A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Most students will have needed to go to Breestraat for one thing or another since moving to Leiden, and I’m sure most people will have noticed the large number of bookshops to be found on this bustling street. Though our budgets as international students might be meagre, it’s still nice to browse these bookstores, and since Christmas is less than a month away (I’m still struggling to process this fact) I’ve compiled a brief guide to all the bookshops on Breestraat.
Boekhandel de Slegte, Breestraat 73
Walking down Breestraat from the station side of the city, de Slegte is the first bookshop you’ll come across. From the window, it doesn’t seem all that expansive, but in fact, it has a huge basement area of second-hand books ranging from local history and European history to music and architecture. While most of these books are in Dutch, they also have a section dedicated to secondhand novels and literature in English. De Slegte also offer to buy books from you, so if you’re having a clear out of module reading it might be worth taking a trip here as well.
Kooyker, though much smaller than de Slegte, is perhaps more inviting. As well as a large selection of new and some second-hand literature (again, mostly in Dutch), they also sell a variety of magazines, which can be a good place to start if you want to improve your Dutch but a novel seems too intimidating. Venture all the way to the back of Kooyker and you’ll also find a table set out with generous pots of coffee and tea, free to take – so you can settle down on a cold November day and delve into a book right there in the store. A few times a month, Kooyker also hold book readings from Dutch authors for only €5.
Van Stockum, Breestraat 113
A popular online retailer for books in the Netherlands, Van Stockum have stores in both Leiden and Den Haag. Enter and head down into the basement first, where you can find a large area with education books especially for modules at Leiden University (very useful if you need to find a course text for next semester), as well as a language section and a sort of ‘bargain’ area. Upstairs, there’s a large section with English-only literature, as well as history, food, and lifestyle sections, and a small cubbyhole with children’s books – perfect for a Christmas gift for any young ones in the family. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, it’s definitely worth checking out the website.
Mevrouw Kern, Breestraat 141
Incidentally, I wasn’t aware this store existed until a package was delivered there for me to pick up – and it’s a sort of odd-one-out on this list. Mevrouw Kern specializes in comic strips and cartoons and has a cosy and colourful interior packed with any comic you might think of. Again, if you’re learning Dutch and not quite accomplished enough to tackle a novel yet, pick up a few comic strips from here. Though it’s not encouraging to find out that you have the Dutch vocabulary of a 9-year-old, the magazines are fun to read. Try Suske en Wiske, a popular Belgian comic about the adventures of a brother and sister duo.
Boekhandel de Kler, Breestraat 161
Another store that is surprisingly spacious inside, de Kler feels like the Dutch equivalent of the British W. H. Smith, selling not only new and second-hand books but also magazines, gifts, and stationery. Wander right to the back of the store and you’ll find the second-hand section, though it does require a good look to find English titles.
Mayflower Bookshop, Breestraat 142
With books stacked everywhere, even on top of a hidden piano at the back of the store, Mayflower feels more like a classic secondhand bookstore. It’s also the bookstore on Breestraat with the most English options, with a section dedicated only to secondhand English novels; however, they also have English travel and history books. As with most (good) second-hand bookstores, the prices are also reasonable, so if you have some spare cash lying around, take an hour or so to hunt through the seemingly endless shelves.