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Amazing bookstores in The Netherlands

Amazing bookstores in The Netherlands | Your Dutch Guide

Yes, I know. These days you simply download the latest bestseller onto your e-reader or tablet when you’re out of something to read. But to me, visiting a new country and city also means browsing bookstores. They are the perfect place to visit for a reading traveller. Either to browse some excellent (English!) books on the destination you’re visiting or to sip a nice cup of coffee surrounded by the smell of books (I love the smell of books). Don’t miss these amazing bookstores in The Netherlands. 

If you’ve been reading my ramblings here on Your Dutch Guide (and I hope you have!), you know that I am less than modest about how wonderful it is to visit less than well-known towns, villages and cities in The Netherlands. But if there’s one thing we Dutch rock at, it’s good bookstores. I don’t mind boasting a little about this too. Just like in other countries, bookstores have been struggling, since we all started reading on our e-readers (and I do the same, I am not ashamed to admit).

But another, slightly dramatic, development has helped Dutch bookstores to establish themselves once again: even in a time of digital reading.  In The Netherlands lots of historical monuments, like Golden Age mansions and churches, have been struggling for decades to pay for upkeep. Government grants have dried up, leaving property owners and local councils desperate on what to do with these lovely, but often expensive buildings. The solution has been found in bookstores, as they allow for the historical building to keep their unique atmosphere, but give people a reason to come in and browse for a while.

Amazing bookstores in The Netherlands: bookshop in Dominican church in Maastricht | Your Dutch Guide

Amazing bookstores in The Netherlands: bookshop in Dominican church in Maastricht | Your Dutch Guide

Bookstores in The Netherlands you shouldn’t miss

Maastricht: bookshop in the Dominican Church

Picture this: wandering around for hours in a 13th-century Dominican church, taking in the giant gothic arches, ancient frescoes and colourfully stained glass windows, whilst browsing thousands of books and beautiful stationery or having a cup of nice coffee and some cake. Libris bookshop in Maastricht has been voted most beautiful bookstore in The Netherlands, and even the world, a couple of times. And with good reason. The bookshop has been cleverly set up, leaving all the space for you to enjoy the ancient details of the well-preserved building. Can you believe that in the 70’s this church was in such a bad shape, there was almost no other choice but to tear it down? I am glad that didn’t happen.

Curious about Maastricht? Also read:

Baarn: Den Boer in Jugendstil

Baarn is just a 20-25 minute drive from Amsterdam and is set in a green and quiet part of The Netherlands. But if you’re a book lover, bookshop Den Boer would be an excellent reason for a detour. This bookstore is set in a breathtaking Jugendstil building from 1887, with beautifully high, arched windows. Inside the wood panelled interior is the perfect setting for all those lovely books.

Amazing bookstores in The Netherlands: bookshop Den Boer in Baarn (photo by Den Boer) | Your Dutch Guide

Amazing bookstores in The Netherlands: Waanders in Zwolle | Your Dutch Guide

Amazing bookstores in The Netherlands: Waanders in Zwolle (photo by Waanders) | Your Dutch Guide

Zwolle: Waanders in Broeren church

Just like in Maastricht, Zwolle has its own bookshop in a church. But the atmosphere is totally different from Maastricht! There is nothing gothic or mysterious about the Broeren church, the interior is bright, light with an impressive large organ in the centre. You can shop for books on four floors and treat yourself to lunch in the Brasserie. You’ll soon understand why this bookstore has won a couple of architectural prizes.

Read more about Zwolle:

Middelburg: nifty bookshop De Drvkkery

Even though Middelburg bookstore Drvkkery is located in a beautiful old building on the historical market square, you really wouldn’t be able to tell once you walk inside. Clever skylights make this bookshop bright and spacious. The bookcases are placed in half circles, creating quiet areas to have privacy from other customers. In the centre of the store sits the brasserie, which is a great place to sit down with cake, coffee or lunch and start reading your latest purchase.

Curious about Middelburg? Read these articles:

Amazing bookstores in The Netherlands: Drvkkery in Middelburg (photo by Drvkkery) | Your Dutch Guide

Amazing bookstores in The Netherlands: Bek Boeken in Veghel (photo by Bek Boeken) | Your Dutch Guide

Time travel at Bek Boeken in Veghel

When you’re travelling in the footsteps of Vincent van Gogh in the Dutch province of Noord-Brabant, you should take a tiny detour to the village of Veghel, as a visit to Bek bookshop is a must for those who love time travel. The old wood panelled bookshop is stacked from bottom to ceiling with the most amazing books. And while you climb up a stepladder to find something new to read, please look up at the ceilings as they’re beautifully decorated. The store also sells everything artists need, from brushes and paint to stationery. You can even buy fine wines and good coffee at Bek.

2 book hotspots in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is filled with lovely bookstores, but I think there are two book-related hotspots that no bookwork should miss.

