Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Book Hunting in Amsterdam

What do you do when you visit Amsterdam? For first-time-visitors, a canal tour with a small boat, a cycling tour around the city and visiting some museums might be sufficient. Oh, and perhaps a sight-seeing to the Red Light District, for novelty's sake. Some young, rebel ones might also visit the coffee shops and smart shops. But if you're done with all the touristy stuff in Amsterdam, and if you love books, I can show you my favourite hunting spots.

Book Exchange
Walk straight to the direction of Dam Square from the Central Station, turn left where the white tall monument stands. Follow this Damrak street, cross a bridge that goes across the first canal, then turn left at the first intersection afterwards. Keep an eye on the left hand side of the street, you'll see stone steps upwards, with a front window saying "Book Exchange". Go up, go in, and you'll suddenly find yourself surrounded with endless rows of books, from wall to wall and from top to bottom.

If you look for novels of any kind (fictions, crime, etc.) then go straight forward and up the stairs. The books are alphabetically arranged according to authors' names. But if you stop at the bottom part of the stairs, you'll find humor, children's books and comics at your left hand side. Follow the stairs downwards and you'll get cookbooks, nature and social sciences. More popular science if you go to the basement, along with biographies and fantasies. Feminist and gay studies are also available. Dictionary, design, art and architecture books, books about movies, music and theatres are nearby the entrance. And there's more, wherever you look.

These books are all second hand, you can buy and you can sell, at a decent price (not too cheap, not too expensive). At least we could complete our Steinbeck collection at around 6 EUR a piece (paperback). No wonder this place has been an obligatory stop-over for English-speaking tourists, citizens, visitors, students, etc. who love browsing books.

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Book Exchange
Klovenierburgwal 58
1012CX Amsterdam
T: +31 (0)20 626 6266
Mon-Fri 10:00 - 18:00
Sat 10:00 - 17:30
Sun 11:30 - 16:00
No credit cards

This book hunting of course includes comics shops as well. If you go out the door of Book Exchange, go to the left hand side and walk straight down the street, to the direction of Nieuwmarkt. Just when you come to the intersection of Zeedijk (that's after you just pass De Waag Café), look to your left. There's a door and a display window with Henk written on it in 'Heineken letters'. Just go in if you're a comic books aficionado - and, moreover, if you're collecting (superheroes) figurines. Just be ready to be broken-hearted if you can't spend the right amount of dough for your favourite character.

I recommend this shop for those who like American mainstream comics and English-translated Manga (of any genre). There are some quality 'alternative' or small-publisher products, too, from the US, UK and EU. The shop is so snug and full you can even drool without anybody noticing (just wipe it quick - but not on that Batman's cape, you nuts).

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Henk - The Comic & Manga Store
Zeedijk 136
1012 BC Amsterdam
T: +31 (0)20 421 3688
E: shop@comics.nl
W: http://www.comics.nl/
Mon-Sat 11:00 - 18:00
Thu 11:00 - 21:00
Sun 12:00 - 18:00

The New English Bookshop
If we're done with our business in this frivolous district (books, Chinese food eating and shopping, or whatever you do here), shall we move on to our next target? From Henk, or De Waag, walk along the street towards the Book Exchange, and go straight. If you go right at the first intersection after Book Exchange, you'll find yourself walking to Dam Square (where Madame Tussaud's Museum, The Royal Palace and The Cathedral are).

But if you ignore the intersection and keep going forward, picking always the right hand side of the street, you'll eventually find yourself walking across Hotel de l'Europe (quite posh, this one). Keep walking until the bridge over a canal, cross it, then cross the big street to the direction of Muntplein/Munttoren. Before reaching the Munt Tower (don't cross that other street), look across your right shoulder. There it is: The New English Bookshop.

This shop is quite a good choice if you're looking for presents; especially for children's books and cook books. They sell travel books as well, along with stationaries and cutie-putie gift-books. I've scored a lot of sticker- and activity-books here, as well as CD-books for kids. Even comics! They have novels and fiction, too, and some art/ design/ architecture/ gardening/ yoga books. Their products are new, but are sold at very steep prices. I don't know how they do that (I was told that what they sell are what are left at warehouses).

