The best books to discover Amsterdam

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Explore this selection of the best books set in Amsterdam, where every page brings this captivating city’s vibrant culture, history, and charm to life. Embark on a literary adventure in the heart of the Netherlands today.

Amsterdam is one of the places in the world that I want to know; I would love to walk its streets, navigate its canals, visit the Van Gogh museum, and, why not, eat some typical local food.

I think Amsterdam is amazing. The city hides a multitude of curiosities, and to discover them, you just have to get lost in its streets.

Amsterdam is the capital and most populous city of the Netherlands and is colloquially referred to as the “Venice of the North” because the city has more than 100 canals, crossed by 600 bridges that connect 90 islands.

Its history is full of culture, influences, and transformations, and you just have to walk around the city to delight your eyes with years and years of history.

However, until I can travel to Amsterdam, I will enjoy reading about this wonderful city. The best thing about books is that they can transport you there! That is why I invite you to read the post and select a book to accompany me on this adventure.

Here, you will find fiction, non-fiction, children’s and young adult books, and in addition to historical fiction, you will also find romance, fantasy, or action.

Travel to Amsterdam through the pages of these books!

Novels and Fiction set in Amsterdam

The fall by Albert Camus

First published in 1956, “The Fall” is a philosophical novel by Albert Camus, and it consists of a series of dramatic monologues.

The book tells the story of Jean-Baptiste Clamance, a former Parisian lawyer staying in Amsterdam. Clamance bumps into someone in the bar one night, the reader, and recounts his story.

Clamance has lived the high-life and tasted all sorts of physical pleasure but he feels empty and full of self-loathing, Camus exhibits a man who has experienced so much but wants so much more. With the backdrop of the Second World War and a rapidly changing society, Clamance simply cannot keep up; he has fallen from grace.

The Evenings by Gerard Reve

Gerard Reve’s The Evenings was first published in the author’s native Netherlands in 1947. But almost 70 years later, it appears in English.

The book unfolds over 10 consecutive evenings at the end of December 1946. Frits van Egters is a 23-year-old daydreamer and idler who is besieged by boredom and ashamed of his middle-class family.

If the title of the book focuses on the evenings, it is because, for much of the day, Frits is at work, where he scarcely exists. But he never complains about his job. His problems are the evenings and days off, and his one ambition is to get through them without losing his mind.

The Evenings takes the tiny, quotidian triumphs and heartbreaks of our everyday lives and turns them into a work of brilliant wit and profound beauty.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

A book that will immerse you in a magical atmosphere and instantly draw you in.
This historical fiction evokes 17th-century Amsterdam, the opulent but dangerous Dutch capital.

Nella Oortman, an innocent young 18-year-old wife, must navigate the intrigues of her new household. Her husband, Johannes Brandt, is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office–leaving Nella alone with his sister.

But Nella’s world changes when Johannes presents her a dollhouse-sized version of her new home as a wedding gift. She engages the services of a miniaturist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways.

Finally obliged to become the architect of her own fortune, Nella acts to break the miniaturist’s spell and save everything she holds dear.

A Cold Death in Amsterdam by Anja de Jager

Lotte Meerman is a troubled cop, full of regrets from a previous case, and now she must face a cold case from 10 years ago, but she will soon discover that it directly affects her environment.

It is the first book in the mystery trilogy called “The Lotte Meerman.”

The Words in My Hand by Guinevere Glasfurd

The Words in My Hand, the debut novel from Guinevere Glasfurd, tells the story of Helena Jans, a Dutch maid in Amsterdam who became the lover of philosopher René Descartes.

Like that of so many women in history, Helena’s life is scarcely recorded. She is a young woman who yearns for knowledge, who wants to write so badly she makes ink from beetroot and writes in secret on her skin, and although she is a simple maiden in the 17th century who knows that reading and writing can change the world that of women her world.

The Light of Amsterdam by David Park

Infidelity, midlife crisis, divorce, suspicion, and loneliness are only a few of the topics David Park explores in his novel. In this book, three unassociated protagonists traveling to Amsterdam have intersecting journeys with self-discovery.

Alan is a middle-aged art professor burdened with guilt over his one-night affair with a student.

Karen is a single mother in her 40s. After years of working menial jobs to provide for her daughter Shannon, but she will soon be shocked into questioning where her life of sacrifices has brought her.

Marion and Roger are a middle-aged couple, but believes her husband is growing tired of her. Deeply insecure and suspecting he’s about to cheat on her, she prepares some rather dramatic measures in Amsterdam in an effort to take matters into her own hands.

