Everybody knows that Amsterdam is a city of plenty… plenty of hidden haunts and secret gems. Its magic has been captured in well-known books and its countless record stores, bookshops, and one-of-a-kind stores in neighbourhoods like Jordaan. The city was once an important centre for printing, and the impressive libraries in Amsterdam uphold that spirit of art and literature.
1. OBA Oosterdok (central library)
Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam (OBA) is a network of 28 public libraries in the city. Located in the eastern docklands area of Oosterdok, Amsterdam’s Central Library is a sight to behold. The contemporary building was designed by Dutch architect Jo Coenen and not only houses over 1.5 million books, but it is also home to the OBA Café. Seek shelter from the rain here, catch up on your reading on one of the 1,000 seats spread around the building, or introduce your kids to the rounded bookcases at the popular children’s library.
📍Oosterdokskade 143, 1011DL Amsterdam
2. Huis de Pinto
With the knowledge that one can access 1.4 million books online for free, it’s still nice to know that a more traditional option is available at places like Huis de Pinto. Built in 1680, the building was the former home of the de Pinto family and later functioned as a public library until 2012. Today, you can visit the reading room and browse through its books. Bring a book with you and offer it in exchange for another. The exchange library is open Monday to Saturday from 13:00 pm to 17:00 pm.
📍Sint Antoniesbreestraat 69, 1011 HB, Amsterdam
3. Ets Haim Library
As the oldest functioning Jewish library in the world, Ets Haim is definitely an Amsterdam treasure worth visiting. The Jewish Museum invested in the modernisation of Ets Haim/Livraria Montezinos and since then the cataloguing of about 25.000 printed books and the digitisation of the 560 manuscripts in the Ets Haim collection has been completed. Although you can access 600 years of Jewish history online now, Ets Haim’s beautiful interior is worth booking an appointment for a visit.
📍Mr. Visserplein 3, 1011 RD Amsterdam
If you paid attention in history class and have an interest in war politics and understanding social injustice, you’ll find a visit to the NIOD very informative. The NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies has archives and collections, particularly about the Second World War, and provides information to government institutions, the media and the public.
Founded in 1945, the institute was set up to map the history of World War II in the Dutch East Indies and the Netherlands. Visitors can consult the collection in the reading room from Tuesday to Friday from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm.
📍Herengracht 380, 1016 CJ Amsterdam
5. Rijksmuseum Library
The Cuypers Library at the Rijksmuseum is the oldest and largest art historical library in the Netherlands. Designed by Pierre Cuypers, the library has many notable features. From its innovative skylight that allowed visitors to read without the use of candlelight or gas lamps during the day to quirky optical illusions, Cuypers envisioned a space effusing grandeur.
Most of its 70,000 books are stored in tunnels underneath the building. The library also includes a collection of over 450,000 objects of art history. Lose yourself in a literary and historical space among the hand-forged, wrought iron railings and painted rivets at Cuypers Library.
📍Museumpromenade 1, 1071 DJ Amsterdam
6. Ritman Library
If you want to spend an afternoon surrounded by all things art, books, and history, The Embassy of the Free Mind has everything you’re looking for. The museum’s collection is mostly ascribed to secular creators and embodies an attitude of questioning. Discover books and images on Hermetic philosophy, alchemy, Rosicrucianism, mysticism, Freemasonry, Kabbalah, magic, astrology, tarot, Sufism, Taoism, and so much more.
Whether you find yourself in the recital hall, café, or the Grote Sael in the museum, you’ll also find extraordinary images from rare books and special works of art, such as ‘The Grail of Amsterdam’.
📍Keizersgracht 123, 1015 CJ Amsterdam
7. Van Gogh Museum Library
When it comes to exploring libraries in Amsterdam, it wouldn’t be right to exclude a visit to the Van Gogh Museum Library. Van Gogh is a symbol of the city. Visitors can learn more about his life, his contemporaries, and those whom he inspired with a wide selection of publications to hand. Put yourself in van Gogh’s shoes and peruse the same books he is known to have read. Some of these include books that were owned by the Dutch artist.
📍Gabriël Metsustraat 8, 1071 EA Amsterdam
8. Scheepvaartmuseum Library
Have you ever dreamed of setting sail out into the unknown? Are you a fan of Moby Dick and all things nautically themed? At the National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam you can explore one of the most significant maritime historical collections in the world. With an impressive collection of 60,000 books, you’re certain to gain a deeper understanding of sailing heritage. Check out the replica Dutch East Indiaman Ship and Royal Barge for the full experience at the museum.
📍Kattenburgerplein 1, 1018 KK Amsterdam