Also, bookstores with especially friendly cats
May 30, 2010 12:54 PM   Subscribe

Bookstore recommendations in London, Paris, and Barcelona?

I'm hopelessly fond of bookstores, and I often use bookstores as anchor points when exploring a new city. (I used to offer friends an all-day bookstore-based tour of NYC back when I lived there.) I'm finally going to Europe this summer, and amongst the many things I'm excited about are the many bookstores I'll get to visit (and probably spend far too much at; yes, I'm planning on bringing a spare suitcase). I'm know there's no lack of stores in any of these cities, but I want to make sure I don't miss any particularly good ones. Do you have any favorites?

Used, academic, unusual, historic, specialized, well-curated: These are all good, as are stores that sell books in French, Catalan, or Spanish (or English). (I found a few threads about cheap London stores but that's not all I'm looking for.)
posted by Casuistry to Shopping (27 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

Best answer: Seconding Shakespeare and Company for Paris. It's ridiculously charming (dust and cat dander aside).

As for London, you'll want to spend a day exploring Charing Cross Road. It's a hub for specialist and second-hand bookshops. I rather like Foyles, myself.
posted by hot soup girl at 1:05 PM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh, and the London Review Bookshop in Bloomsbury is also brilliant.
posted by hot soup girl at 1:11 PM on May 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: London - Daunt Books.
posted by meerkatty at 1:39 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

hot soup girl's London recommendations are excellent.

Also, let me put in a word for:
John Sandoe
Persephone Books - which is a publisher and bookstore.

On Charing Cross Road, I recommend Any Amount of Books.
posted by vacapinta at 1:39 PM on May 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

Damnit, I'm too late to be the first to recommend Shakespeare and Co. but you should go there. I've spent two nonconsecutive weeks living there and it's my favorite bookstore on earth.
posted by pseudonick at 2:03 PM on May 30, 2010

I like Oxfam bookshops best. The Charing Cross bookshops tend to be expensive and disappointing.
posted by paduasoy at 2:06 PM on May 30, 2010

Black Gull Books is nice, but a bit out of the way.
Ripping Yarns is a cute second hand bookstore with an emphasis on children's books. Also a bit out of the way, but very near Highgate Tube.
Magma is good for designy books.
On the subject of specialist places, Treadwell's is a Wiccan bookshop.
Grant & Cutler is the biggest foreign language specialist bookstore in London.
posted by Magnakai at 2:19 PM on May 30, 2010

Best answer: In London, Foyle's and Stanford's (which specializes in maps and travel books) are my favourites.
posted by James Scott-Brown at 2:20 PM on May 30, 2010

Seconding Foyle's. It has the ambience of a Borders or other contemporary bookstore, but the selection of yr ideal bookshop.
posted by bonaldi at 2:23 PM on May 30, 2010

Best answer: You could check out the dazzling European comics scene at Forbidden Planet on Shaftesbury ave or the nicely curated boutique Gosh, across from the British museum. Norma is a huge comics emporium in Barcelona, definitely a destination-shop. If you've only seen American comics it would be an eye-opener!

You'd probably get a kick out of the old-school browsing charms of the open-air book and print stands along the Seine in Paris, and under Waterloo bridge next to the National Film theater in London (which has a fine specialist film books shop.. oh and the National Theater next to it has a good theater books shop).
posted by Erasmouse at 2:43 PM on May 30, 2010

Disclaimer: I work here, but I recommend it because it's awesome - this is not the only bookshop I work in and I wouldn't recommend the other.

Lutyens and Rubinstein Bookshop in Notting Hill is really terrific. It's owned by two literary agents and the staff are all passionate about books. Obviously I am biased, but this review, this one, or this one are definitely not written by staff members (although that last one is partly about me).

The manager used to manage one of the much-lamented Crockatt and Powell shops.

The shop only opened last October, and it's been nominated for an Architectural Journal Small Projects Award (there's a good video with one of the owners on there that shows off the James Bond Villain offices).

No cats, I fear, but Billie and Minnie the house dogs are both charming.
posted by featherboa at 2:54 PM on May 30, 2010

Oh yeah, that reminds me. The Photographer's Gallery has a pretty good selection of photographic monographs.

