(This post is part of The Marketplace series of blogs - along with fellow Lonely Planet bloggers, it's part of our regular Lonely Planet Blogsherpa Travel Carnival. This month the carnival is being hosted by Kiran at Indian Bazaars).
Albert Cuyp Market began in 1904, along a wide street in the area of Amsterdam called De Pijp, just a five minute bike ride south of the city center.
It has 300 stalls, from cheap chic clothing to fresh fish, from bike accessories to huge amounts of flowers (10 roses for 5 Euros. Guys - it's never been cheaper to buy your way out of trouble).
It's a classic outdoor market, with various vendors barking out their specials all day while locals and tourists amble along and scarf down a fresh stroopwafel (thin syrup waffle) or fries. What it lacks in aesthetics - cheap-looking stalls atop dark grey gum-imprinted asphalt - it makes up for in products and in characters.
I personally get to experience the best and the worst of it. The best being tons of fresh, quality food about 90 seconds walk from my door, one street north of Albert Cuypstraat. This also includes the roasted chicken dripping off the spit, and the butcher who always has a spare bit of smoked turkey for our dog.
Tied for the tops are the people. The characters are real-life, seasoned market-hawkers - mostly very friendly, some gruff, always authentic and fair (this is not one of those markets where you haggle). They'll switch to speaking English in a second too. The old salty dogs selling an awesome variety of fish look like they caught it themselves that morning, and a faulty bike lock is replaced right away. You never feel jobbed (ahem, Istanbul and Barcelona markets - looking at you here).
The worst? The clattering fish and flower trolleys at 5:30 in the morning as they get set up for the day ahead, 6 days a week (the market is closed on Sundays). Ear plugs are a must for this time of day if you sleep anywhere near the market.
And the trash - the street is remarkably clean after 7pm as the city cleaning crews sweep it all up, but between 5 and 7 you can't imagine the heaps of trash and heaps of stink. (Of course, time your trip right at the end of the day and snag deals like 10 kiwis for 1.50Euros, and the stink is less than you think).
The next day, from a blank, flat slate, it rises all over again from the pavement. This is one of those places that you can't experience in many parts of the world.
Man with bike