What to Read Before Going to Amsterdam


Amsterdam felt like coming home for me. The second I stepped onto our canal boat Airbnb for the week (you read that right), it felt like I was in the right place at the right time. Whizzing bicycles and canal-side strolls. Pancakes and tiptoeing through the tulips. I certainly could get used to staying in Amsterdam for a while. When I want to be transported back, these are the books about Amsterdam that I turn to.

Best Books About Amsterdam to Read Before Traveling There

Best Books About Amsterdam Books Set in Amsterdam

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Shocking exactly 0% of the people I’ve talked to in the last 3 months, Six of Crows tops the charts. As a fantasy YA, it’s technically set in a fictional city called Ketterdam. Don’t let that stop you. The skinny and tall facades, abundance of waffles, and prevalence of Dutch-inspired “aa” names transports me to Amsterdam’s streets in an instant. It’s truly the cast of intriguing and endearing characters that keep me coming back (yes, I’ve reread and yes, there is already a sequel). Cue the happy dance.

Tulipomania: The Story of the World’s Most Coveted Flower and the Extraordinary Passions It Aroused by Mike Dash

How’s that for a title? The history of the tulip may not seem like the world’s most riveting or important historical subject. For Amsterdam though, the tulip was a critical thread in the fabric of the economy, building riches and subsequently dashing dreams (spoiler alert). If you’re lucky, you’ll find yourself frolicing among the many blooms. Best to be educated about them before you go!

My ‘Dam Life: Three Years in Holland by Sean Condon

This one is for those of us who wonder what it’s like to live in just about every city we visit. Condon provides a witty and woeful account of his expat life in the Netherlands.

The Undutchables: An Observation of the Netherlands, Its Culture and Its Inhabitants by Colin White and Lauren Boucke

If you’re more interested in what it’s like to be Dutch in the modern era rather than the historic ones, pick up the hilariously named “Undutchables” stat.

Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland

I’ve recently been introduced to the genius that is Vreeland’s storytelling. Tracking a long-lost Vermeer painting has never been so captivating.

Tulip Fever by Deborah Maggach

“Enough with the tulips already!” said no one ever. This fictional story of a love triangle in 17th century Amsterdam tells a similar story to the one you’ll find in Tulipomania. The similarities stop there though!

Lastly, my honorable mention is Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. A book that needs no introduction.

Have you read any books about Amsterdam that I should add to this reading list?



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