There's another one of this shop, down Leidsestraat.

The New English Bookshop
Lauriergracht 71
T: +31 (0)20 626 4230
Open on Sundays, too.

De Slegte
Alright, The New English Bookshop is actually down the Kalverstraat. Kalverstraat is a street full of shops that starts from in front of the Central Station - walk straight this street and you'll arrive at Muntplein. But if you're at The New English Bookshop, then walk up to the direction of the Central Station (get it?).

You'll pass by some interesting spots but we'll discuss that later. Anyway, there's this big bookshop called De Slegte at the left hand side (if you walk towards Central Station). It's a chain bookshop that you can find in big cities in The Netherlands. Books here are mostly in Dutch although quite plenty are in English - and also at a bargain price, new and second hand (but not the antiques). There are three stories of goodness-on-prints-and-papers, so be prepared to spend half-a-day in here (or perhaps a full day, for this shop was renovated into a bigger, cozier place).

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De Slegte
Kalverstraat 48-52
1012 PE Amsterdam
T: +31 (0)20 622 5933
F: +31 (0)20 624 1620
E: info@deslegte.nl
W: http://www.deslegte.nl
Mon 11:00 - 18:00
Tue-Fri 9:30 - 18:00 (Thu to 21:00)
Sat 9:30 - 18:00

It's fine if you want to skip De Slegte, especially if you don't read too much Dutch. So, from The New English Bookshop nearby Munttoren, walk along Kalverstraat to the direction of Central Station. You will soon come across an intersection that goes to Spui if you turn left. Hold on there, I know there are lots of cafés at Spui that can lure you to immediately take a drink or two in one. You can't miss this one: Waterstone's in all its Briton properness. Tidy arrangements, darkish interior elements, expensive.

I'm just glad that they have this regular "2 for 3" offer: buy 3 books and you get one (the cheapest) free. The selections change periodically, mixed between old and new books. It's almost always the case that, every time I shop there, I buy no other books but the ones that are included in this offer. Here's giving you a picture: each paperback costs around 18 EUR - so if you buy 3 paperbacks of the same price, than each will cost 12 EUR. Still expensive, but what the hey. Oh, and I like their black plastic bag with a variety of quotations (printed in gold) on it :)

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Kalverstraat 152
1012XE Amsterdam
T: +31 (0)20 638 3821
E: enquiries@amsterdam.waterstones.com
W: http://www.waterstones.com
Sun 11:00 - 18:00
Mon 10:00 - 18:00
Tue-Wed 09:30 - 18:00
Thu 09:30 - 21:00
Fri 09:30 - 18:00
Sat 10:00 - 18:30

American Book Center

Just in case nothing of the "3 for 2" selections at Waterston's suits you, just walk to the direction of Spui. I think you can see it already at the corner of the square: the new venue of American Book Center (they moved from Kalverstraat in the end of 2006). I have been into their old shop lots of time, but only been once into this new one.

There's a discount card that is valid for one year and gives you 10% off every time you shop, costing - correct me if I'm wrong - about 15 EUR. I got my money back quite quickly, for they also have a good and complete selection of new comics and paperbacks. I promised myself I would explore the new shop at Spui from end to end, once I got the chance to go to Amsterdam again.

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American Book Center
Spui 12
1012 XA Amsterdam
T:+31 (0)20 625 55 37
F:+31 (0)20 624 80 42
E: info@abc.nl
W: http://www.abc.nl
GPS coordinates: lat - long: 52.369 , 4.889
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday: 10h00 - 20h00
Thursday 10h00 - 21h00
Friday, Saturday 10h00 - 20h00
Sunday 11h00 - 18h30
Our ABC Move Blog gives you information on the move from the Kalverstraat to the Spui.

