Looking for English books in Amsterdam? You’ve come to the right place. As someone who loves 1) books, 2) a bargain, and 3) giving unsolicited advice, I’ve combined all three, and put together the Definitive Amsterdam English Bookstore Book tour.
What is this Definitive Amsterdam English Bookstore Book Tour? The Definitive Amsterdam English Bookstore Book Tour (DAEBB, for short) includes a selection of the best English bookstores in Amsterdam. What makes them the best? The places that made this list each offer a different type of book, with a different environment, varying price points, and are all within a short radius of each other in the center – for ease of access. Plus, I’ve highlighted pit stops on the way so that you can keep up your caffeine and sugar levels in between.
What makes this book tour “definitive”? Easy: it’s got everything you’d ever need in a walking book tour:
- With various price points, putting the most affordable reads first
- Much-needed pastry breaks
Here is the route to take if you want to get as many English books as possible, accompanied by well-timed snack breaks along the way.
Starting secondhand: The Book Exchange – Used English Books
The Book Exchange – Used English Books, Kloveniersburgwal 58
The Book Exchange – Used English Books is the perfect starting point to your book tour for several reasons:
- You can unload your old books, trading them in for cash or store credit. They don’t take in all English books, as it depends on if they think it will sell. But, you can always head to their site, where you can send them a picture of the book spines, where they’ll tell you in advance which ones they’ll take in.
- It’s got the largest selection of secondhand English books on the European continent. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a popular title or something more obscure – they’ll have options for both.
- Out of all of the stores in this tour, this one is the cheapest. You can satisfy that book-buying urge with little financial guilt, from the get-go.
The space itself is a book-lovers dream, with three floors and a basement filled top-to-bottom with titles of all kinds. You could spend hours rummaging around, enveloped by the smell of well-worn books. As should be a requirement in any good secondhand bookstore, the staff are characters in their own right and know their stuff.
Oh, and if you’re a sci-fi or fantasy buff, head straight to the basement. Their sci-fi and fantasy selection is incredible – from the usual big names to obscure, D-list titles, with amazingly cheesy covers.
Indepent bookstore for activists of all types: Fort van Sjakoo
Fort van Sjakoo, Jodenbreestraat 24
Exiting The Book Exchange, you’ll head straight on to Waterloopplein, where you’ll find the independent bookstore, Fort van Sjakoo.
Here, there’s a different kind of book selection, available mainly in English and Dutch. The titles sold at Fort van Sjakoo are more political and radical than what you’ll find at your average bookstore. Now legitimized, this store has its roots as an unofficial bookstore in a squatted building. You’ll find titles about climate action, anti-racism, communism, anti-fascism, and everything in between.
If you’re trying to steer away from mainstream literature and towards more critical political ideology, it’s worth a visit.
For the ones looking for that diamond in the rough: Oudemanhuispoort
Leaving Fort van Sjakoo behind, we’re retracing our steps, crossing familiar canals, and going back towards the center, through the Oudemanhuispoort passage.
Cheap, second-hand books have been sold at stalls of Oudemanhuispoort – now owned by the University of Amsterdam – since the 18th century. Van Gogh himself used to frequent these booths, having documented his purchases at the time.
Nowadays, you can find a selection of books in English, Dutch, and occasionally other languages. While less curated and organized than the other options on the list, for those with enough patience, it’s worth perusing the selection available. For those without, you should at least walk through and experience a bit of Amsterdam’s history.
Snack break: De Laatste Kruimel
De Laatste Kruimel, Langebrugsteeg 4
Time for a snack break.
On your way to the next stop, there will be a bakery called De Laatste Kruimel, tempting you with baked goods in the window. Do not resist the temptation and go in.
Doesn’t matter if you’re more into sweet or savory, there’s something for everyone: scones, quiches, cakes, pies, and croissants. Grab whatever it is you’re craving, get a coffee, and get ready to head to the next stop.
Cheap, popular titles: New English Bookstore
New English Bookstore, Kalverstraat 223
The New English Bookstore won’t be the most exciting or unique when it comes to its charm or selection, but it is reliable and well-priced. Consider it the Subway of bookstores – nothing to write home about, but you know what you’re getting each time, and there are way worse options.
This store’s specialty is cheap classics and popular books – think around the 5-11 euro range for your Orwells or Austens. It’s nothing too fancy, but a good place to stock up on the basics before you move on to the next store.
More secondhand books: Boekhandel De Slegte
De Slegte, Vijzelstraat 53
A secondhand bookstore that has good options for the Dutchies, too.
I’d skip their English fiction section. Most of what they have on offer, you’ll find at the other stores on this list. Instead, if you’re interested in a specific genre (i.e. history, business, psychology, etc.), you’ll find some gems in English interspersed among the Dutch titles.
Their art, fashion, and design books are the best of the bunch. If you’re looking for a good deal on the usually prohibitively-priced coffee-table books, you’ll find them here. Personal anecdote time: only last week, I bought a great foundational art book that’s been out of print for years, going for 120+ euros online, for only 30 in-store.
Time for a cheeky cocktail with a view: Blue Amsterdam
Blue Amsterdam, Winkelcentrum Kalverpassage, Singel 457
Your feet might be a bit sore at this point, and your bags are probably heavier than when you started, so it’s time to sit down and enjoy a drink at Blue Amsterdam.
If you walk up the busy Kalverstraaat – the shopping street of Amsterdam – and into the Kalverpassage mall, take the elevator all the way to the top, and you’ll be at Blue. They’ve got an assortment of bites to eat if you’re feeling peckish, and some cocktails too, if you’re feeling cheeky. Most importantly, they’ve got a panoramic view of the city that’s all yours to enjoy.
So sit down, have a drink, and enjoy the view, before moving on to the next one.
Ol’ Faithful: The American Book Center
The American Book Center, Spui 12
At this point, you’d think you’ve seen everything there is to see, but that’s where you’d be wrong. If there’s a bookstore in Amsterdam that has that one trendy book that you haven’t been able to find anywhere, it’ll be at the American Book Center.
The American Book Center (also known as ABC), feels like it has every book, on every topic you’d think of. Music biographies, art, fashion, fiction of all types, graphic novels, business, self-help… everything. They always have a selection of recommended books by the store, including a wall of “what we’re reading” that gives it that personal touch.
The American Book Center was the first English-only bookstore I’d been to in Europe since I moved from the US. It holds a special place in my heart, which is why I recommend it over Waterstones, which is just opposite, closer to the Kalverstraat. You can go there too, but in my totally subjective opinion, ABC has a better selection
Bonus round on Fridays: Book market
Amsterdam Book Market, Spui
If you’re still on the prowl for more, follow this route on Fridays. Every Friday, from 10:00 to 18:00, there’s a book market right in front of American Book Center and Waterstones, on Spui square.
People will be selling new and secondhand books, and even art prints, for those more artistically-inclined. It’s a fun bonus round of buying if you catch it at the right time.
Now hobble on home, and get ready to curl up with your new selection.
Thank you for joining Livelong’s Definitive Amsterdam English Bookstore Book Tour. Please don’t forget to leave us a scathing review on Yelp (we live for the drama) and be sure to pick up a typo-riddled t-shirt written in Comic Sans at the gift shop on your way out!
Oh, and here’s the Google Maps route if you want to give it a go.
Like what you see? I post a new blog every Sunday/Monday where I talk about… whatever THOUGHT interests me that week. Expect a bit of books, travel, beauty, and taking pop culture way too seriously.
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