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The reinvention of Rokin: Amsterdam's newest shopping area


Amsterdam’s Rokin area is undergoing a substantial and exciting redevelopment. Sally McIlhone explores the latest must-visit part of the city

Sally McIlhone ,

Amsterdam is a city with a plethora of diverse shopping options. Those who prefer to peruse small independent boutiques, bars and cafés are well catered for in the De Negen Straatjes (‘Nine Streets’) area, whereas PC Hooftstraat offers the crème de la crème of international design talent. And in the past few years, the city has seen a new key location emerge: the historical street of Rokin and its surrounding areas.

An exciting vision
Rokin is currently being transformed from an underused and industrial boulevard dotted with a handful of time-honoured shops to a retail powerhouse that will boast a luxury concept store and a flagship of British department store Marks & Spencer. ‘In 2011 we developed a vision together with the local council: a city boulevard with style,’ says Pauline Buurma, manager of Rokin’s association of entrepreneurs and property owners. ‘The trigger was the making of the new metro system’s north-south line.’

Well connected
The creation of this new transport network, connecting opposite ends of the city, has turned Rokin into an increasingly appealing spot for redevelopment and the perfect place for a new shopping area. ‘Rokin is the shopping street with the highest potential in the Netherlands,’ Buurma continues. ‘The combination of monumental buildings and a spacious boulevard gives Rokin extraordinary chances. The new Rokin square with a sophisticated metro system and 300 parking spaces underground offers a unique area for special shops, museums and high-end restaurants and hotels.’

Hit the shops
With the development due to be completed later this year, there are already plenty of intriguing shops to be discovered in Rokin. Hogendoorn & Kaufman stocks an impressive array of ceramics and glassware, including items from brands such as Lladro, Royal Delft, Lalique, Meissen and crystal by Swarovski. Run by mother-and-son team Angelique and Ramon Hogendoorn, the store is filled with items that they have personally selected for their calibre and concept. The setting, in a traditional wooden canal house, is equally inspiring; marvel at the antique-tiled fireplace and the oak panelling as you select which item to take home as a souvenir.

If you’re running out of room in your suitcase, Hogendoorn & Kaufman will even ship your purchases to anywhere in the world. Ramon is excited about Rokin’s future. ‘I believe the rejuvenation to be a good thing, with the metro and the establishment of a big new shopping centre. This will mean more visitors to Rokin,’ he explains. ‘With the new centre meant to house luxury stores, it will mean more luxury shoppers. As a consequence we hope more high-end stores will open along Rokin.’

Footwear fanatic
Betsy Palmer is a hidden gem for footwear fans. Opened in 1996, the store offers quirky designs from both Palmer herself and brands including Castañer and Chie Mihara. Choose from trainers and block heels to flat brogues and ankle boots. To complement your new shoes, seek out sleek staples with a contemporary edge at Forever 21, Weekday and Urban Outfitters.

Cultural attractions
Once you’ve invested in a whole new wardrobe, stop to explore the exhibits at the Allard Pierson Museum. Those with an interest in historical civilisations, from the Roman Empire to ancient Egypt, will be particularly impressed by the artefacts that date back as much as 6,000 years. For those who prefer relaxation to archaeology, the Skins Institute spa in the De l’Europe hotel offers a variety of treatments for lone travellers or couples, as well as two saunas, a Turkish steam bath and a selection of beauty treatments.

Fine dining
End your day with dinner at Bord’Eau, which boasts two Michelin stars. Here you can sample dishes including duck liver steamed in kombu with bouillon of seaweed and umeboshi plum. If you’re celebrating a special occasion, the restaurant even offers an exclusive dining room with ‘walls of wine’ which enables guests to enjoy a spectacular view of the Amstel river while surrounded by some of the finest vintages in Europe.

The Rokin area is primed to become a key retail centre in Amsterdam, with new stores opening with increasing frequency in the lead-up to the completion of the renovation work. The summer of 2016 was an exciting time for this already bustling area, as the final stages of its reinvention will cemented its position as a must-visit destination for shopping. Whether you know Amsterdam like the back of your hand, or you’re visiting the city for the first time, the sense of newness and optimism surrounding this space is sure to be infectious.

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