Inspired by Tessel’s article on Ghent’s best bookstores, I planned on writing a similar guide on Berlin’s most scrumptious book deli’s after a recent weekend trip to the German capital. Turns out all the bookstores I wanted to visit were located exactly on the other side of Berlin than the neighbourhood I was staying in and all-encompassing explorations of the city were out of the question because of the immensely cold December weather (not simply sweater weather, but thermal underwear and three layers of socks weather). I actually came across two quite nice bookstores by chance (Hundt Hammer Stein on the Alte Schönhauser Strasse 23-24, which houses an extensive section of English books and offers free tangerines to its customers in a bowl at the door, and Ebert und Weber on Falkensteinstrasse 44, which sells very pretty German language books by lesser-known publishers, a small selection of English books, and lovely notebooks, tote bags and postcards), but didn’t think these two would yield enough material to supply an entire article. I thus decided to write a slightly less exotic piece about the book emporiums of our own bicycle-infested city and hereby hopefully acquaint you bunch of bibliophiles with new book-filled places to roam and empty your wallets at in Amsterdam.
Fenix Books is probably my very favourite bookstore in this city. Located in the De Pijp-neighbourhood on Frans Halsstraat 88, this shop sells a large selection of second-hand treasures at a reasonable price. Not only do they stock many Dutch classics, poetry, and contemporary novels, they also sell a huge amount of English-language books in a non-discriminatory way: dusty classics and obscure novels by perhaps your new favourite author are crammed between copies of Fifty Shades of Grey and Eat, Pray, Love. If you’re a James Joyce fanatic you’re in luck: Fenix Books has three bookcases devoted to Irish literature and at least two shelves are filled with books by or about the bespectacled novelist.
Sterre der zee on Hasebroekstraat 43 is a bookstore in Oud-West that specializes in reasonably-priced second-hand books on spirituality and English literature (and has a very funky website that goes perfectly with that description). As is the case with many other seemingly tiny bookstores, the store is a lot larger on the inside and the shelves run along every available cranny and at times almost seem to defy gravity.
Although it’s located on a busy thoroughfare, one can spend hours rummaging the cozy shelves of Het Martyrium in Oud-Zuid without noticing the blaring engines speeding through the Van Baerlestraat. Although the store is mostly known for its range of Dutch poetry and literature, a large collection of cookbooks, books on photography and fashion, newspapers and quality films and TV series is sold here as well. A probably even more interesting fact for our readers is that the store sells one of Amsterdam’s biggest selections of English literature. Despite the fact that Het Martyrium only sells new books, bargain hunters can enjoy themselves at the store’s ‘ramsj’ section, where books are sold for a fraction of their original prices.
Unlike the aforementioned Berlin bookstores, these three shops are only a ten-minute bike ride away from each other. Anyone in the mood to spend some quality time in a few good bookstores in Amsterdam, is sure to have their paper appetite satisfied. If you’re left peckish by your bookshop explorations though, be sure to visit the Simon Meijssen bakery on the next corner from Het Martyrium – they sell the very best chocolate chip cookies in town.