Schiphol Airport

Schiphol; A Dutch Masterpiece ….

Duty Free Shopping Schiphol AirportAmsterdam’s hub has been growing due to the merged operations of KLM and Air France • and the shopping facilities are seeing some benefits***

Upgraded retail facilities have been transforming Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. Lounge 3 has had a new lease of life (details of which can be found here). But even without this latest upgrade, the airport stands as one of the pioneers of the duty free business – and one which has steadfastly done things its own way.

See Buy Fly is probably the most iconic and enduring of the shopping slogans created by any airport, and the hub still sticks to its tried and trusted utilitarian ‘no brand’ way of presenting most of its stores; the shopfronts are simply about being informative. Hence you’ll see stores called, Chocolate, Electronics, Liquor, Tobacco. It may be unimaginative, but it works in an international environment like an airport, and since it was introduced only a few brands have been allowed to break the ‘no brand’ rule including Ralph Lauren and Victoria’s Secret.

But before we look airside where See Buy Fly operates, the landside at Schiphol deserves a mention because of its large size and diversity. Housed in Schiphol Plaza, where all the transport to and from the airport converges, is a mall filled with stores where locals often come to do their shopping.

The plaza fans out from a core zone into three main shopping areas; Arrivals 1 to 3. At the centre you can browse a newsagents called Ako, Fleurtiek the first of many florists you will find at the airport, plus a menswear store called Global Brands with a mix of fashionable labels. Also in this area is the XD Theatre, a treat for filmgoers if you have time.

In 1 you can find the Telecom Shop for local pay-as-you-go SIM cards for smartphones and all sorts of other accessories, a hairdresser (Coiffure en Vogue), an Etos chemist shop selling a wide range of perfumes and cosmetics, and the higher end Kappé Perfumes & Colors perfumery which offers luxury beauty and sunglasses. Fashionistas can stop by America Today, with its industrial New York look of steel, wooden floors and large black-and-white photography, or try Saint Tropez with designs for younger women at reasonable prices.

Arrivals 2 has a similar mix with fashion to the fore. The H&M here was the first in the Netherlands to be focused entirely on ladies accessories like jewellery, bags, shawls and belts. Nearby, Wonder Woman is dedicated to women’s fashion while Paolo Salotto Luxury Leathergoods sells suitcases, bags and travel items. Consumer electronics, computers plus DVDs, games and CDs are available at Capi, while Leonidas is the go-to for Belgian chocolate. Planes@Plaza is for aviation geeks looking for everything from aeroplane models to DVDs, T-shirts and games. And for yet more flowers and bulbs, don’t forget Aviflora.

Arrivals 3 has a more brands-oriented and more upscale feel. Gassan Plaza stocks original jewellery and watches towards the luxury end of the market while Suitsupply has a made-to-measure suits service, plus ties and shirts. High street fashion is there in the form of Mexx for women and men, a Nike store and Paolo Salotto Menswear selling brands like Jaguar, McGregor and Gaastra, plus a separate Paolo Salotto Shoes unit selling ladies footwear and handbags. Finally, The Body Shop has its usual natural personal care products.

Going airside, as explained, the stores will be indicated by product category. It is worth spending some time here as Amsterdam Airport is known for bargains and regularly has price promotions. The See Buy Fly shops offer a price promise which means that various special offers are labelled ‘Lowest Price Guarantee’, to indicate the price of the product is the lowest in the Netherlands. Should this not be the case, the airport will refund the difference. In addition if you buy any non-perishable items, you get a two-year global warranty regardless of your destination (but check the terms and conditions). And buy anything worth more than €20 and you can pick it up as part of a free service when you return, if travelling within the European Union.On the fashion and accessories side the stores are multi-branded and have a strong mix of labels that change often so you can always find something new. In jewellery and watches the high-end Gassan dominates, carrying both fashion and prestige brands, but there are products for most tastes and budgets. Brands range from the likes of Audemars Piguet, Breitling, IWC, Jaeger le Coultre and Rolex, to Swatch, and everything in between. You can also get repairs done to your watches and jewellery so comprehensive is the service.

As Amsterdam is a well known diamond centre, Gassan Diamonds offers a large collection of loose, cut diamonds varying from 0.02 to 1 carat stones and more, each sold with a certificate with a precise description. The company has even developed Gassan 121, a brilliant cut with 121 facets, 64 more than the usual 57.

Another big category is perfumes and cosmetics covered by several dedicated stores which have specialist staff to guide you through the latest launches. Three sunglasses units at the airport are an indication of how popular these have become. They sell everything from Maui Jim, Oakley, Polaroid and Ray Ban, to Cartier, Bvlgari, Gucci, Dior, Fendi, Prada, and Tom Ford.

On the food side, the Dutch have a lot to offer. Aside from delicious cheeses in the Delicatessen stores, there is gingerbread ‘ontbijtkoek’ cake, Calvé peanut butter, Venco liquorice, Roka cheese biscuits and the popular Haagse Hopjes coffee sweets. Many cheese assortments come with Delftware accessories and a range of Dutch cheese cutters, cheese boards and other utensils. International products like caviar and Italian truffle products are also available.

In the Souvenirs shops the range is broad but Delftware, including hand-painted porcelain from Porceleyne Fles, as well as clogs are much sought after. And in the Sports stores Dutch football shirts such as AFC Ajax do a roaring trade along with the usual brands like O’Neill and Adidas.

And finally – bulbs really are everywhere as are fresh cut Dutch tulips, roses and bouquets which are claimed will stay fresh during flights of up to 20 hours. An eye-catching House of Tulips flagship shop in Lounge 3 (more about which is here) is testament to the Netherlands’ enduring floral tradition.


  • Passenger numbers, 2011: 49.8 million, up +10% on 2010
  • Terminals: Single curved terminal divided into three sections
  • Airlines: Around 90 going to about 310 destinations of which 170 are in Europe. The biggest carriers (by number of routes) are KLM, KLM Cityhopper,, ArkFly and EasyJet.
  • Worth knowing: Unlike many other European airports Schiphol now gives travellers one hour of free web access.