Get to know Amsterdam through Literature: 7 Books for Travelers

Amsterdam is a city with picturesque canals, historic architecture, vibrant culture, and a liberal atmosphere. It has for a long time been a magnet for travelers seeking unique experiences. So, whether you’re strolling along the cobblestone streets, admiring world-class art in the Van Gogh and the Rijksmuseum, or if decide to taste the city’s famous culinary delights, Amsterdam offers something for everyone. But, you can bring even more richness to your trip if you read some inspiring books before you arrive.

This article wants to give you suggestions for seven books worth reading before you come to Amsterdam. Some of them are tourist literature, while other books are historical novels that will let you see Amsterdam in the old days with your inner eye. You don’t need to read all the books, but we are quite convinced that you will be inspired to read at least one or two of the books on the list if you are a book lover!

Seven books that will make Amsterdam even more interesting as you come to explore the city!

1. “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank

Anne Frank’s diary is a poignant and intimate account of life during the Holocaust, offering a profound insight into Amsterdam’s history during World War II. Visitors can explore the Anne Frank House, where Anne and her family hid from Nazi persecution, providing a powerful connection to the city’s past.

This might be the most famous book of them all, and it is a good read both for teenagers and adults.

2. “The Miniaturist” by Jessie Burton

the miniaturist

“The Miniaturist” is a book about a young woman named Nella who moves to Amsterdam in the 17th century to start a new life. She marries a wealthy merchant named Johannes Brandt, but she soon discovers that her new home holds many secrets.

Johannes gives Nella a dollhouse as a wedding gift, and Nella hires a mysterious miniaturist to furnish it. However, the miniatures that arrive are exact replicas of things happening in Nella’s real life, leading her to question how the miniaturist knows so much about her.

As Nella navigates her new life in Amsterdam, she uncovers secrets about her husband, his sister, and the household staff. The book explores themes of love, betrayal, and the power dynamics of 17th-century Dutch society.

3. “Tulip Fever” by Deborah Moggach

“Tulip Fever” is a story set in Amsterdam during a time when people were crazy about tulips, which are pretty flowers. It tells the tale of a young woman named Sophia who gets married to a much older man, Cornelis Sandvoort, because her family is poor.

Sophia feels lonely in her marriage, and she falls in love with Jan, a painter hired to paint her and her husband’s portrait. Jan and Sophia start a secret affair, and they hatch a plan to buy tulip bulbs and sell them for a lot of money so they can run away together.

But things get complicated when Sophia’s maid gets involved in their plan, and the tulip market crashes, causing chaos. The story is full of love, lies, and unexpected twists.

4. “Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City” by Russell Shorto

amsterdam the worlds most liberal city

“Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City” is a book that talks about how Amsterdam became a very open-minded place. It tells the story of the city from long ago until now.

The book shows how Amsterdam started as a small fishing village and grew into a big city. It talks about how people from different countries came to live there, bringing their ideas and cultures. This made Amsterdam a diverse and interesting place.

The author, Russell Shorto, explains how Amsterdam became known for being very liberal. This means that people there are accepting of different lifestyles and beliefs. He talks about how this openness has shaped the city’s history and made it unique.

5. “The Coffee Shop Book Club: The Best of Amsterdam’s Underground Coffee Shops” by Carroll Van West

“The Coffee Shop Book Club: The Best of Amsterdam’s Underground Coffee Shops” is a book that talks about the cool places in Amsterdam where people can go to relax, have a drink, and maybe smoke a little bit of cannabis, which is a plant that some people use for fun.

The book tells you about different coffee shops in Amsterdam and what makes each one special. It talks about the atmosphere, the drinks they serve, and the kinds of people you might meet there. It’s like a guidebook that helps you find the coolest places to hang out in the city.

Carroll Van West, the author, gives you tips and advice on how to enjoy your time in these coffee shops safely and responsibly. It’s a fun book for anyone who wants to explore Amsterdam’s laid-back vibe and experience something a little different.

6. “Lonely Planet Amsterdam”

For practical travel advice and essential tips, Lonely Planet’s guide to Amsterdam is an invaluable companion. Packed with insider recommendations, detailed maps, and up-to-date information on attractions, dining, and accommodations, this guide ensures you make the most of your time in the city.

If you are looking for a book that gives you basic information useful and interesting to a tourist, this might be the best solution.

7. “Amsterdam: A Novel” by Ian McEwan

“Amsterdam: A Novel” by Ian McEwan is a story about two friends named Clive and Vernon who live in Amsterdam. The book tells us about their friendship and the choices they make. Clive and Vernon are both successful men, but they have different views on life. One day, they make a pact, which is like a promise, to help each other if something bad happens to them.

But things get complicated when they both fall in love with the same woman, and they find themselves in a difficult situation. The story explores themes like friendship, love, and morality.

Which book(s) will you read?

Whether you’re drawn to Amsterdam’s rich history, its cultural vibrancy, or its laid-back atmosphere, these seven books offer diverse perspectives that will enhance your travel experience. From gripping historical dramas to insightful travel guides, each book provides a unique lens through which to explore and appreciate the many facets of this enchanting city.

These books will bring Amsterdam to life before you arrive, and you will see, hear, and feel so much more as you walk up and down the actual streets and along the canals of Amsterdam.

Do you have other book recommendations for those coming to Amsterdam? Write a comment and let us hear from you!