It has been a tough few months, but Antwerp’s bookshops are open again, with a few little changes to keep everyone safe.
7 inspiring Bookshops in Antwerp
Jorien Caers and Richard Bolte opened a beautiful literary bookstore back in spring in a 1902 Antwerp town house. Then coronavirus hit. But they have survived. The three floors have been lovingly restored by local interior architect Dries Otten to create a series of intimate rooms with creaking wood floors, tall bookshelves and antique fireplaces. They stock an eclectic collection of books in Dutch and English ranging from “The Lost Pianos of Siberia” to “How to Catch a Mole”. But the best thing about this place is the wine bar on the first floor where you can sit with a book and a post-lockdown glass of Prosecco. Your phone turned off. Open until 20.00.
2) 't Stad Leest
Wouter Cajot believes passionately in books and writing. He opened his first bookshop in an Antwerp townhouse in 2011, moved into a pop-up store last winter and plans to settle down in July in a handsome interior opposite the police tower. His bookstore stocks a wide range of art and lifestyle books, kids’ reading and contemporary fiction, including a generous selection of books in English. You can also pick up vinyl records, postcards and stationery.
3) Kartonnen Dozen
Johanna runs one of the last specialised LGBTQ bookstores in Europe in a town house near the trendy Dageraadplaats. Named Kartonnen Dozen (Cardboard Boxes) after a classic Tom Lanoye novel, it’s a relaxed, friendly neighbourhood bookstore with an eclectic stock of titles in Dutch and English on sexuality, gender politics and identity.
4) The Other Shop
The hunt for an original gift might end in this unique store. The interior alone is worth a look, with its touches of dark humour and quirky details. The stock includes beautiful books, arty postcards and fun gadgets that no one really needs.
This beautiful little bookshop and coffee bar occupies a modernist building in Antwerp’s Zuid district. The interior has a sober Nordic feel with pale wood shelves, colourful café furniture and a tiny children’s den at the back. The owner offers a small, well-chosen selection of titles in Dutch, English and Spanish, along with copies of the New York Review of Books to browse through in the coffee bar.
6) De Groene Waterman
This bookshop has a mysterious name (The Green Waterman) that no one can explain. It was founded as an alternative bookstore in 1970 and relaunched in 1997 as a cooperative, with 1,600 customers owning shares in the shop. Most of the books are in Dutch, but it has a small collection of English literary fiction, including Flemish literature in translation (mainly novels by Dimitri Verhulst, but Louis Paul Boon and Willem Elsschot are also represented). You can also pick up copies of Believer, McSweeney’s or indeed anything with Dave Eggers’ name attached. It also serves coffee, organises literary events and sells childrens’ books in a den at the back.
Here is a seriously stylish bookshop designed by the Antwerp architect Vincent Van Duysen in 2000. Located in the same building as the fashion museum (currently closed for renovation), it has a striking interior with white walls, black bookshelves and two low tables piled with art and architecture books. Possibly the only shop in town that stocks “Glossary of Urban Voids”.
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