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October 17, 2017
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Best Kept Secrets

De Negen Straatjes, or The Nine Streets, in Amsterdam. Source: pensiondelaurier.nl.

Amsterdam has long been renowned as a city of sinners. A stag do favourite, brimming with sex, legal highs and excessive alcohol consumption. A playtime paradise for the young and carefree, Amsterdam has come to embrace its role as a tourist hotspot. It is therefore surprising that there remains a largely hidden backstreet collection of nine side streets - a mere five minutes from Dam Square - full of beautiful fashion boutiques, eclectic design studios and vintage collectibles. Collectively called 'De Negen Straatjes', or 'The Nine Streets', the narrow side streets connect the main 17th century canals that work to preserve the cultural integrity of Amsterdam and make the city so beautiful.

Dominio

Dominio boutique Runstraat 15
Inside the Dominio boutique on Runstraat 15.
Source: dominio.nl.

Walking into this immaculately laid out store transports you immediately into an Italian mindset; although perhaps it's something to do with the Vespa on show and the traditional gleaming silver coffee machine next to the sole cashier. Either way, it is not just the décor in Dominio that exudes Italian style. Offering a wide range of exquisite men's and women's fashion and accessories, a design lover is spoiled for choice here. Vespa helmets, Omega watches and hand-made Italian shirts await.

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The clean lines of the crafted wood finish inside the Dominio store reflect the designs: timeless. Situated on Runstraat 15, the boutique prides itself on offering its customers 100 per cent Italian goods, from design to manufacturing. The items are limited and exclusive, ensuring a taste of Italian fashion that won't be found anywhere else - and all in the heart of Amsterdam. The shop's website describes style as "a global language recognisable beyond borders."

The Darling boutique on Runstraat 4.
Photo by Flo Mills Lyle.

The Darling

Walk a few metres further down the Runstraat and you arrive at The Darling, a very different fashion shopping experience. Founded in 2009, The Darling offers younger, more current fashion with a side helping of cupcakes and coffee.

Positioned over two levels, the boutique is a playhouse of affordable slogan t-shirts and feminine accessories. Walk up the traditionally Dutch narrow twining staircase in the centre of the shop, and customers find fresh coffee, colourful macaroons and delicate hand decorated cupcakes in The Darling's Cupcake Café. With price tags hand written on paper cupcake wrappers, the kitsch shop layout and décor are a far cry from the sleek Dominio interior.

Related: The Rise of Dutch Designers

The difference of offerings from these two boutiques begins to demonstrate just how much The Nine Streets has to offer. There is no definite clientele of the area; it brings together people from all walks of life. One thing these stores have in common, however, is the offer of something unique. In a city of H&Ms on almost every available corner, The Nine Streets is for those who yearn for uniqueness. Delve further into the area and you will find even more one-of-a-kind shops and items.

Djoeke Wessing Art Deco Shop

Djoeke Wessing Art Deco shop amsterdam
Djoeke Wessing Art Deco shop at Huidenstraat 20.
Source: djoekewessing.nl.

Across the Keizersgracht, among the young fashion start-ups and vintage boutiques, visitors to the area will come to the Djoeke Wessing Art Deco shop. This boutique, which dates back to over thirty years ago, is a trinket-filled step back in time to "the roaring 20s". The shop is a supplier of original Art Deco upholstery, furniture and interior decorations. A lot of the materials sold have previously been used in various art deco buildings, including Amsterdam's famous Theater Tuschinski. The store is an Aladdin's cave for the interior design addict who is on the hunt for one-off vintage pieces - certainly not something you will find on the high street and sure to be a unique experience.

Restaurant BIHP

The cultural delights don't end with shopping in The Nine Streets, however. The area is also full of wine bars, cafés and fine dining restaurants for those moments when tired feet have taken their toll. One in particular, which mixes art with a complete dining experience, is restaurant BIHP. Sitting in the very heart of The Nine Streets, BIHP serves the finest wines and an extensive range of food, in a setting surrounded by the latest artistic pieces from the restaurant owner and painter and sculptor Bilal Chahal. The work is frequently changed so that the restaurant acts as an exhibition space. The result is a highly cultural eatery, providing customers with a dining experience far away from the standard.

BIHP Restaurant, Amsterdam, Keizersgracht 335
BIHP Restaurant at Keizersgracht 335.
Source: bihp.nl.

The scope of intriguing items that these side streets hold is undeniably extensive, so it is surprising how peaceful a stroll around The Nine Streets can be. In a city that sees floods of tourists pour in and out of it, these boutiques, cafés and restaurants offer something different each time. Of course it attracts tourists, but these are an entirely different type of visitor.

These are people who want to immerse themselves in the real Amsterdam - they want to find the pulse of the city and to really understand the culture that makes the area and its inhabitants tick. Instead of tainting the city with drunk and disorderly behaviour that so often graces Amsterdam's beautiful streets, these new visitors enhance it by opening their minds to new discoveries. An idyllic alternative to Amsterdam's party madness, De Negen Straatjes truly feels like another world.

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