The first one is the library of The Rijksmuseum. When I saw the library for the first time I thought it was actually part of the museum and only accessible for art historians and important researchers. But it’s not. Everyone can just sit there and read, between 10 am and 5 pm, surrounded by the most amazing works and Rembrandt’s masterpieces a stone’s throw away. Please note that it’s not allowed to take pens (no scribbling moustaches on a Vermeer!), so if you need to write something down, have a pencil near.

Amazing bookstores in The Netherlands: Library Rijksmuseum Amsterdam (photo by Frank van Beek Fotografie) | Your Dutch Guide

A library and a café all rolled into one? What a clever idea! This is what they must’ve thought when they opened Café de Bieb. ‘Bieb’ is what we Dutch call ‘bibliotheek’, our word for library. The café is a bright and cosy space, filled with vintage furniture and lots and lots of books up for reading on the spot or lending for a bit. The long reading table and fireplace are oh so inviting.

Amazing bookstores in The Netherlands | Your Dutch Guide

During my travels abroad I have seen some amazing bookshops as well. I think I liked Lello in Porto, Ler Devager in Lisbon and Book Café in Budapest best.

What’s the loveliest bookstore you’ve visited during your travels?

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33 Comments

  • Reply
    Lolo
    January 4, 2018 at 11:53 am

    I knew about the one in the church but gosh dang it, why didn’t I know about the one in the Rijksmuseum!!! Now I’m sad!

  • Reply
    Deeptha
    January 4, 2018 at 3:35 pm

    Wow! The library of the Rijksmuseum is stunning. I could spend hours and hours there. The books are the main draw but the setting itself is an attraction on its own.

  • Reply
    Katy
    January 4, 2018 at 9:54 pm

    Wow Esther – some of these are incredible. I have visited the library at the Rijksmuseum a couple of times and am slightly obsessed by it but had no idea about Café de Bieb. What a treasure. A trip to Maastricht was already on my list but the bookshop in a church is incredible!

    • Reply
      Esther
      January 6, 2018 at 9:11 am

      I think the bookshop in the church is a highlight for a visit to Maastricht (for both Dutchies and visitors), I have visited it 3 times now and I simply love it.

  • Reply
    Ruth
    January 5, 2018 at 4:29 am

    Oh my! I love this post! I have been downloading books and magazines for some time but it is not the same as having a book in your hands. Here in the States bookstores are given minimum importance (at least were I live). Mexico, South America and Europe become a paradise from the book perspective every time I visit. I love to spend tons of times on bookstores looking around and buying one book or two.

    • Reply
      Esther
      January 6, 2018 at 9:10 am

      I agree, there’s nothing better than a book souvenir!

  • Reply
    Bryna
    January 5, 2018 at 4:49 am

    I am not a big book reader. I spent too much time reading textbooks and now I don’t really like to do read in my spare time. I always tell myself I should start reading for fun again though – maybe 2018 will be the year to do it? Bookstores are always a treat to browse through even if I don’t read though. I’d love to hang out at the bookstore with the organ – that looks amazing!

  • Reply
    Erin Gustafson
    January 5, 2018 at 12:30 pm

    I am definitely a hold a book in my hands kind of reader and can’t do e-readers. I like the feel, the sense of progress and I’m a sucker for a good cover design. These all look like a wonderful way to while away an afternoon or toodle through on a trip. The repurposing of old churches into these beautiful and unique spaces even cooler. Way better than an average American huge box store bookshop.

  • Reply
    Lisa
    January 5, 2018 at 12:32 pm

    Oh wow, that’s such a great list! Books and travelling are my two favourite things in the world, so that’s the perfect post for me. Definitely saving it for when I get to go visit the Netherlands again!

  • Reply
    Clare
    January 5, 2018 at 3:49 pm

    I could spend hours in a bookshop and never download books – I much prefer to read the real thing! I know about the beautiful bookshop in the church at Maastricht but hadn’t heard of the others. Definitely adding them to my list.

  • Reply
    Faith Coates
    January 5, 2018 at 5:21 pm

    A tablet or reader can never replace the feel, smell and emotions a real book gives me. I will always be a fan of the printed word and I simply love to explore these types of book stores which are sadly lacking in many N. American and Canadian cities. What a thrill to spend hours reading, exploring and taking it all in.

    • Reply
      Esther
      January 6, 2018 at 9:09 am

      So sad to read that Americans and Canadians are so cute-bookstore-deprived!

  • Reply
    Courtney Minor
    January 5, 2018 at 7:40 pm

    I always visit bookstores and libraries when I’m traveling. I love being surrounded by books and it’s interesting to see what’s popular in different cities and countries. These bookstores are beautiful!

  • Reply
    Maggie
    January 6, 2018 at 6:58 am

    I love a good bookstore. You are absolutely right, there is just something about the smell and feel of books. If you ever visit Los Angeles, make sure to check out The Last Bookstore in downtown LA. It has its own unique LA vibe, but is a must for bibliophiles.

