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Amsterdam: The city of bikes and books

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With the summer months ahead and exams behind us, Dom Lam explores ‘the city of bikes’ (and books) in his literary travel guide.

Where are some must-see sights for any book-lover? Depending on how far afield you’re willing to take your literary pilgrimage, you might find yourself in the midst of all manner of wonderful surroundings to explore. Whether you’re looking for places that sell books, lend them out, or that simply hold literary significance of another sort, here are a few suggestions that aren’t too much of a trek, and might make for some exciting summer adventuring.

Amsterdam is the city of second-hand bookshops. Whichever street you happen to wander down, you’ll always be able to find a quaint shop or market to satisfy your need for a good browse. Whether you’re looking for cheap books for your modules next year or you’re simply on the search for a book to lose yourself in this summer, Amsterdam is the literary city for you.  

Whichever street you happen to wander down, you’ll always be able to find a quaint shop or market

If you’re lucky enough to be visiting in October this year, you might even be able to go to the world-famous international literary festival ‘Read My World’. It is a leading platform for literary debate that brings together Dutch and international authors who focus on a different subject each year. This year, it is devoted to the work of black authors in America.

On arrival, you’ll notice that there are as many canals as there are streets. This creates an incredibly beautiful and open cityscape that consists of older buildings, each with a unique colour, pressed up against each other like books on a bookshelf. With such a diverse and vibrant city, the best way to see everything is to go on a canal boat tour that takes you around the whole city from this exclusive perspective. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t take a trusty pair of trainers with you, since you cannot beat walking around a new city. A visit would not be complete without a trip to the house of Anne Frank, whose diary, published in 1947, defined Second World War and Holocaust literature. If you can brave the queue, the house itself is one of the most harrowing historical locations you will ever visit. It is presented with tact and respect, remaining the most popular tourist attraction in Amsterdam.

Anne Frank’s diary defined Second World War and Holocaust literature

The attractions don’t stop here though. Art galleries are not for everyone, but the Van Gogh museum is an unmissable cultural sight. His work is accessible to all ages and provides an artistic insight into the Dutch landscape. Whether it is his famous sunflowers or his starry night sky that draws your eye, you cannot leave Amsterdam without going here. Other important museums include the Rijksmuseum and the Rembrandt museum, which firmly situate Amsterdam as a city bursting with art and culture.

So, if you have some spare student loan left over, make the most out of your summer and immerse yourself in its powerful literary culture. Remember, there is no better way to relax than reading a second-hand book with a strong cup of Dutch coffee, overlooking a beautiful canal.

There is no better way to relax than reading a second-hand book with a strong cup of Dutch coffee

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