It’s a moving story that’s sure to give you pause, but what happens when they return to Belfast?

Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach

Set in 17th-century Amsterdam, when tulip fever reigns supreme, men are seduced by this beautiful exotic flower. But this is not the case for the wealthy merchant Cornelis Sandvoort, who is deeply in love with his wife, Sophia.

In an attempt to immortalize his image, he commissions a portrait of the two of them from Jan Van Loos, a talented young painter. But when Van Loos begins to paint his portrait, a flame of passion ignites between him and Sophia.

This book is all in one: art history, beauty, lust, deception, greed, emotion, and tragedy.

The Dinner by Herman Koch

Two families prepare to share a dinner during a summer evening in Amsterdam. Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The two boys are united by their responsibility in a horrific act.

Every look, every word, and every smile hides something behind and is heading for the fall of appearances until each couple shows just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.

Non-fiction books about Amsterdam

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

This is the real diary of a teenage girl that begins on Anne’s 13th birthday when she gets a diary. It tells the story of her family, who live in Frankfurt, Germany, and suddenly have to go into hiding as a result of Hitler and the Nazi Party’s treatment of Jews in Europe during the second world war.

They escape to Amsterdam, where they go into hiding with other Jews. A thoughtful, moving, and, sometimes, also funny story. Her story is about courage, vulnerability, and fear but also about hope and dreams of a better future.

Amsterdam: A brief life of the city by Geert Mak

In just 400 pages, Geert Mak tells us the history of Amsterdam from the year 1000 to the present (or the present in which the book was published, right?). And it is worth every page read.

From historical records, diaries, anecdotes and even police reports, Mak brings to life the history of this iconic city that today is a metropolis of national and global importance.

This book is not a travel guide, but it is perfect to read before visiting Amsterdam.

Murder in Amsterdam by Ian Buruma

This non-fiction book examines the murder of the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh (the artist’s great-grandson). The murder horrified quiet, complacent Holland and called into question its world-famous reputation for tolerance.

The 500 Hidden Secrets of Amsterdam by Guido van Eijck and Saskia Naafs

A travel guide with which you can discover unusual places in this city. It has extensive maps so you can quickly identify the location of the places you want to visit, and its 500 secrets are organized by categories and colors. Undoubtedly, a completely necessary book to know Amsterdam.

Children’s books set in Amsterdam

Knuffle Bunny Free by Mo Willems

Trixie and her family are off on a fantastic trip to visit her grandparents in Holland! With mom, dad and her stuffed bunny, Trixie will live many adventures. It’s a sweet and wonderful story that your children will love!

KeeKee’s Big Adventures in Amsterdam, Netherlands by Shannon Jones

Part bedtime story, part travel guide. This colorfully illustrated book is sure to delight explorers big and small through the land of tulips, windmills, and waterways.

Travel through Amsterdam with KeeKee and Jasper the Lion on a journey full of adventures. You’ll find a kid-friendly map in the back, a glossary of Dutch words, and more on KeeKee’s Amsterdam favorites.

Sophie Stork’s Amsterdam Adventure book by Jacobine de Zwaan

Sophie Stork loves Amsterdam and adores cycling! She explores Amsterdam on her bike and visits 10 child-friendly places.

Amsterdam is a beautiful city, full of adventures for both kids and parents and with this book, you can prepare your journey together because the book provides travel tips and additional tourist information for parents, which are best suited for young children (ages 0-6).

Young adult books set in Amsterdam

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

A romantic novel: exciting, thoughtful, and fun at the same time. Hazel Grace Lancaster has been battling cancer for most of her life. But when she meets Augustus “Gus” Waters, a cancer survivor, her life changes completely.

Hazel tells Gus that her favorite novel is about a girl with cancer, but the ending is incomplete. So they decide to talk to the writer to help them understand what happened to the protagonist and her family.

The writer agrees to meet them in Amsterdam, but getting there is quite an adventure. Hazel and Augustus narrate their lives with a sense of humor, but behind that courage, both hide their pain to protect their families.

What Are Your Favorite Books Set In Amsterdam?

Have you read any of these books set in Amsterdam? Do you have any favorite books set in Amsterdam that I should add to this list? Let me know in the comments below!

Where to Next?

If you love to read about a place before you visit? Then check out the following book lists set in other European destinations, with plenty of both fiction and non-fiction titles that I recommend reading before you go:

Spain | Italy | Greece | France | Ireland | Scotland | Turkey

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