their feet and refuel for the next round. The prices at De Bijenkorf vary widely, which makes it less exclusive and more accessible than some of its international counterparts -- one year, as a student, I even found some lovely, affordable Christmas presents there. Otherwise, just do what the Dutch call "Kijken, kijken, niet kopen" -- "Look, look, but don't buy" -- and consider it one more part of the Amsterdam visitor experience.
1012 JS Amsterdam
Directions: From Amsterdam Central Station, head south on Damrak to Dam Square; the entrance is on the northeastern side of the square.
Sun & Mon 11 a.m. - 7 p.m., Tues & Wed 10 a.m. - 7 p.m., Thurs & Fri 10 a.m. - 9 p.m., Sat 9 a.m. - 7:30 p.m.