Forming part of the entrance to the University of Amsterdam’s law faculty, the Oudemanhuispoort book market is a historical haven for bibliophiles in the city. Now a listed building, the complex takes its name from its original function as a home for poor, elderly men and women.
The typically sepia Amsterdam brickwork lining the tunnel gives the it an enticing darkness when peered through from the gate on the Oudezijds Actherburgwal, dating back to 1601, but as you walk through the light seeps languidly in from the windows lining one whole side of the port. Opposite the windows, though, lies the real draw: 14 charming alcoves, each a mini-Aladdin’s cave for book-lovers, stashed full of second-hand and antique printed materials ranging from sheet music to cookbooks, English novels to German philosophy.
The primary wares are displayed on tables fronting the alcoves for ease of browsing, although those hunting for something unique can ask to browse ‘in the back’ to run their eyes over the manifold titles stacked attic-like against one-another. The sellers themselves are mostly older gentlemen who spend their time ignoring customers and perusing their own stock, pack of cigarettes never more than an arms length away.
Such a relaxed atmosphere, all the more welcome for being a five minute walk away from the madness of the Red Light District, is perfect for an afternoon of browsing titles which are often very reasonably priced. The extensive collection will have you absorbed enough to ignore the litigious looks of the lingering law students and the wide range of languages which the books come in will leave you exiting the other side of the port with some new reading material under your arm for certain.