The Hague is famous for a lot of things: it’s where you can find the Dutch government, international justice institutes and Vermeer’s painting of the girl with the pearl earring. But with the Dutch royal library, several great bookstores and the national museum of the book, The Hague is definitely also a must-see for bibliophiles!
Paagman – Frederik Hendriklaan 217
Paagman is the biggest bookstore of The Hague and one of the best of the Netherlands. As of recently, they have a shop in the city centre. However, the one in the Frederik Hendrikstraat is much better (and it’s only a short bus ride away from the city centre). The outside of the shop has a romantic view to it, whilst the inside is more modern. I can’t name anything they specialise in, because they just have so much books. Take a look at the renovated children’s department: it’s so pretty! Still in doubt about some of the books? Think it over while eating at their restaurant: I love their pumpkin soup and their twist of the Cesar salad (it’s called the ‘Et tu, Brutus?’). They also organise a lot of literary events: check their website to see what’s coming up!
Museum Meermanno-Westreenianum – Prinsessegracht 30
Museum Meermanno-Westreenianum is the Dutch national museum of the book. This is probably one of the most interesting literary places in the Netherlands. The collection of books has been collected by three generations from the Meerman family in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. When the last Meerman, Johan, died, he wanted to leave his collection to the Royal Library. However, they weren’t interested and the books were auctioned. Most of the books were then bought by Baron van Westreenen and sir Thomas Phillips. Baron van Westreenen built the library and made sure that after his death the collection would be open to the public.
At the museum you can find this old library, a classic collection and some more book historical collections.
Koninklijke bibliotheek – Prins Willem-Alexanderhof 5
This royal library is the national library of the Netherlands. Every publisher has to send an edition of every new book to this library to make the collection as complete as possible. They also have a lot of interesting older books. You can check these out in their permanent exibition on the special collection. Also, this is a great place to study!
Literatuurmuseum & kinderboekenmuseum – Prins Willem-Alexanderhof 5
You can find these two museums in the same building as the Koninklijke bibliotheek. The Literatuurmuseum (Museum of Literature) focuses on Dutch writers, with a gallery with 500 paintings of famous (and not so famous) writers. There’s also an exhibition with artefacts from writers (like a suit for carnival that Louis Couperus used to own) and manuscripts of famous books. You can visit the Kinderboekenmuseum (Museum of Children’s Literature) with the same ticket. This museum is, surprisingly, great to visit with children! The top floor recreates books for the younger ones, so they can step into the world of the book. The bottom floor tries to be interactive with a lot of computer screens, but they don’t work half of the time, which is a bit of a bummer. However, the kids I went with didn’t seem to mind that much so it might still be fun.
Antiquariaat Colette – Reinkenstraat 45
One day, the owner of this bookstore will be found dead under a collapsed pile of books in this store. The most incredible thing is how the owner is still able to find the book you’re looking for in this mess. I always buy my books by Louis Couperus in this shop.
Van Stockum – Spui 40
Van Stockum is a bookstore with a long tradition in The Hague. They started in the nineteenth century and were the first bookstore to only sell books and not paper, ink or other stuff. From the start, Van Stockum always focused on quality literature. The current bookstore is very modern, but they still sell quality books and you can get great bagels here!
Damokles – Piet Heinstraat 129
Most second hand bookstores in The Hague are well organised. This is not one of them. They try to, but there’s just too many books to fit in the bookcases. The back of the store specialises in cars, boats and other technical stuff. My dad bought two fantastic books about Lancia here for my boyfriend.
Alice in Wonderland – Piet Heinstraat 2
This store feels like a fairytale. They sell childrens books for all ages, from babies to young adults. Its all very colourful and it just feels like a place where you can curl up with a beautiful book all day.
Couperusmuseum – Javastraat 17
Couperus is one of my favourite Dutch writers, and he’s from The Hague too! At this museum you can find his books, his old desk and an exposition about related art that changes every six months. As the museum isn’t that big, you can best combine it with the Louis Couperus walk, a nice walk that’ll take you through all the (historical) places from his life and his books. You can find this walk in the app LitRoutes for iPhone and Android.
Antiquariaat L.B. Kretzschmar – Noordeinde 158
This second hand bookshop is well organised and has a great collection. They sell an acceptable amount of literature, but focus on non-fiction, mostly art and history. They have a great collection of postcards as well!
American Book Centre – Lange Poten 23
This store has a real international feel to it. All the books are in English and they have new and second hand books. They have a good comic books section, and also quite some merchandise. Another cool quirk of this store is that they have an Espresso Book Machine. With an EBM, you can make a book in less than five minutes. This is great if you need a book that is out of print, or not available in your country, or if you want to print a thesis or a book for your family.
Boekhandel Van Hoogstraten – Noordeinde 98
I’ve never visited this English bookstore before but I liked it! I did feel like the classics were focused on a very young audience (fancy editions that seem to be focused more on Instagram than on the text itself). They also have a large collection of books focused on royalty and on British pop culture. I feel like this store might be responsible for a lot of students of English literature at the nearby universities.
Stanley & Livingstone – Schoolstraat 21
This travel bookstore is my mom’s favourite. They sell books about places all over the world, travelstories, and they sell postcards! Best thing is, if you buy a present, they wrap it up like an old fashioned postal package, including rope and stamps! I always say it’s a present, even if it’s just for me.