With well-known cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and the Hague to keep tourists in the Netherlands busy, Deventer is usually not very high on many people’s list of must-sees. But every year, on the first Sunday in August, Deventer hosts the biggest book market (boekenmarkt) in Europe- an event that I think should be on every list!
Deventer, located on the River IJssel, was an important trading center during the Middle Ages and was a prominent member of the Hanseatic League. The city center (where the book market is located) was largely spared from destruction during WWII, so the entire area is full of charming, centuries-old buildings and public squares. Deventer also has the advantage of being easily accessible from Amsterdam. It took us approximately 1hr 15min to get to Deventer by car, or you can get there in 1hr 30min by train.
This year, the book market started at 9:30am and lasted until 5:30pm. We didn’t arrive until almost 11am, but were told that there were people lining up to start browsing the book stalls as early as 7am. In total over 125,000 people visit the Deventer book market annually.
If you decide to brave the crowds (as every book lover should), make sure to give yourself enough time to browse all of the stalls. We were happy that we got there before noon, because this mother-of-all boekenmarkten is HUGE. Each year, an estimated 900 vendors showcase their wares at the Deventer book market. The stalls weave through the old city and along the IJssel riverside, covering an area almost 6km long. Don’t forget your comfortable shoes!
The two of us had a wonderful time geeking out amongst the miles and miles of books. There weren’t as many English books as I had hoped, but I still found plenty to interest me. We brought along a backpack to carry our purchases, but our appetites for the written word resulted in many more books than the poor little rucksack could handle. We ended up having to cut ourselves off when the backpack felt like a pile of bricks and our arms strained to carry the books that wouldn’t fit in the pack. We should have brought a suitcase!
Before we left Deventer we also took the time to climb the tower of the St. Lebuinus Chuch (Grote of Lebuinuskerk), a Gothic church dating from 1450. It only cost €2 to climb, and we were rewarded with vistas over the entire city (including the book market) at the top. Between the kilometers of books and the hundreds of tower stairs, I think we got our exercise for the weekend. Now I don’t have to feel bad when I spend the next few days on the couch reading some of my new book finds…