A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Imagine two huge warehouses full of everything you could ever dream of. Now imagine you can actually afford all the things that you’ve wanted to buy but didn’t think you could on your skint student budget. Ladies and gentleman, fret no more for I present to you Ij-Hallen – Holland’s best kept secret.
Yesterday I ventured into the great unknown world of second-hand goodness. With a close friend, I boarded the train from Leiden in the wee hours of the morning (11:00am on a Saturday – talk about dedication), arrived at Amsterdam Centraal, rushed to get on to the free ferry and crossed the beautiful water to this magical land. The ferry was filled with hipster-types which in some way assured me that this market was something to get excited about.
And boy was I right. As I walked towards the market it was everything I expected and a little bit more. Derelict, colourful, crowded with people from all walks of life and culture, music, laughter. After paying my entrance fee (€4.50 but trust me it’s worth it) I was greeted by these two massive, industrial warehouses, full of tiny little stalls and a constant background murmur of people bargaining to get the best deal possible.
A little overwhelmed, my friend and I had to remind ourselves of our budget because trust me it is so easy to get caught up and think “3 euros for a pair of sunglasses never hurt anyone!”. It does add up so be smart. But honestly that is my only word of advise. Oh and it’s probably also a good idea to bring along a sturdy backpack or even a little trolley to carry your gems because my shoulders definitely felt the toll.
Not wanting to miss any of the stalls, we decided on a circular strategy and gradually made our way around. The great thing about this place was that it had everything under one roof. Vintage furniture, retro lights, musty old books, antiques, old fur coats, knit-knacks, jewellery and clothes. So. Many. Clothes. Realizing it would take me half a century to go through everything, I decided to only look at the stalls whose owners were wearing clothes that I wanted to buy. And I definitely stand by this decision.
What I did notice was that the stalls closest to the entrance charged relatively higher prices than those at the back. So don’t get over-excited and spend all your money before reaching the back stalls. Also, an hour or so before closing time the stall owners just want to get rid of everything so they lower the price, I bought a pair of jeans for €1 – you do the math! (a lot of stalls hung up signs saying everything must go. 50 cents for each piece).
I was actually really surprised at just how cheap everything was. Aside from the more professional looking stalls, there was a lot of young people selling stuff that they no longer wanted. This might be good to keep in mind for those of you who will be leaving Leiden soon and can’t realistically take all the junk you have somehow accumulated while living here (don’t worry – it happens to the best of us).
After walking around for hours and buying incredibly cheap things we decided it was time to leave. Waiting on the pier for the boat to arrive, I was reminded by just how much I love this little country and all the surprises it has to offer (did I mention that Ij-Hallen is the biggest second-hand market on Continental Europe!)
I had an incredible time, found some great pieces, and know that I will be back soon to hunt down some more bargains. I advise you to do the same the next time you are looking for a fun and cheap adventure!