I've outlined my top Amsterdam shopping areas below, but take note: these don't even include the many open-air markets that deserve a category all their own. Whether you're window shopping or out to drop some serious cash, you're in for a complete range of choices with these picks. Happy hunting!
The quaint "Nine Streets" area is by far my favorite shopping spot in Amsterdam, not just for its picturesque location -- they straddle the Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht in Amsterdam's Central Canal Ring -- but for its original and diverse selection of stores. I never tire of strolling the hand-laid brickwork lanes, dotted with designer boutiques, cozy cafés, vintage stores and specialty shops. Look for "De 9 Straatjes" on the street signs and pick up a district shopping map from any of the charming retailers.
2. UtrechtsestraatBest for: Trendy shopping in the Eastern Canal Belt
What appears as a smaller undertaking than the Nine Streets or crazy Kalverstraat (see below), this long canal-crossing street has enough specialty stores and boutiques to keep you browsing for several hours. I especially like Leuk for quality basics and fun dresses, and lovely home stores like Kom, which sells special linens, tableware and bath accessories. The street and its side alleys are also full of fantastic places to eat, from gourmet delis and casual cafés to fine-dining favorites and tapas bars.
3. Pieter Cornelisz (P.C.) HooftstraatBest for: Wishful window-shopping and high-brow label-hunting
Amsterdam's mini Fifth Avenue, located in the Museum Quarter neighborhood, is home to high-end classics (Chanel, Gucci, Hermés, Louis Vuitton), jewelry (Chopard, Cartier) and lifestyle stores, as well as several boutiques selling more luxury labels. Azzurro at 142 is the city's only retailer of Christian Louboutin shoes. More moderate shoppers can find reasonable prices in stores like Mexx and Claudia Strater.
4. More Streets in Oud Zuid ('Old South')Best for: A sophisticated afternoon of shopping with affluent locals
Those who venture beyond the P.C. Hooftstraat while in the Oud Zuid ("Old South") neighborhood, are rewarded with smart clothing, accessories and gift stores in one of Amsterdam's nicest residential areas. Van Baerlestraat features chic names like Pauw and Vanila. Beethovenstraat, along the eastern border of this neighborhood, boasts a row of women's, men's and children's chic shops. Don't miss Cornelis Schuytstraat and its trendy boutiques and home stores for a special Dutch outfit or gift.
5. De JordaanBest for: Discovering hidden treasures in a funky Amsterdam area
It's fun to spend an afternoon getting lost in the maze of tiny streets in the heart of the bohemian-yuppie Jordaan neighborhood, where you'll stumble upon second-hand stores, artist's studios, small boutiques and galleries. Head to the busy Haarlemmerstraat for more clothing stores and plenty of places to eat after a hard day's shopping.
6. SpiegelkwartierBest for: Antiquing, scouting local artists
On the pretty little canal (Spiegelgracht) and narrow brick street (Nieuwe Spiegelstraat) just north of the Rijksmuseum, you'll find one after another of beautiful antique shops with art, furniture, Delftware, prints, books -- the list goes on and on. The many art galleries on the cross-street Kerkstraat are also part of this antique- and art-dense area, known as the "Spiegelkwartier."
7. Dam Square AreaBest for: Rainy-day shopping
While it's not my favorite place to hang out all day (too ultra-touristy for me), the area around Dam Square does offer a wealth of shopping. My favorite is De Bijenkorf, a popular Dutch department store somewhat comparable to the American Bloomingdale's. The many mainstream stores of the nearby Magna Plaza shopping center (behind the Royal Palace) are open seven days a week until 7 p.m. (until 9 p.m. on Thursdays). I stay away from all the tacky souvenir shops on the Damrak.
8. LeidsestraatBest for: Popping into stores on your way to the Museum Quarter
Busy Leidsestraat features chic clothing stores like the UK-based Karen Millen alongside cheap souvenir traps, night shops and fast-food joints. There are also shoe stores galore (Camper is a favorite) and a high-end department store in a monumental building (Metz & Co.), on the top floor of which you can have lunch overlooking the Central Canal Belt.
9. KalverstraatBest for: "Shop 'til you drop" experience
This pedestrian-only street and its adjacent alleys and "Kalvertoren" shopping center feature a mix of chain clothing stores (Esprit, H&M, Mexx, WE, Zara), dozens of shoe stores, Dutch staple stores like HEMA and a pricey, chic department store, Maison de Bonneterie. If you can tolerate the ever-present crowds, you're likely to leave this street with a new purchase in hand.
10. KNSM IslandBest for: Modern design shopping
If it's all things modern you seek, head to KNSM Island, located in Amsterdam's Eastern Harbor. Tram line 10 will take you all the way to this young neighborhood of former warehouses, where you'll find innovative, modern design and home shops, like Pilat & Pilat and Pol's Potten.