“Is this heaven?” I think any book lover might ask that question when walking into the most beautiful bookstore I’ve ever entered. Just weeks ago, I travelled to Maastricht, Netherlands, for a quick trip and was overjoyed when I realized that the bookstore I’d been ogling over, saving articles on in Instapaper, and otherwise obsessing about, was situated not 12 minutes from my hotel. Amazing! Because of the nature of the trip, I only had 45 minutes free to spend as I liked, so I downed some lunch and took off into Maastricht city center.
I was not disappointed. The 15 glorious minutes I had inside the Dominicanen Bookstore were both short and strangely long. The church is a looming, gothic cathedral built in the 13th century, and its sandstone facade tells nothing of the sweeping strokes of ethereal light within. The magic of this bookstore comes from the joining of the former religious space and the stacks of books—there’s no doubt about that. As a cathedral, the building is gorgeous, as expected. Add that to the quiet murmur that fills the aisles of bookstores all over the world, and everything falls into place. As I walked through the glass entrance, my eyes went up, following the intricate windows to the ceiling, where the ribs of the vaulted ceiling met, hundreds of feet above me. The cathedral houses some of the oldest mural artwork in the Netherlands—a depiction of the life of Thomas Aquinas, painted in 1337. I tried to keep ogling to a minimum, but the whole point of the gothic style is to make you feel small, and to make the space feel infinite and mystical, and the effect is amplified when the surreal element of bookcases are added!
If you ever find yourself in Maastricht, I hope you won’t miss out on the Dominicanen Bookstore. It’s now owned by Polare, but any search results you’ll find will give you the name Selexyz Dominicanen, so keep that in mind! My only regret is that I didn’t have more time. There’s a fantastic-looking cafe in the apse that shows a bit of Dutch humor in the cross-shaped table at the center, and you can bet that I’d be spending hour after hour in the cafe and wandering through the columns and soaking up more of that ethereal light.
Polare Bookstore Maastricht
6211 CZ Maastricht