Amsterdam for book lovers
Amsterdam is one of those cities that just goes hand in hand with literature. Exploring its winding waterways, cobbled alleys and crooked buildings you can’t help but fall under the city’s spell – so it’s little wonder that so many writers over the years have chosen to make Amsterdam the backdrop to their stories.
If like them you come over a little bookish whilst in Amsterdam, then there are plenty of places to lose yourself in a world of words and volumes. Here are a few personal favourites:
Cuypers Library at the Rijksmuseum
You know that bit in Beauty and the Beast when Beast gives Belle the library? Well basically that. Cuypers Library inside the Rijksmuseum is the largest and oldest art library in the Netherlands and boy oh boy is it impressive (see picture above). Galleries and galleries of bookcases are connected by intricate iron staircases and columns, and the whole thing is flooded with light from above by huge arched sky lights. You can use the library’s reading rooms for research, but mostly I just like to stand and gawp. Museumstraat 1
The bookish heart of Amsterdam is Spui; a cobbled square that (like most of Amsterdam) used to be a body of water, but was filled in in the late 19th century and turned into the charming little corner of the city that it is today. Here you’ll find several literary cafes and wonderful bookstores, including the charming Athenaeum Boekhandel and The American Book Center. Don’t be fooled by the name of the latter – it’s not just American literature here but all English language varieties, spread over three delightful storeys (of stories). At the top of the store is an exhibition and events space called the Treehouse, used for literature evenings, workshops, book launches and more.
Eduard van Dishoek
This tiny antique bookshop right out of a Harry Potter film is tucked away on a narrow alleyway between Spui and Singel. It’s stacked high with old books, prints and maps and overseen by Eduard van Dishoek – a fifth generation antiques expert who sources stock from all over the world. So you’ll always find something new and intriguing to pore over. Oh and, randomly, Gwyneth Paltrow is a fan. Raamsteeg 1
Every Friday for the last twenty years, book lovers have flocked to the charming cobbles of Spui square to hunt down rare, second-hand or hard-to-find books in every language at this outdoor book market. The market brings together booksellers from all over the country, so you’re bound to pick up something unexpected. As well as books, you’ll also find old prints, maps and periodicals. It’s a delightful place to wander, discover, meet, and take some inspiration away from.
Oudemanhuispoort book market
Another fine book market – this time a daily one – is located in Oudemanhuis (literally ‘Old man house’), a former home for the elderly and now part of the university. Hidden down a covered passageway (poort) between university buildings, this atmospheric market has a musty, academic air with tables and shelves weighed down by piles of second-hand book (mostly in Dutch), as well as historical prints and sheet music. Be sure to rummage around in all the 14 alcoves that line the poort – you never know what you might unearth. Oudemanhuispoort 4-6