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Amsterdam cheap souvenirs: Flower markets, seeds and bulbs

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Seeds in Amsterdam flower market

Amsterdam is fertile ground for free and almost-free souvenirs. While floral bouquets don’t travel well on an airplane (and may not be allowed!), seed packets and bulbs are both easy to pack, travel well, and will blossom back home. Plus, they’re totally cheap.

(Please note: US Customs doesn’t want American tourists bringing home just any old bulb or seed, of course. The agency carefully regulates what agricultural items it allows back into the States. When seed shopping, make sure you choose items labeled as “cleared for US Customs.” See comments below for more information.)

Tulip mania peaked in Amsterdam during the city’s 17th-century golden age, sowing the scene for today’s fragrant flower markets, or Bloemenmarkt. We recommend visiting two of the city’s flower markets.

The Aalsmeer Flower Auction

Every morning, the Bloemenveiling Aalsmeer, or Aalsmeer flower auction, takes place in nearby Aalsmeer, 10 km south of Amsterdam. The fast-paced auction gives tourists an introduction to the global flower market, as 19 million flowers get bought and sold daily, before being shipped worldwide. Try picking up some sample seeds or bulbs at the market for a cheapo souvenir.

Bloemenmarkt

The Floating Flower Market, or Bloemenmarkt, is in full bloom every day along the Singel canal. The market, held in barges floating along the Singel, is the place to find thousands of seed packets, bulbs, and cut (and dried) flowers for mere euros.

Even if you don’t plan on bringing any seeds home, you might also consider swinging by the Bloemenmarkt at night, as the shops are closing up and eager owners slash their prices on cut fresh flowers. After all, couldn’t your hotel room use a little sprucing up?

More information on Amsterdam Flower Markets

Aalsmeer Flower Auction
Driekolommenplein 1. Open Monday through Friday, from 7:30 AM to 11:00 AM. The best time to go is between 7:30 AM and 9 AM.

Amsterdam Bloemenmarkt
Daily between Koninsplein and Heiligeweg.  Monday through Saturday, 9 AM – 5:30 PM, Sunday 11:00 AM – 5:30 PM.

See also: Our guide to recommended cheap hotels in Amsterdam.

Editor’s Note: This is the first post in our “Cheapo Souvenirs” blog series. Join us over the next four weeks as we suggest one cheap or free souvenir to bring home from each city we cover on EuroCheapo. Do you have a suggestion for another cheap souvenir in Amsterdam? Leave a comment below!

About the author

Kari Hoerchler

En junio 2000, Kari moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina and never looked back...until she ran out of pesos. After another round of bank riots, the travel lady bug moved to more stable financial ground: Wall Street. (Hey, no laughing!) Currently the Listings Manager for Over There Interactive for cold, hard cash, she is also a co-author of The Maneater Murder Mystery Series and Venue Goddess for Lit Crawl NYC.

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2 Responses to “Amsterdam cheap souvenirs: Flower markets, seeds and bulbs”

I assume this advice is for your American audience? Bringing back bulbs and seeds to the U.S. is totally illegal! If you want to buy bulbs to plant in the garden in Ohio, you must purchase ONLY bulbs that are packaged and marked as allowable for export and personally carry a Phytosanitary Certificate ($70). That makes buying those bulbs in Cleveland a better deal.

You can read the nitty gritty customs rules here.

Tom Meyers Tom Meyers says:

Hi Poetloverrebelspy,

You bring up an excellent point. You do need to make sure that seeds and bulbs are labeled as “cleared” for the US Customs. According to the page you linked to on the US Department of Agriculture, this works in lieu of the $70 Phytosanitary Certificate, and there are a number of ways to show that your seeds/bulbs are cleared. These flower markets know that they’re selling to American tourists and try to make it easy.

Here’s the (rather wordy) explanation from the US Department of Agriculture:

Q. If bulbs are precleared do I need a phytosanitary certificate?

A. Precleared bulbs must be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate issued by the plant protection service of the country of origin, including an additional declaration for freedom of potato cyst nematodes from specified countries. See 7 CFR319-37-5 (a) for the list of countries.

*** Following is a list of documents that may be used in lieu of a phytosanitary certificate:

A “Copy-certificate of examination for USA”, this label or similar one used for precleared bulbs from Belgium, Ireland, Israel, Netherlands, Turkey and the U.K.

A mailing label titled “Flower Bulbs From Holland” bearing a “Copy-certificate of examination for USA” at the bottom, used in Netherlands only.

An invoice or other document from the Netherlands stamped with “Precleared.”

A label on mail-order shipments with the words “Pre-cleared Flower Bulbs as per Phytosanitary Certificate” with the Phytosanitary Certificate number inserted at the top right. At this time, used by one company in the Netherlands.

A special certificate from the Netherlands that lists a serial number, the scientific name of the bulb, the country of its origin, and a date on which the special certificate expires.
Bulbs accompanied by a PPQ Form 203, or a telex (Chile) that verifies the shipment has been precleared. Also, applicable CITES documents will accompany these shipments.

But yes, tourists should make sure to choose seeds and bulbs that are labeled “cleared for US Customs”! I’ll update the post to reflect that.

Thanks!
Tom

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