Waterlooplein

Plaza across from Amsterdam Town Hall and performing arts center
Amsterdam, Netherlands

Contributed by Project for Public Spaces

An international-style flea market ("vlooien markt") with 300 vendors offering high-style goods, offbeat finds - and killer displays.


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Why It Works

The market, a favored haunt of flower children in the '60s, is populated with Dutch, Turkish, Pakistani, Ghanaian, Moroccan and Senegalese vendors attracting students, urban curiosity seekers, eccentrics and tourists who peruse aisle ways crammed with trendy wearables and the usual bike locks, t-shirts, and junk (this is a flea market). But there's also an interesting mix of crafts, offbeat clothing and accessories, and no-longer-needed props (gowns, painted backdrops, etc) sold by the theater crowd.

Waterlooplein entrepreneurs are a savvy, sometimes tattooed bunch who have a nose for finding and selling the same imported Asian fashions you see at chic urban department stores for three times the price. An original Rembrandt etching was reportedly found in the back pages of a used book sold at Waterlooplein within the year.

As in any market worth its salt, Waterlooplein has some killer displays, with Bergdorf window dresser-wannabes staging masterfully creative displays - such as a Rajasthani princess' bedroom as backdrop for glittery Indian fabrics, or a camouflaged military hardware store with polished rows of black leather boots, emblems and insignias. It's a fun place to pass through or pass an afternoon.

History & Background

Once home to the old Jewish market, Waterlooplein has been completely rebuilt since the war and a 'new' open-air market operates in the large, rectangular plaza (plein) in the protective shadow of the city's modern Town Hall/performing arts center.

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