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Save Pounds: Go Dutch; Adrian McLeay thinks Amsterdam is the ideal capital to find gifts with a difference.

Byline: Adrian McLeay

December - and the festive season is well and truly upon us and with it the annual hunt for original and thoughtful gifts.

If you need some inspiration, then get your clogs on and nip over to Amsterdam for a few days. There are currently some great flight and hotel offers available, so there is no better time to explore the Dutch capital's range of shopping opportunities - there are more than 10,000 shops to choose from in this beautiful city.

Amsterdam is made up of several neighbourhoods each offering a distinctive style of shopping.

The advantage of going on a spending spree in Amsterdam is the close proximity of all the shopping areas. Everything is within walking distance but choosing the right hotel location is imperative. I stayed at the Golden Tulip Schiller Hotel in Rembrandtplein.

This four star hotel is one of the city's finest, housing many of Fritz Schiller's paintings. From here all the main shopping areas are just a short walk away.

Around the corner is Utrechtsestraat, providing one of the most diverse range of outlets in Amsterdam.

Also very nearby is the Waterlooplein fleamarket. Open daily, it is certainly worth a look - even if some of the more bizarre stalls are perhaps unsuitable when selecting a gift for your mother.

If you are looking for leather goods this is the place to go and no trip to Amsterdam is complete without visiting the floating flower market running along the Singel canal.

Just about every conceivable bulb is available as well as houseplants and other flowers. The best stall is situated opposite the Christmas Palace, the shop entirely devoted to all things Christmassy.

It is open all year round and not as tacky as you may imagine.

This stretch of the Singel has a number of amazing shops. As well as Christmas Palace, you'll find a hammock specialist, an excellent off licence and dozens of others specialist outlets.

The high street-style chain stores are also of a good quality. Adjacent to the Singel, the pedestrianised Kalverstraat area has an enormous range of fashion stores to suit every taste and pocket.

With a favourable pound there is no shortage of bargains to be found here - likewise at the other end of the Singel from Koningsplein down to the Leidesplein.

For something extra special, take a walk from the Leidesplein through the Vondelpark to the area known as the Museumkwartier.

Pieter Cornelius Hoof Straat and Van Baerlestraat are where you will find designer stores a plenty. Gucci, Armani etc are all here. This area is like a mini-Milan, though not as expensive.

Ask your hotel for a copy of the Shopping In Amsterdam map which gives all the information needed for a successful spending spree. I would also recommend first time visitors invest in a good map and guide book before arriving.

One of the beauties of Amsterdam is its proximity to the UK. KLM UK and partners operate high frequency services from 15 British departure points to Amsterdam's Schiphol airport. There is also an excellent rail service from Schiphol to Amsterdam's Central station.

Although the Dutch do not go in for Christmas in quite the same way as us, in the Netherlands and parts of Belgium the festival of Saint Nicholas is celebrated in style.

If you are taking a trip this December, why not check out the Winter Wonderland event at the Arena stadium, which has been transformed into a nostalgic attraction park for the occasion.

The park boasts old fairground attractions as well as a skating rink and a sleigh track, while in a 'mirror tent' you can buy cookies and hot chocolate and chestnuts on the fire.

Visit the Christmas In Museum Amstelkring (Our Lord in the Attic Museum), which boasts a 17th century canalhouse and hidden church, beautifully decorated for Christmas or take a trip on one of Amsterdam's Christmas Trams which are decorated and serve gluhwein (spicy hot wine) and hot chocolate to passengers. Santa will even stop by for the kids.

Travel Facts

Adrian McLeay travelled to Amsterdam courtesy of KLM UK and stayed at the Golden Tulip Schiller Hotel. Hotel contact details: 00 31 20 554 0700.

For information on Arena Amsterdam call 00 3120 3111333, for Amstelkring Museum call 011 3120 6246604.
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Title Annotation:Travel
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Dec 2, 2000
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