Deventer Boekenmarkt: Europe’s Largest Outdoor Book Market

VVV Deventer public domain publication photo

Considering that my last topic was my dream library, how appropriate is it that this weekend saw an event in the Netherlands that has become one of my ultimate favorite ways to add to my book collection.

Each year, on the first Sunday in August, the Dutch town of Deventer holds an outdoor book market. The Boekenmarkt (Dutch for book market) has been going on since 1989 and has been growing steadily each year ever since.

A market that started out that first year with 100 stalls now boasts 878, manned by book dealers and shops, antique stores and various organizations. The entire market spans six kilometers (3.72 miles) and is the largest outdoor book fair in Europe.

Deventer’s Boekenmarkt also has food, maps, art, records, and antique paper goods (think photos, postcards, posters, etc.) for sale. And there are also street acts and musicians, art, and special exhibitions. On the evening before the market there is a poetry festival held at Theater Bouwkunde, so you can easily make an entire weekend out of the event.

This is the second year we’ve gone, and let me just say that you simply can’t spend enough time there. You could be busy for days browsing all the titles.

Our first trip was last year and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. We did a whirlwind tour in the time we had allotted for our visit, the goal being to walk the whole distance of the book market and just take everything in. After a few hours it was time to leave and we hadn’t even seen half of it. But I did score some excellent titles for pretty decent prices.

This year, I had planned to spend more time browsing, but instead ended up hoofing it around the city trying to locate an ATM. I did eventually find one in just enough time to buy two books before we had to leave. But all was not lost: Deventer is a gorgeous, historical city that sits on the edge of a river, so just being able to walk around looking at the sites, the book stalls and the people made it worth the while.

It’s definitely a diverse crowd that fills the streets on Boekenmarkt day. Families, bookworms, intellectuals, geeks, couples, teens, foreigners, Dutch… Many come carrying large shopping bags on wheels or suitcases to hold their purchases. In 2008 there were 125,000 visitors to the Festival and, in 2009 when it poured rain the whole day long, 75,000 die-hards braved the torrential rains to attend.

The book sellers at the event are all professional, so the prices are higher than they’d be at your average used book store, but they’re all marked at decent prices and often times, you can talk the dealer into giving you an even better deal.

So the lesson I’ve learned for next year is to arrive as soon as the festival opens, complete with a large shopping bag and wads of cash. Because — as we have both agreed — we will be back next year. In the last two years, this has become an event we both look very much forward to.

If you’re ever in the Netherlands on the first Sunday of August, do stop by Deventer for the Boekenmarkt. You won’t regret it! The event is run by the Deventer Tourist Information office, in case you’d like some info (unfortunately the site’s in Dutch, but luckily there’s Google Translate).

Have you ever been to an outdoor book market or a book festival? Where is your favorite place to buy books?

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