• Saturday, October 16, 2021

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  • Top 5 Bookshops and Book Markets

    Amsterdam has been a haven for literary creatures since its beginnings.  A dedication to a famous local writer, Multatuli, rests over the Singel canal bridge in the Jordaan.  A favorite of Sigmund Freud, Multatuli (A.K.A. Eduard Douwes Dekker) lived from 1820 to 1887.  His most famous work, Max Havelaar (1860), played an important role in reshaping Dutch colonial policy in the Dutch East Indies (now known as Indonesia).  But maybe you’re looking for something a little lighter than trade embargos to unwind in the autumn evening?  Amsterdam’s Het Spui area contains a surprisingly large selection of large, well-known book stores including the American Book Center, Waterstones and the famous Athenaeum.  While each of these shops is worth a look, I prefer the smaller shops where you can really get to know the staff and owners.  Whether you’re visiting on holiday or a local who hasn’t yet found the place to quench your literary thirst, look no further!  Here are my top five favorite book boutiques and markets in Amsterdam to browse the afternoon away.


    2. De Boekenmarkt Op Het Spui

    About a twenty-minute walk southeast, you will find yourself at Het Spui, the square boasting the largest and highly trafficked bookstores in town.  On Fridays, an open-air book market consumes the plaza.  At De Boekenmarkt Op Het Spui (Fri 10:00-18:00) you’ll find tents covering hundreds of used and rare editions not found anywhere else in Amsterdam.  Ask the dealers if you’re looking for something in particular.  Wares range from literature and coffee table books to comic books and children’s literature.  Mostly in Dutch and other languages.   Some English.  Also on sale, you’ll find original and printed artwork and thousands of old postcards and oddball photographs — a must-browse!


    4. The Book Exchange

    Also from Nieuwmarkt, walk south on Kloveniersburgwal and you can’t miss the blue and yellow sign that promises, “Used English Books.”  The Book Exchange has sated the expat reader’s voracious appetite since 1978.  It’s is one of my favorite nooks because you can find work by just about any notable writer.  Carrying a wide selection of used English books from textbooks to paperbacks, you could spend hours browsing the stuffed cases.  Three levels boast a wide range of subjects from Fantasy, Thriller, Detective, and Romance Fiction to Philosophy, Social and Political Science, and Psychology.  The establishment also carries obscure, special editions, and rare books.  The staff buys books at a reasonable rate and is very helpful and friendly.  Here they have an intimate relationship with each book they buy and will usually tell you off of the top of their head whether or not they carry a title.


    5. Boekenmarkt Oudemanhuispoort

    Nestled in the Poort of some of the oldest University of Amsterdam buildings, the Boekenmarkt at Oudemanhuispoort (Mon-Sat 9:00-17:00) represents the most venerable book market on our top five.  From Kloveniersburgwal, make a right at an ancient-looking stone portal.  Opened in 1879, the book vendors that line the pathway deal mostly in paperbacks, cookbooks, and posters, which are found in a variety of languages, including English.  This is where students and professors alike browse for a little “light” reading.  On the north side you can peek into the university’s law quad, have a seat at one of the benches that surrounds a scenic reflection pool, and crack open that dog-eared copy of Max Havelaar.


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