The Tate Modern has one of the better modern art bookshops I've been to, though there may well be better.
posted by Magnakai at 2:57 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Can't link from my phone, sorry, but Gibert Jeune in St Michel in Paris is nice.
posted by ellieBOA at 3:17 PM on May 30, 2010

Best answer: Yeah, in Paris Gibert Jeune blew me away -- my initial impression was that the bookstore was the size of the entire neighborhood. It's a series of specialized bookstores all glommed together in a few buildings.
posted by xueexueg at 3:27 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have spent far too much money in Skoob, an excellent second-hand bookshop about 3 minutes walk from Russell Square tube station.
posted by inire at 3:34 PM on May 30, 2010

Response by poster: I'm glad to hear that Shakespeare & Co isn't massively overrated!

I particularly glad to hear about the comics shops, too -- most of the European comics I've seen have been French, but I'm still not nearly as familiar with even that scene as I'd like to be.

These look fantastic. Thanks, and keep them coming!
posted by Casuistry at 3:37 PM on May 30, 2010

Oh yeah, Wallflower Press, a specialist film publisher have a bookshop just off Brick Lane, with some nice academicy books.

Miss Magnakai recommends the British Library as a destination if you're a book lover, if only for their random book-related paraphernalia, and The Globe for first folio editions of Shakespeare et al.

If you're interested in theatre-y stuff, like scripts, screenplays, musical theatre scores etc, Samuel French is the place to go.

There are various specialist bookshops for things like economics, law etc, but the bookshops themselves are probably not that interesting.
posted by Magnakai at 4:08 PM on May 30, 2010

I quite like this little English-language bookstore in the Rue de Princesses in Paris.
posted by nicwolff at 6:24 PM on May 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Although it's a bit obvious don't overlook Waterstones Picadilly - it's the biggest bookshop in Europe and it has a bar. The Gower St branch is also pretty good.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:13 AM on May 31, 2010

Hatchards . . . 'nuf said . . .
posted by davemack at 2:55 AM on May 31, 2010

OK, it's not London, but Blackwell's in Oxford is the world's most awesomest bookshop. Oxford is one hour by train from London. The Norrington Room, built on the site of a college swimming pool, is a sight to behold. All of this hides behind a tiddly double shop frontage. My personal belief is that this was the inspiration for Doctor Who's Tardis.

In London itself, (as mentioned above) Daunt Books gets rave reviews. Clerkenwell Tales is a nice little shop too. One of central London's best kept secrets (for tourists) is the restaurant on the top floor of the Waterstones store on Piccadilly. The book store itself is pretty good too.

Now, seeing as my fellow Mefites have failed you thus far on your fix of friendly felines: once you've done shopping, slake your thirst at the lovely, quirky Seven Stars pub in Holborn. The cat's name is Tom Paine. The landlady is Roxy. Be sure to get this the right way round.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:25 AM on May 31, 2010

Response by poster: Yes, I'll probably be visiting Oxford and/or Cambridge (and will be spending a day or two in Bristol), so that is also great to hear.
posted by Casuistry at 9:28 AM on May 31, 2010

Shakespere & Co might be a little touristy, but it's wonderful. As of 2006 (the last time I was there) the entire upstairs of the place was set aside for reading--none of the books were for sale but you were welcome to read them. Loved it.

Also, if my memory served me correctly, everyone there spoke English, so communication shouldn't be a problem if you don't speak French.
posted by inertia at 4:41 PM on May 31, 2010

Best answer: There is a lovely area of Paris near St Michel, with lots of nice little shops. There is a nice cozy bookshop on Rue Dauphine, called the Couleur du Temps.
posted by ellieBOA at 8:07 AM on June 1, 2010

Paris - Shakespeare and Company is pretty much the platonic ideal of what you're looking for

Hey - you're going to Europe! I'll perhaps pointlessly second this comment based on my visit there ten or so years ago.

Also an anglo bookshop, Tea and Tattered Pages, which is small and cosy (which probably means less interesting selection, but nicer atmosphere at the same time). It was fairly close to the hotel we stayed at in the 7eme but if I recall correctly it might not be a bad walk from the Jardin de Luxembourg if you find yourself there (otherwise, Google 24 rue Mayet, 75006 and you'll see the closest Metro stops).

Aught / Ron
posted by aught at 11:41 AM on June 1, 2010

Response by poster: For anyone reading this in the future: There are several good (mostly Catalan/Castilian) bookshops in Barcelona, including La Central; this is a good guide.

There's an unexpectedly great (Catalan/Castilian) bookshop in Palma, Mallorca: La Biblioteca de Babel, which is also a wine bar.
posted by Casuistry at 5:10 AM on August 7, 2010

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