The Netherlands is a paradise for readers — plenty of dark, wet days to curl up inside, and just enough sunny ones to meet minimum vitamin D requirements with a good book in the park.
For book lovers, a good bookstore can feel like a second home. Fortunately, the Netherlands has you covered. There are many great bookstores offering wide selections not only in Dutch, but also in English, and often other languages too. To keep up with your voracious reading appetite, check out this list of the 10 bookstores in the Netherlands you simply must visit.
Athenaeum — Spui, Amsterdam
This particular Athenaeum store is located in the centre of Amsterdam. It’s a beautiful bookstore that is unique because it also sells an excellent collection of magazines and journals. It has books — mostly in Dutch, but with some in English and other languages — on politics, history, and of course a good helping of literary fiction. But it’s the magazines that give Athenaeum the fame it deserves: they have *such* a good collection. The fashion magazines are excellent, but I personally love coming here to flick through their arts and culture magazines.
ABC — Spui, Amsterdam
Just across the street from Athenaeum lies the American Book Center‘s Amsterdam store. It has three storeys of books, all in English — so perfect if you don’t fancy searching through a mixed-language bookstore. There is an excellent sci-fi, fantasy, and graphic novel section on the second floor, as well as a beautiful, airy white room that contains books on religion, philosophy, and self-improvement (I always feel improved after visiting it, anyway!). The fiction section is also really extensive. Plus, if you have ever wanted to see your own book in the flesh, then ABC also has an Espresso Book Machine which allows you to print your own manuscript in book form.
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Waterstones — Amsterdam
Ok, we’re almost done with the bookstores of Amsterdam, but it’s impossible to leave the capital without visiting Waterstones. Another English-language bookstore with multiple floors, in case ABC wasn’t enough for you! The main reason I come to Waterstones, though, is for their classics collection (which they also run a book group for). Classics can be a bit intimidating, but I find it really helps to choose a pretty edition — it makes the book feel more approachable, somehow. Waterstones also have an excellent stationery collection, which is important to most book lovers I know!
Boekhandel Dominicanen — Maastricht
This bookstore is another one that I would recommend visiting just for the building. Dominicanen is based, as the name would suggest, in a remodelled church. Yes, it is as gorgeous as it sounds. It has books of every sort but has a particularly good music section, which pays a lovely tribute to the bookstore’s heritage. It’s a massive space, but don’t worry: if you get hungry, you can grab a coffee or lunch at Blanche Dael Coffeelovers, which is located where the priest choir used to sing. There are often also lectures, debates, and music performances here.
Broese — Utrecht
This bookstore recently moved to a new location, and let us tell you now: the new spot is absolutely stunning. In April, in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, Broese moved to its new premises in the Old Post Office on the Nuede. The old building has been added to with a beautiful new extension, complete with a glass floor and exposed brick walls of the old building. This bookstore offers mostly Dutch books, but has an excellent selection of English titles as well, particularly when it comes to fiction. And frankly, it’s also worth visiting for the new building alone.
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Stanza — Den Haag
Stanza is a small bookstore nestled away in Noordeinde in The Hague. It’s a pretty unique place, in that it has books in French, German, English, Portuguese, and Russian. It’s also known for its collection of international law books. Importantly, it has an extremely aesthetic colour scheme, with mint-green shelves and fresh sunflowers. There is something so charming about wandering through this little bookstore and happening upon books in several different languages. The Noordeinde is also the perfect spot to go for brunch after a morning of book browsing.
Mayflower — Leiden
The Mayflower is an English-language bookstore in Leiden, one of the prettiest university towns of the Netherlands. The Mayflower has that musty, cozy, old-bookstore feel, and they sell both second-hand and new books. The shelves of this bookstore are packed full of interesting books, and it’s that perfect size where you can walk several times through it completely, and notice a million different books you want to take home each time. Highly dangerous, would recommend. Also, the Mayflower Bookshop is on the Breestraat in Leiden, which is a lovely shopping street to spend an afternoon, and all your money, in.
Waanders in de Broeren — Zwolle
If you’re reading this list and thinking: wow, this girl is a bit obsessed with refurbished churches being used as bookstores, you would be correct. Also, I’m just right. They’re so beautiful, and Waanders in de Broeren is no exception to that rule. It opened fairly recently, in 2019, and of course, has masses of books. You can spend hours wandering through the church. Also, it has an excellent stationery section, and just like Dominicanen, it also has a place to grab a bite to eat as you browse the shelves.
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De Slegte — Rotterdam
I love a good second-hand book, especially when you can see it’s been loved by another reader before you. It’s like you get to have a (very limited) conversation about the book with someone else, through light pencil underlining and dog-eared pages. De Slegte in Rotterdam has an excellent selection of second-hand books in their cosy bookstore, along with new releases, of course. They’re also really engaged with the book world, and often have signings and lectures by authors and poets in their store.
Riemer — Groningen
Many bookstores look much smaller on the outside than they are on the inside, but the Riemer bookstore in Groningen takes this magic trick to a whole new level. The inside of this bookstore is massive, and it has books of every genre, mostly in Dutch but with plenty in English, too. It also has an excellent children’s section, which is perfect for visiting to pick up some books in Dutch for your child, so you can read and learn Dutch together. The bookstore also has a very aesthetically pleasing cookbook section, complete with some tasty snacks you can take home along with your book.
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The list could go on, of course, but by now you must be itching to get those peepers on some new material. So go and visit one or all of these wonderful bookstores, and happy reading!
Have you visited any of these bookstores? Are there any others you’d add to the list? Let us know your favourites the in comments below!
Feature Image: Sid Saxena/Unsplash
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in September 2020, and was fully updated in April 2021 for your reading pleasure.