Since visiting Kraków, Poland, last year and exploring their bookshops and literary cafés, I decided it would be a good idea to explore what other places had to offer, too. Kraków had the most wonderful little bookshop café that I fell in love with and I just wanted to see if other cities had anything similar.
I’ve visited Amsterdam a few times but it never really occurred to me to visit its literary scene before. It’s silly, I know. I’m a book lover who has a love for exploring new places to buy books, so why hadn’t I thought of this before? This time, though, I did a bit of googling and found out about Het Spui, a street known as Amsterdam’s book street. Spui is also home to a magnificent book market every Friday.
Whilst in Kraków, I’d decided to make a tradition of buying a bookmark from every place I visited, so that was my main aim whilst exploring Spui. Although, I did end up buying a lot more than that!
If I’m honest, expected a lot more book shops on the street as well as a few literary cafés. I do have a feeling we missed some, though. I probably didn’t do enough research as there were a lot of buildings that didn’t have signs, so they could’ve been cafes or shops – hindsight is a wonderful thing. At least I might have more to explore next time I’m in Amsterdam, though.
The American Book Center
The American Book Center has three or four massive floors (I can’t remember exactly- I was a bit too excited to be in there to count the floors) full of books and bookish accessories. I’m a massive fan of Out of Print and The American Book Center was full of their pencil cases, tote bags, socks, and loads more.
I couldn’t find any bookmarks that had anything to do with Amsterdam, so after buying an Out of Print Poe tote bag, some awesome sticky bookmarks and a book of Aesop’s Fables (which unfortunately got a bit battered on the way home), I was off to explore the next place.
This place was wonderful, but I’m a really bad British tourist and can’t speak or read much Dutch, so I couldn’t buy anything. I was very tempted to pick up a Dutch children’s book to help me learn the language, but I decided to stick to Duolingo for a bit longer before I attempt that. No bookmarks here, so off to Waterstones I went!
Waterstones is technically on Kalverstraat, but that corner becomes Spui, so I’ve thrown it in with Spui mostly because it was a delightful part of the experience. I didn’t manage to get a photo, though, which I’m a bit gutted about because it was a beautiful building.
I usually prefer the wonders of a cave full of secondhand books, but Waterstones in Britain never disappoints and Amsterdam’s certainly didn’t. It was massive and had everything you could need, plus little reading nooks scattered around the store, which I’ve never really noticed in the UK stores. It had the friendliest and the most helpful staff I have come across, too. The lady who served me was running up and down stairs to find me a pencil sharpener after I mentioned needing one to my boyfriend. She was really very lovely and nothing was too much hassle.
I finally found a bookmark with a photograph of a beautiful painting of Dam Square on it, along with a ladybird pencil, a magic mushroom pencil sharpener and rubber, and lots warm and fuzzy feelings.
De Boeken Markt Op Het Spui
The book market is full of beautiful Dutch secondhand and antique books, as well as artwork and vintage prints. Unfortunately, I didn’t buy anything. The stalls were cash–only (as expected) and we’d forgotten to get cash out beforehand, but it was a wonderful experience. It had a lovely, peaceful atmosphere and the stallholders left you to browse at your leisure. I was tempted to find a cashpoint and buy some old Dutch books, but the books would’ve been sitting on my bookshelf while I gradually learnt the language. Let’s be honest, books deserve better than that!
The Book Exchange
On Kloveniersburgal, lives The Book Exchange. We were greeted by some very friendly American guys and entered into an Aladdin’s cave if any bookworm’s dream. It’s definitely one of the most amazing secondhand bookshops I’ve ever been in. I lost count of how many rooms or floors it has, but each one was crammed with secondhand wonders. They had more genre choices than any other bookshop I’ve been in. It was heaven!
We found this one by accident, so didn’t have enough time to have a proper look. I had a quick browse in every room, bought a copy of Angela Carter’s The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman and went to search for food. I’m definitely going back there to inspect every nook and cranny next time I’m in Amsterdam.
If you’re a bookworm and planning to go to Amsterdam, I’d definitely advise checking out all of the above, especially The Book Exchange. Even if you don’t buy anything, the experience itself is completely worth it. Please, let me know if you’ve found some bookshop or literary cafés in Amsterdam – I think that’s the only thing that was missing for me and I’d love to have more places to visit on my next trip!