    • Reply
      Esther
      January 6, 2018 at 9:08 am

      Indeed, the smell and feel of books is just amazing. Thank you for the tip about LA, I always like to visit bookstores when I’m on the road.

  • Reply
    Sandra
    January 6, 2018 at 9:11 am

    I’ve been to Netherlands a few times, but it never crossed my mind to visit a bookstore. Next time I will visit at least one of those you mentioned.

  • Reply
    Jessica
    January 6, 2018 at 3:14 pm

    I love books and libraries – so I really enjoyed your photos and descriptions. The library at The Rijksmuseum looks particularly amazing! Reminds me that I need to go get a new library book from our local library here 😉

  • Reply
    Jill
    January 6, 2018 at 5:56 pm

    I would count bookstores as one of my favorite places ever. I just visited the fun bookstore, The Strand, in New York. There’s never enough time in a bookstore. I’ll have to bookmark this for my next visit to The Netherlands – a bookstore tour there sounds wonderful to me.

  • Reply
    Anda
    January 7, 2018 at 4:07 am

    I still prefer holding a book in my hand when I read. I don’t think books have lost their appeal with the arrival of the Internet, it’s only that people have less and less room in their homes for bookcases. We still own over 5,000 volumes of books (including the Encyclopedia Britannica) and my husband keeps buying! I love bookstores and the ones that you feature here look indeed amazing. I’ll make sure to visit some of them when I come to the Netherlands.

  • Reply
    Hayley Hornberg
    January 7, 2018 at 11:17 pm

    So LOVE this! My husband and I are English majors and we always try to check out the local libraries when we’re traveling. We always find them interesting and beautiful. Thanks for the great list!

  • Reply
    Elaine J Masters
    January 8, 2018 at 6:20 am

    Love the development that these beautiful spaces are so well complemented by book lovers and books. It makes me want to visit the Netherlands more than ever. Sorry too that I missed the Book Cafe in Budapest!

  • Reply
    Keri
    January 8, 2018 at 11:32 am

    I agree there’s something special about bookstores! These look amazing, what beautiful places to explore…

  • Reply
    Jules
    January 8, 2018 at 1:26 pm

    I did not know about the library at the Rijksmuseum. I would also add the amazing library at the Binnehof in Den Haag, it is no open to the public, but it is amazing! Not really a bookstore, it is a library but I would totally add Bookmountain in Spijkenisse to this list. It is such a cool place, we managed to visit it last month.

  • Reply
    beatravelling
    January 8, 2018 at 6:09 pm

    Wow! Haven’t come across anything like this while visiting the Netherlands. Nice!

  • Reply
    Alex
    January 8, 2018 at 10:02 pm

    Oh my – a woman after my own heart! And, I can’t believe I never heard of those two beauties in Amsterdam, I missed them! 🙁 Definitely bookmarking this for our next Netherlands trip!

  • Reply
    Catherine
    January 10, 2018 at 6:47 pm

    I’ve been fantasising about working in the Rijksmuseum Library since I saw it in the summer but I need to visit all these book stores. Especially the one that is also a cafe.

    • Reply
      Esther
      January 11, 2018 at 9:07 am

      Oh but Catherine, most of them have a café…. 😉

  • Reply
    Rob+Ann
    January 12, 2018 at 6:34 pm

    Oh my gosh…Libris bookstore. #swoon! We tend to spend loooong hours in bookstores anyway. I’m afraid we might never leave that one! The one in Zwolle is beautiful also. They’ve managed to combine two of our favorites: bookstores and beautiful old churches. That’s a win-win for everyone!

  • Reply
    Mini Travellers
    January 13, 2018 at 8:40 am

    oh oh oh I absolutely adore a book store, and am in total heaven when I’m in one. These have to be some of the best, I literally love the first one in the church and the last one in Amsterdam!

  • Reply
    Janine
    January 14, 2018 at 10:30 am

    Bookstores are amazing. I love the smell of a good book. Just like Mr Big in Sex and the City when he smells the book Carrie brings home and says “ooh that’s an oldie.” Great round up here. I would look in each one.

  • Reply
    Kana
    January 17, 2018 at 6:10 am

    I am SUCH a bookstore/bookworm so this is absolutely my dream! If I’m ever out there I’m going!

  • Reply
    Kerala
    January 18, 2018 at 7:03 am

    Wow! I have never seen these type of bookstores in my life.

  • Reply
    Kat
    January 28, 2018 at 9:10 am

    I’m definitely not a Kindle type of person. I need my books in actual print and though carrying one book when I travel takes up space, I still need to have them with me 🙂 They are perfect when reading in places where there are no WIFI, on the bus and planes, by the pool and before going to bed. Hence, I’m very happy for such bookstores in Netherlands – definitely will browse through books there and while away my time.

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