Scouring books in this Spui area never ends. Across the American Book Center, there's more interesting bookshops like Atheneum, that has an extensive selection of magazines (Spui 14-16, 1012 XA Amsterdam, T: +31 (0)20 622 6248). But let's just walk to the direction of Bloemenmarkt (Flower Market), and turn right at Koningsplein. Walk a bit down and stop before the first bridge. You'll find yourself in front of Scheltema, a chain bookshop in The Netherlands (but with different names in other cities). This one is huge and it has a tiny cafe that looks more like a small living room with a counter, coffee tables and seats. However, I don't think it's too cozy to linger there, sitting and drinking.

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Koningsplein 20
1017 BB Amsterdam
T: +31 (0)20 523 1411
F: +31 (0)20 622 7684
W: http://www.scheltema.nl


Out of Scheltema, turn right and walk down Leidsestraat, a street full of shops at its left and right (your shoe-holic friends might get frantic here). When you reach Prinsengracht canal, walk on a bit down. On the right hand side you'll see another New English Bookstore (same as the one at Kalverstraat), just before an intersection of Kerkstraat. Turn left at the intersection and look for number 132, situated on your right hand side.

If you think I'm saving the best for last, you're right. I've written a lengthy article concerning this shop/gallery/antiquariaat here: http://komik.multiply.com/journal/item/6 (in Indonesian). In short, I highly recommend this shop for those looking for comics other than mainstreams, Dutch and European comics, original prints, long-forgotten-hidden publications of graphic works and whatnot (surprise yourself). They start selling gimmicks, too, such as figurines (mainly characters from Belgian or France artists), T-shirt and buttons (originally Dutch, people!).

The counter at the front provides a shelf mainly for Xeroxed comics, another shelf contains DVDs and magazines. At the lower part and in the cupboard across are rows of second hand comics and magazines. People here know what they're talking about (concerning comics), so feel free to inquire what you want, what you need.

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Kerkstraat 132
1017 GP Amsterdam
T: +31 (0)20 626 7543
F: +31 (0)20 620 6372
E: lambiek@lambiek.net
W: http://www.lambiek.net
Mon-Fri 11:00-18:00
Sat 11:00-17:00
Sun 13:00-17:00

There are of course more bookshops and book-marketplaces worth visiting, such as Architect & Natura for people who look for books relevant to architecture, landscape architecture and gardening, some antique bookshops and marketplaces that abandon their 2nd-hand books that are not sold (so you can just pick them up for free!) - but this is my list so far. Happy hunting!


  1. Yay! Menyenangkan! Tapi...kapan ya saya bisa ke Amsterdam?
    (Meanwhile berburu buku di pelosok Poppies lane aja di sini :D)

  2. ah tita makasiii :D
    someday pasti kepake neh he he he

  3. Kalo di Bandung... wah susah deh nyarinya..
    Gramed ajeeehh..
    Dari jaman SMP, nongkrongnya di gramed .. paling banter ke daerah braga atau dago.

  4. 'Makasih Mbak Tita :)
    Panduan bagus untuk mencari buku di Amsterdam..

  5. Thanks Tita. Gue beruntung banget bisa ketemu elo di Amsterdam karena kalo bahas Amsterdam dengan orang2, gue selalu bisa kontribusi lebih selain diskusi mengenai red-light district yg basi :p.

    PS: kapan bikin list tempat makan favorit? Buruan, sebelon kenangan itu tertindas sama yang seru2 di Bandung, hahahahahah :))

  6. berburu buku memang menyenangkan!
    di Poppies lane spt apa? cerita dong.. sudah lama nggak ke bali nih :(

  7. sama sama :D kalo mau make, ajak2 ya ;))

  8. memang, di bandung susah cari yg serupa. ada sih pasar utk buku2 bekas di suci atau (dulu) cikapundung. jadi paling nunggu waktunya ke jkt, main ke kinokuniya :D

  9. sama2 mbak :) ini juga sambil mengenang2 masa2 menyenangkan di sana, di mana buku2 bagus bukan berarti barang mewah :D

  10. you're welcome, ven! haha iya ya pasti image yg pertama ttg amsterdam adalah "kota red light" - padahal masih banyak yg lain (museum, teater, taman kota, dsb). tempat makan favorit, menyusul! yg pasti sih de bakkerswinkel dan new king termasuk ;))

    ada lagi toko buku andalan deket museumplein, seberang public library (dari museumplein jalan ke arah szechuan kitchen), namanya martyrium. wah makin lama makin panjang nih daftarnya.. hehe..
    ayo para (ex-)amsterdammers, ada yg mau nambahin info tempat buku favorit nggak?

