Notebooks from Europe

I’m very fortunate to have friends in Paris and Amsterdam that I’ve been able to visit a few times. I went in 2014 and bought quite a few notebooks. This past year, I went again, and also included Belgium on my itinerary. I wasn’t expecting to buy as many notebooks this time, but I ended up with quite a few! Sometimes it can seem like the world has gotten smaller and shopping isn’t that different between New York and Europe, but happily, that didn’t seem to be true on this trip and I found a number of things that I could not have bought back home in the USA.

Notebooks from Paris

At Esquisse (a small art supply shop in Paris, probably overlooked by most tourists in favor of the nearby and much more picturesque Sennelier store), I was quite captivated by a tiny little Hahnemuhle sketchbook. It’s a sweet little size (120 x 90mm, shown below with a pocket Moleskine for comparison), and at €3.20, not terribly expensive. I haven’t tested the paper inside, but it seems like a nice weight and texture. The same shop also had the lovely little quarter-pan Daler Rowney watercolor set I’d been hankering after ever since commenter Paul mentioned it in response to this post about my favorite watercolor sets. It’s a very elegant and slim metal box that can slip into any pocket, and the paints within are high quality. At 4 7/8″L x 1 7/8″ W x 1/2″D, it is amazingly small for an 18-color set– smaller than it looks in the photo below. Did I need it? No. Should I have spent approximately $85 on it? No, but I had to have it! (At the time, it was listed on Amazon for over $90 and otherwise almost impossible to find. You can currently get this set at Jackson’s for $79.61, but shipping from the UK will probably cost you another $7-10 if you’re in the USA.)

Hahnemuhle Sketchbook and Daler Rowney Quater Pan Watercolor Set
Hahnemuhle Sketchbook compared to pocket Moleskine

I managed to escape from France without buying any other notebooks except this one, a lovely Oxford softcover with smooth squared pages. It reminds me of some of Clairefontaine’s notebooks, and though I’ve only tested a couple of pens so far, it seems very fountain pen friendly. I have a hardcover Oxford notebook very similar to this one– I wrote about it briefly in a recap of notebooks I bought in Portugal, but I don’t seem to have ever done a full review. This red notebook was €3.99 at a FNAC store in central Paris.

Oxford softcover notebook
Oxford notebook interior squared pages

Notebooks from Belgium

My next stop was Bruges. It was my first time in Belgium and I was excited to see if I could add any unusual home-grown brands to my collection, particularly from Aurora, a Belgian brand I’d heard about back in 2010 from a reader. I only spent one day in Bruges, and visited several bookstores and stationery stores. I did see some Aurora notebooks but they were not the linen-covered type I was most interested in. I didn’t end up buying anything in Bruges except a set of journals from Dille & Kamille (such a cute store!) that were a gift for someone at home.

Journal sets at Dille & Kamille, Bruges

Notebooks from Amsterdam

Then I moved on to Amsterdam. I had made a list of office supply stores and some high-end stationery stores, and found some interesting things at each. On the basic office supply end, Gebroeders Winter seems to be a wide-spread chain, where I fell in love with this little booklet meant for tracking expenses.

Expense tracking notebook
Cash log pages

I also saw a lot of diaries from the Ryam brand. This format really caught my eye as something quite unusual, but practical. It lies flat and could be placed next to a keyboard for easy desktop reference. The €3.70 price seemed very reasonable.

Ryam horizontal diary
Ryam Diary week view

At another basic stationery and office supply shop (Brugman), I found this notebook by Bekking & Blitz and felt like it was a perfect Amsterdam souvenir with its pattern of canal houses on the cover. The design continues on the endpapers. Unfortunately it has lined paper, which is not my favorite, but on the plus side, it was only €5.99.

Amsterdam notebook
Amsterdam notebook endpapers
Amsterdam notebook interior lined pages

Moving on to stylish lifestyle stationery shops, I visited Like Stationery. It’s beautifully merchandized, with a colorful selection of brands from Japan and Europe, mostly things I’ve seen at places like Goods for the Study in NYC. I only wanted to buy things I knew I couldn’t get at home, so I pounced on this Astier de Villatte journal, something I’d previously only seen online. It has an elegant patterned cover, gilded edges and creamy smooth paper inside. €24.50 was a ridiculous price to pay for this notebook and I almost didn’t buy it, but my traveling companion is the bad pixie who always says “just do it. You know you want it.” Don’t travel with an enabler, people.

Astier de Villatte notebook
Astier de Villatte notebook gilded edges

I also purchased this interesting stitched journal made by Shapes and Papers. I’ve never seen anything like this– a lot of the page is taken up by the colored designs (two designs which repeat throughout). The colors are printed in a way that almost seems hypnotic, so perhaps you’re meant to meditate on them and then write whatever comes to mind. The company’s website ( is not functioning as of this writing, so I can’t tell you if that’s what they intended. At €11, this was also overpriced, but I just thought it was cool.

Shapes and Papers notebook
Shapes and Papers notebook interior design 1
Shapes and Papers interior design 2

My final stop was Misc Store, another shop with high-end, mostly Japanese stationery and lifestyle products. At this point I was feeling like my credit card was about to spontaneously combust, but I wanted to buy a little something because the selection and merchandizing were so nice and the shopkeeper was so friendly. This tiny little Penco notebook from Japan was €2, so that fit the bill.

Penco notebook
Penco notebook interior

But then on the way to the register I also saw this lovely set of plaid cahiers from Le Typographe. The paper inside was unlined– yay. The set cost €15. Too much, really, but they’re lovely and definitely not something you see just anywhere. Sold.

Le Typographe notebooks
Le Typographe notebooks

Most of my trip was spent seeing amazing sights and enjoying the cultural and historical vibes, not shopping for stationery. But it was a pretty fruitful trip for notebook collecting!

2018 haul of notebooks from Europe!

4 thoughts on “Notebooks from Europe”

  1. I’m not sure about the D&S that you have, but many of the Hahnemühle products are available in the U.S. carries quite a few of them. I adore their watercolor postcards that come in tins.

  2. I’m absolutely flattered that you responded to my suggestion of picking up the quarter pan set by D-R. It remains my go-to kit when I’m traveling. If you are interested, to make a complete kit, I grabbed a Meku pencil case on Amazon ( At $18 for genuine leather, it is quite a good value. The case will hold a few pencils and pens, the paint set, and a small, collapsible cup (stainless steel, ~ 2″ across, often found on a keyring). It’s small and holds all you need for fast sketches. Well, you’ll need a notebook, but I presume you have that covered. Kind regards.

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