Amsterdam is a beautiful city in so many ways. It’s as much a place of relaxation as it is of excitement.
Art both modern and classical; iconic architecture, bridges, and canals. There’s so much to love.
And as the cherry on top, there are also an awful lot of beautiful bookshops in Amsterdam!
The Best Bookshops in Amsterdam
After you’ve found and explored your favourite galleries, museums, restaurants, and cafes in Amsterdam, you’re going to want to check out the best bookshops in Amsterdam as well.
All the bookshops here are located in and around the centre, all within walking distance of one another, and all are unique from each other in one way or another.
This is your guide to all the beautiful bookshops in Amsterdam.
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The American Book Center
While this isn’t the only American Book Center in The Netherlands, it is the nation’s big flagship store.
And when we say big, we mean it. This is the kind of bookstore that feels like it goes on forever, like it could inspire a novel about infinite shelves of infinite books full of infinite stories.
As its name implies, everything here is in English, beginning with the enormous magazine section on the ground floor.
The first set of stairs is lined on one side with shelves so tall you can’t reach the top. It’s tantalising.
You’ll also find a cafe upstairs, right after a section on board games, DnD, Warhammer, and Pokemon cards. A little nerdy haven in the heart of a colossal bookshop.
Of all the bookshops in Amsterdam, this is the one you don’t miss. If you only have time to visit one and you have plenty of time to spare, visit the American Book Center.
Even better, come here with wads of cash and enjoy an unshackled, manic shopping spree.
While there are many wonderful independent bookshops in Amsterdam, it’s worth mentioning the strange fact that there is a Waterstones here.
British readers will be familiar with Waterstones, the largest bookshop chain in the UK. Finding one in the heart of Amsterdam is a little strange, but very cool.
What’s even stranger is the fact that this particular Waterstones even has a section dedicated to British snacks: Jaffa Cakes, Jammie Dodgers, Yorkshire Tea teabags, and more.
This Waterstones is a decent size, and it looks and behaves identical to all other Waterstones: it has the same black and gold aesthetic, same section headers, same layout.
For bookish Brits in Amsterdam, this Waterstones is a home away from home; a place of home comforts right down to the snacks.
And since it is a Waterstones, everything in here is brand new, with an emphasis on the newest and hottest English-language books of the moment.
You’ll also find tote bags, stationary, and gifts near the till, just like in every other Waterstones.
If you’re looking for brand new English books, this is one of the essential bookshops in Amsterdam.
The English Bookshop
As its name boldly states, this is an English bookshop in Amsterdam. It’s a decently-sized place that stocks the best and most popular English language books.
It’s just the right size to stock everything you need: both fiction and nonfiction from almost every popular genre.
The bonus here is the shop’s booksellers, who are some of the kindest, most welcoming, most enthusiastic people you’ll meet in Amsterdam.
Booksellers are the heart of the publishing world, and the booksellers at Amsterdam’s English Bookshop are wonderful at their job; a delight to chat with.
If you’re in need for brand new English language books, and you’d rather not visit a big chain like ABC or Waterstones, pay a visit to one of the most welcoming bookshops in Amsterdam.
At Books and Bao, we are huge fans of specialty bookshops. Bookshops that focus on queer writers, radical authors, women writers, authors of colour, and so on.
Pegasus bookshop in Amsterdam is one of these wonderful specialty bookshops, dedicated entirely to Eastern European literature in translation.
From Poland to Ukraine via the Baltics and Balkans, you’ll find here some of the best fiction and nonfiction from across Eastern Europe.
Pegasus is also a publishing house, so some of the books sold here have been published by the bookshop itself; their covers are eye-catchingly colourful.
Specialist bookshops are such an integral, and often overlooked, part of the publishing and bookselling world, but they set themselves apart by highlighting specific areas that deserve attention.
As readers and book lovers, we are very grateful for the work that specialist bookshops like Pegasus are doing.
For that reason, Pegasus is one of the absolute must-visit bookshops in Amsterdam.
It would be so easy to miss Happy Bookieman when exploring the capital of The Netherlands, but to do so would be a terrible shame.
This little bookshop is a haphazard space in the best way possible, selling a random selection of used books in both Dutch and English.
Located right on the edge of one of Amsterdam’s central canals, this place is decorated with protest art and is run by a kind, welcoming, and chatty man who will even make you a cup of tea!
Pantheon is another great bookshop in the heart of Amsterdam, surrounded by excellent coffee shops on all sides.
It’s a neat, tidy, organised, and bright bookshop that sells all the most exciting fresh, new literature, mostly in Dutch but with an English section as well.
The English section is particularly impressive, stocked high with the best brand new books of the moment: hardback and paperback fiction from UK publishers.
Mendo is very unique amongst the bookshops in Amsterdam. It is as much an artspace as it is a bookstore.
The moody lighting and meticulously planned and executed decor exudes a very specific mood that makes the visitor feel as though they have just walked into a modern art gallery.
Lining the walls are large coffee table books, all nonfiction and specialist books with an emphasis on aesthetics.
Travel books, street photography, architecture books; all large hardbacks, gorgeously designed and impressive to examine.
Handling them, these books are all weighty and would be very at home on display on anyone’s coffee table.
This is the kind of bookshop with a very specific tone and aesthetic in mind, both in terms of what it is and what it sells, and Mendo has executed on that perfectly.
Certainly one of the most unique bookshops in Amsterdam, by a long way.
The Book Exchange
This one is a definite favourite amongst all the bookshops in Amsterdam.
The Book Exchange is a second-hand bookshop that exclusively deals in English language books, and has been open for around fifty years.
Like any good second hand bookshop, The Book Exchange feels endless; it has four floors and two of them are underground! Its shelves are all a little too high. It’s perfect.
The stairs creak, the walls are undecorated, the shelves are musty, but the place is meticulously organised by section, genre, and all alphabetised.
The Book Exchange is the perfect second hand bookstore; a cave of wonders where hidden gems and cheap alternatives to expensive new books abound.
You can spend forever combing the shelves in this wonderful bookshop, scouring the genres to see what treasures you might uncover.
The atmosphere is perfect, and the books uncountable. One of the best bookshops in Amsterdam, easily.
Located a little walk west of the city centre, Island Bookstore is one of those fun open-plan bookshops with multiple levels all within the same space.
In that way, it reminds us of a slightly smaller version of Heffers in Cambridge, UK.
Like Pantheon (above), Island Bookstore is a shop that focuses on new books in Dutch, with an English section as well for those who are interested.
Another specialist bookshop, Evenaar is dedicated to travel books, and its decor reflects that.
With globes on the shelves and bunting decorated with little bicycles, this is a charming little bookshop at the edge of Amsterdam’s city centre.
Most of what you’ll find here is in Dutch, with random English books strewn about.
You’ll find travel guides as well as specific history and culture books, as well as books dedicated to things like nature writing and local culture.