As a city built on trade, Amsterdammers love to haggle and there’s no better place to pick up a bargain than at the yearly citywide vrijmarkt (‘free market’) on King’s Day which gathers up to 3,500 exhibitors. Koninginnedag is the one day of the year that the Dutch government permits sales on the street without a permit and without the payment of value-added tax. Which such an incentive, everyone turns out to sell their second-hand wares on the streets and in the parks of Amsterdam, creating one of the world’s largest flea markets.
Anyone is free to take part in the street market and the array of deals waiting to be snapped up, therefore ranges from handy gadgets and vintage chic to the rather useless and downright bizarre. It’s an essential part of King’s Day and loved by bargain hunters and ‘window’ shoppers alike. And it’s not only second-hand wares on offer – plenty of food stalls spring up to fuel flea market enthusiasts’ and tourists’ bargain hunting frenzy!
Various districts and specific streets of the city are known for being hot-spots for particular second-hand items. Among the most popular areas for the Vrijmarkt flea market in Amsterdam is the Jordaan quarter, but the wide Apollolaan in front of the Hilton hotel in southern Amsterdam is gaining in popularity. Children sell their cast-off toys or garments at the Vondelpark, also in southern Amsterdam, and in a spirit of fun passers-by often offer the young sellers more than they are asking for the goods.
Until 1996 the vrijmarkt flea market began the evening before and continued for 24 hours. This was ended in the hope of gaining a pause in the celebrations so preparations could be made for the daytime activities. Utrecht, uniquely among Dutch municipalities, retains the overnight vrijmarkt.