In the spirit of blogging more regularly, I’m going to try and start a new regular top five feature. To start off, I’m looking at the wonderful city of Amsterdam. Recently we went for a weekend break in the city and kept coming across interesting bookish-related things to see and do without even trying. Here are my top five:
- De Pijp book exchange boxes
We were wandering through the De Pijp neighbourhood looking for somewhere to eat and came across three or four of these book exchange boxes. They’re spread around and you can borrow the books or leave one of your own for others to enjoy. They’re mainly in Dutch but I loved the spirit of sharing and community.
- Rijksmuseum Research Library
The library in the Rijksmuseum is one of the best I’ve seen. The walls are lined with old books and there’s a beautiful spiral staircase leading up the levels, while large ornate windows flood the room with light. If it wasn’t for the people studying and the tourists peeking through the doors, it would feel like you’d stepped back in time.
- Petronella Brandt’s dolls house
I read The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton a few months ago, and although I knew it was based on events that took place in real life, I was still excited to come across the original dolls house of Petronella Brandt in the Rijksmuseum. I didn’t expect it to be as large or as detailed as it was in real life. It was fascinating. I couldn’t take any pictures unfortunately as it there were too many people milling around trying to get a look!
- The Book Exchange second hand bookstore
If you want to pick up something to read in English in Amsterdam, I recommend you go to the Book Exchange. It’s centrally located (close to Dam Square) and really easy to get to if you’re already out and about exploring. There are thousands of second hand English books here from every conceivable genre, stacked floor to ceiling in a sprawling collection of rooms.
- Books set in Amsterdam
I’ve already mentioned Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist, which centres on the lives of Petronella and Johannes Brandt in 17th century Amsterdam. If you want to read more books set in the city, I’d recommend The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracey Chevalier, set in the household of famous Dutch painter Vermeer. There’s also The Dinner by Herman Koch, which features two couples who will go to any lengths to protect their children.
Have you been to Amsterdam or are you planning a trip soon? Is there anything else that you’d add to this list?
I’ve also attempted to do literary round-ups of London and New York in the past – you can view them here and here.
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