Nieuwmarkt has lots of small boutiques and interesting independent shops, selling everything from fetishwear to haberdashery, while there is one of Amsterdam's best flea markets on Waterlooplein, and a cluster of the city's chicest homeware shops on the Eastern Islands.

Local Knowledge: Amsterdam, City of Diamonds

Why is Amsterdam such a diamond centre? It was the Sephardic Jews who introduced the cutting industry, shortly after their arrival here, in the 1580s. The trade lived on, and two historic diamond factories offer free guided tours. Gassan Diamonds offers the slicker version. Coster Diamonds has a convenient location at the Museumplein. You'll see lots of sparklers, and workers shining them, at both places.

For those in the market to buy, note that diamonds aren't necessarily cheaper in Amsterdam than elsewhere, but between the tours and extensive descriptions and factory offers, you'll know what you're buying.

A bit of diamond folklore: Cullinan, the largest diamond ever found (3106 carats), was split into more than 100 stones here in 1908, after which the master cutter spent three months recovering from stress.