Amsterdam has a number of bookstores selling English books. There are actually 4 dedicated English language book shops in the city whilst some Dutch bookstores also stock a range of English titles.
Both US and UK published books are well represented – however you will pay a local premium over the usual dollar or pound cover price for new books. The Dutch book market is strictly regulated and in general prices tend to be quite high.
There are a number of bookshops located around the Spui square area – a weekly book market is also held there every Friday.
American Book Center (ABC)
ABC is an Amsterdam institution, having been set up as a bargain bookstore in 1972 by two Americans. For years it was located on the Kalverstraat shopping street – however since 2006 it has made its home on the picturesque Spui square.
Still a fiercely independent, family-run business, the current store is spread over 3 floors with a huge selection of American and British titles. It claims to be the best stocked English language bookstore in continental Europe.
The ground floor houses sections on art & design, fashion, music, photography, sport and a good selection of British and US magazines. Check out the tree trunk on display which goes up through the ceiling to the first floor.
Head upstairs past the Bookwall – a large curved floor-to-ceiling shelf space filled with books – here you will find the travel section.
The 1st floor has a comprehensive selection of sci-fi/fantasy books, cooking, gardening plus a children’s corner. A small Harar coffee-to-go cafe with a few seats has been added.
The 2nd floor covers history, politics, business and science. The White Room at the front has an excellent section on health, psychology, conspiracy and spiritual books. ABC has an “Espresso Book Machine” which allows you to print out your own self-published book.
You will find the staff at ABC to be enthusiastic and knowledgeable. ABC gives a 10% discount to students, teachers and over 65s. Those over 55 get the discount on Mondays only by showing a valid ID. Anyone else can buy a yearly ABC Booklover card for €7 which also gives you the 10% discount.
Regular social events such as book chats, open mic and trade-in days are held.
ABC bookstore (abc.nl) at Spui 12, Amsterdam (T: +31(0)20 6255537)
Open daily: 1100-1800 (Mon-Wed), 1000-1800 (Thu), 1000-1900 (Fri-Sat), 1100-1830 (Sun).
ABC also has other book store locations at Lange Poten 23 in the centre of The Hague and at the Westfield Mall of the Netherlands in Leidschendam.
The British bookseller has been present in Amsterdam since 1998. It has a large store covering 4 floors with an excellent selection of titles from the UK. It is located on the corner of Spui and the main shopping street Kalverstraat – quite near ABC – in a listed building designed by prominent Dutch architect Hendrik Berlage.
The ground floor covers fiction, current best sellers, local Dutch interest and English newspapers.
On the 1st floor you will find a small range of British food, games, cards and magazines.
The 2nd floor has a decent travel section, food and drink, children’s books and sci-fi/fantasy.
The 3rd floor includes business, self-help, biography, history and language learning. The friendly staff can help with any requests.
There are comfy seats on the top 2 floors to sit and browse. There is a nice view over Kalverstraat from the window on the 3rd floor.
UK visitors may find the prices a little steep, however Waterstones does have regular offers such as ‘3 for 2’ or ‘buy 1 get 1 half price’.
Waterstones Amsterdam (waterstones.com) at Kalverstraat 152 (T: +31(0)20 6383821)
Open daily: 1000-1830 (Mon-Wed), 1000-1900 (Thu-Sat), 1100-1830 (Sun).
This is the biggest bookstore in the Netherlands, originating back to 1853. In 2015 it moved from Koningsplein to a large location on Rokin very close to Dam Square, following its takeover by the Novamedia group.
With a retail area of 3,200m² spread over 5 floors, Scheltema houses over 125,000 books. Whilst catering to the local Dutch market, you will find many titles in the English language.
- an extensive English fiction section plus English children’s books on the 1st floor
- travel books at the Pied-à-Terre section on the 2nd floor
- an extensive cookery section with full working kitchen (2nd floor) that has hosted the likes of celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Yotam Ottolenghi
- non-fiction books (business/computer science/health/history/law/philosophy/psychology/science/spirituality) on the 3rd floor
- second hand books on the 4th floor
The 1st floor also has a Vascobelo café.
There are plenty of seats around the store for reading and relaxing and a nice view of the Zuiderkerk tower can be seen from the fourth floor. Scheltema hosts regular events such as book readings and signings.
There is a side entrance at Hermietenstraat, accessible via Rokin and Nes.
Scheltema (scheltema.nl) at Rokin 9, Amsterdam (T: +31(0)20 5231491)
Open daily: 1000-1900.
Smaller Bookshops in Amsterdam
Athenaeum Boekhandel & Nieuwscentrum Spui
The Athenaeum Nieuwscentrum shop across the road from ABC specialises in selling a large range of international newspapers and magazines.
The adjacent bookstore (Athenaeum Boekhandel) also sells some English titles. It has a range of 25,000 books focussed on Dutch, English and foreign language fiction, history and politics, philosophy, science, design, art and cookery books.
Athenaeum has a few stores around Amsterdam and one in Haarlem.
Athenaeum Boekhandel & Nieuwscentrum Spui (athenaeum.nl) at Spui 14-16 (T: +31(0)20 514 1460)
Open daily: 1000-1800 (Mon-Wed), 1000-1900 (Thu-Sat), 1100-1800 (Sun).
A beautiful store selling ‘aesthetically pleasing books’ located in the De L’Europe hotel near Muntplein. It specialises in a curated selection of coffee-table style books in the genres of photography, fashion, traveling, lifestyle, culinary books, interior & architecture and graphic design.
MENDO (mendo.nl) at Nieuwe Doelenstraat 10 (T: +31(0)20 612 1216)
Open: 1000-1700 (Tue-Sat), 1100-1700 (Sun), closed Mondays.
The English Bookshop
A small cut-price English book outlet on Kalverstraat very near Muntplein. Formerly known as the New English Bookstore, it has a reasonable range of books including travel guides, art books, fiction and non-fiction – you can often find some good bargains in here.
The English Bookshop at Kalverstraat 223 (T: +31(0)20 6249789)
Open daily: 1000-1800 (Mon-Sat), 1200-1700 (Sun).
This is Amsterdam’s largest second-hand English book store operating since 1978 located just east of the city centre on the Kloveniersburgwal canal. A one-man business, this independent store has non-fiction and travel books downstairs, fiction upstairs plus a basement with fantasy, psychology and politics. It has over 50,000 titles in stock.
Book Exchange (bookexchange.nl) at Kloveniersburgwal 58 (T: +31(0)20 6266266)
Open: Daily 1130-1730.
This article was originally published in 2008. Last updated 20 January 2023.