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A couple checks out the books of the museum shop of Huis Marseille.
Image from Jan de Ridder

Best English-language bookstores in Amsterdam

With its poetic setting, rich cultural history, and vibrant intellectual scene, Amsterdam has had a long connection with influential writers and thinkers, such as philosopher Baruch Spinoza, author Multatuli, and diarist Anne Frank. Today, the city is brimming with bookstores. Admittedly, most are focused on the Dutch market, but there is still plenty of choice for English book lovers in every genre. Here are some of our favourite places to shop for English-language books.

Karin Engelbrecht
After writing about all things lifestyle in Amsterdam for 15+ years, this born-and-raised South African knows where it’s at.
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The American Book Center (ABC)

The American Book Center exterior
Image from Gerard van Beek Fotografie

What started as a discount outlet in 1972 is now one of the biggest brick-and-mortar English-only bookstores on the European mainland. Happily, students, teachers and senior citizens get a 10% discount to this day. Still family-owned, the personal touch remains as the booksellers are the buyers here. The assortment of books and magazines is wide, from art, fashion and psychology to crime fiction and manga, with a range of booklovers’ gifts, greeting cards, diaries and notebooks, too. There are lots of armchairs dotted about, a small café upstairs and a self-publishing bookmaking machine (supposedly the first on the continent) for readers who want to become writers. All browsed out? Nearby Scheltema (Rokin 9) has an entire floor dedicated to English books, a decent second-hand book section and a coffee corner.

ABC | Spui 12, Centrum

Athenaeum Boekhandel

Practically next door, at Spui 14-16 is a treasure trove of international literature, art books, travel guides, and academic books on a wide variety of topics. The adjacent Nieuwscentrum (“news centre”) is perhaps even more impressive, with an expansive range of design, fashion and art magazines, newspapers and periodicals from around the world. The Zuidoost branch (pictured) boasts a colourful range of authors reflecting the diverse nature of its neighbourhood. You’ll find fiction in Dutch and English for all ages as well as books about (Black) history, psychology, business and nature here. There’s also a good selection of international magazines and newspapers.

Waterstones

Interior of Waterstones bookstore
Image from mokumista

Leafy Het Spui square is home to a famous Friday market for used and antiquarian books in a variety of languages, called Het Boekenmarkt op het Spui. It also boasts a bevvy of international bookstores, including the aforementioned ones and the British chain Waterstones. In addition to all the books everyone’s talking about and the ones you’ve always meant to read, there’s an unbeatable children’s section upstairs, where you’ll find classics such as The Wind in the Willows and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but also recent releases like The World’s Worst Teachers and The Clockwork Conspiracy.

Waterstones | Kalverstraat 152, Centrum

Architectura & Natura

Architecture Natura Bookshop
Image from mokumista

A short walk away, in the Canal District, is an impressively stocked multilingual specialist. The clue’s in the name: this bookstore focuses on architectural history, urban design, botanical life, animal studies – and Amsterdam. Some titles, such as The Amsterdam School and Essay on Gardening are self-published, while others, like The Secret Life of Cows and Ad Hoc Baroque, are thoughtfully selected by people with a clear passion for their subject.

Architectura & Natura | Leliegracht 22, Centrum

Boekhandel Robert Premsela

If you’ve just visited the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum or Stedelijk Museum, do take the time to stop by this revered art specialist. You’ll find hundreds of art books, rare monographs and all the latest publications by the world’s best art publishers here. There’s also a good selection of highbrow literature and books on architecture and design. For reasonably priced literature and books on philosophy, history and poetry in English, Dutch, French and German, do check out nearby Het Martyrium (Van Baerlestraat 170-172). Or head further south to Anne Frank’s favourite bookshop, Boekhandel Jimmink (Rooseveltlaan 62), where she selected the red chequered diary as a gift for her 13th birthday, shortly before going into hiding.

Boekhandel Robert Premsela | Van Baerlestraat 78, Oud-Zuid

The Book Exchange

Looking for that out-of-print art book? Bargain pre-loved paperbacks in good condition? Or obscure sci-fi with quirky covers? Then add this browse-worthy charmer near the Red Light District to your must-visit list. There are three floors with over 50,000 second-hand English titles across 40 categories and helpful staff who know their stuff. The focus is on literature and the social sciences, from a cellar with sci-fi and fantasy books to poetry, philosophy, highbrow fiction and pulp crime novels. For antiquarian finds on art, history, archaeology and other subjects, head to Antiquariaat A. Kok & Zn (Oude Hoogstraat 14) or if you prefer to rummage for treasure where Vincent van Gogh used to find inspiration for his artworks, amble down the Oudemanhuispoort, an 18th century covered walkway, filled with stalls selling second-hand books (some in English), prints and sheet music. Searching for something a little more radical? Situated in a former squat, Het Fort van Sjakoo (Jodenbreestraat 24), stocks political, libertarian and sociocritical literature, foreign publications, music and magazines. For more manga, comics, graphic novels and the like, head to specialist Henk’s Comics (Zeedijk 101) a short walk away.

The Book Exchange | Kloveniersburgwal 78, Centrum

Bijlmer Bookstore

This Afri-centred bookstore was founded in 2019 by Zuidoost residents (and sisters) Nathifa and Zuwena Elshot (pictured) because there wasn’t anything like it in the area. Today, they pride themselves on their collection of fiction/non-fiction, cookbooks and poetry by Black authors from Africa and the diaspora for kids, teens and adults.

Bijlmer Bookstore | Paasheuvelweg 8, Zuidoost

Evenaar Travel Books

Interior of Evenaar travel bookstore
Image from mokumista

Rarely does anyone leave this beloved multi-lingual travel specialist empty-handed – not with its collection of inspiring travel guides, destination novels and antique travel books that’ll take you everywhere from Amsterdam to Zanzibar, with language guides to match. Whether you’re an armchair anthropologist or looking for reading inspiration about your current (or next) destination, there’s something here to satisfy your wanderlust. There’s also an extensive collection of travel guides and maps on the mezzanine level in Pantheon Boekhandel (Sint Antoniebreestraat 134).

Karin Engelbrecht
After writing about all things lifestyle in Amsterdam for 15+ years, this born-and-raised South African knows where it’s at.
Follow Karin