  11. *glek* bookshops :D thanks ta, mudah2an bisa kesana hehe.

  12. Mbak Tita, makasih u/ info nya. Saya demen banget ngubek2 di toko buku berjam2. Again...thaaaaaaaanks

  13. This is great, Tita..... Thank You. Definitely a "print out" material to keep and take when I go to A'dam next time (bhw - now that you're "home" - do you miss Holland?)

  14. I do miss the liberty of being able to just take my bike whenever I want to go to places, far or near, and I do miss the abundant choice of bookshops! :D Other than that, I'm getting by. You know that it's not easy having two (or more) places you can call 'home' - especially when they're half-a-world apart! :)

  15. hahaha samaaa... terima kasih kembali!

  16. you're welcome, G! mudah2an bisa ke sana.. janjian ama si ceretch yuuuk

  17. very true :) love this quote :)

    anyway, soal ABC, kalo km student, pake kartu student (manapun) dapet diskon 10% kok :)
    *tp belum jenguk ABC yg baru neh, :P oh ya gimana kalo tambah AKO dan BRUNA, for whom love quick englih-book-shooping near the station ;)

  18. ha! iya, aku nggak pernah punya kartu pelajar sih di amsterdam (kartu TU Delft-ku tulisannya 'medewerker' :P)

    Yup, I used to go to AKO and BRUNA for our magazine intakes (Donald Duck for Dhanu, Fairies for Lindri :D)

  19. Haduuu...Mbak Tita...jadi kangen jalan2 menelusuri toko2 buku inih bersamamu....hiks....

    Tapi asik nih...referensi lengkap toko buku di amsterdam..thank you ya...tinggal nyari temen buat jalannya nih yang agak susah *sigh*

  20. aah.. sendiri aja niinn.. (eh, perlu orang utk kasih 'kacamata kuda' ya biar gak belok-belok ke toko2 yg lain? hahaha). ajak si akang mister meneer atuh euy :)

  21. Thanks for the advice!

    I was just looking for an e-mail on the best Indonesian restaurant in Amsterdam
    you send me a while ago... (maybe you can send it to me again ;-)
    I am visiting Amsterdam this sunday with a friend: seeing Cats-the musical in Carré and
    afterwards dinner!

  22. You're welcome! Wish you lots of fun watching the musical! I've never seen Cats and known only their soundtrack :)

    Cross the Amstel river from Carré, go to Ferdinand Bolstraat. There's Sari Citra, actually an 'afhaal' place but they have space and facilities to sit and eat in. I highly recommend this one, but mind their closing hour (9 or 10 pm).

    If the show is up to very late at night, then perhaps go to Lange Leidsedwarsstraat, just off Leidsestraat, to Bojo, which opens until the wee hour at night.

    There's one more near CS, just off the white monument at the Dam: Sukasari at Damstraat. Decent food, although a bit pricey (considering the location).

    Right, Indonesian-Amsterdammer friends, feel free to add more suggestions!

  23. Only been to ABC in Den Haag. Will definitely check out the ones you mentioned here by summertime. Thanks for pointing us to Dutch's favourite bookish haunts ;-)

  24. Thanks Tita!

    Too bad, I haven't had the time to see your post earlier (shame, big shame :(
    But I will keep them in mind for the next time I am in Amsterdam!

  25. it's my pleasure! you should definitely check out Book Exchange - it's like rummaging the cave of aladdin!

  26. You're welcome! Ah, but Amsterdam is not so far from where you live, so you can easily use this list some other time (and perhaps update some spots, too, for me! :D)

  27. Makasih mbak Tita, jadi kalo ke Amsterdam, saya tahu harus kemana...

  28. It's my pleasure! Kalo ke Lambiek, salam utk orang2 di sana yaa *kangen ngubek toko komik gede*