History of Waterloo-Square
The name "Waterlooplein", which translates as "Waterloo Square", was used for the first time in 1880, when the city filled in two canals, the "Leprozengracht" and the "Houtgracht", forming a new square.
The original outdoor market dates from 1893 when the mostly Jewish market, then located on and around the "Jodenbreestraat" with other stalls on surrounding streets, was forced by the government to move on to Waterloo Square itself. The forced move aroused some strong feelings. The Waterloo Square outdoor market in the late 1900's was a bustling place, operating six days a week, being closed, of course, on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. This was the place where you could literally find almost anything. The horrors of Wold War II with mass extermination of Jews by Nazi Germany forever marked the end of the old Jewish market. Even though it was restored after the war, it never was to regain its old original flavor and style.
The "Waterlooplein" after 1945
After World War II the streets surrounding Waterloo Square were empty and deserted. The old Jewish Quarter around "Jodenbreestraat", "Weesperstraat", was a ghost town with block after block of vacant houses and apartments. Post-War reconstruction gradually restored the old neighborhood but the strong ethnic Jewish identity was lost and gone forever.
The street merchants in early post-war days scratched out a living selling housewares and recycled items recovered from trash heaps.
The 1950's marked a new time of improving prosperity in Holland. People began to look for affordable furniture and other household items. This rebirth of the Waterloo Square Flea Market continued into the 1960's and 70's with increased American tourism, and rapidly changing social times. Amsterdam was a magnet for hippies and their flower power movement. They made "Waterlooplein" one of their main gathering places, and the market began to offer psychedelic clothing and other items of the times along with more and more antiques and collectibles.
In 1977 the "Waterlooplein" market was forced to temporarily relocate to permit construction of a new Town Hall at Waterloo Square on the "Rapenburgerstraat". This caused an uproar among the market's merchants, but nonetheless the market was moved with the promise that it could return to new and improved quarters when the Town hall construction was completed.
The present location of the Waterloo Square Flea Market is, as promised, located behind Amsterdam's Town Hall and is limited to 300 stalls offering an incredible variety of items from rare books to American blue jeans. The market is open six days a week, being closed on Sunday.