Finding cozy bookstores has always been a priority on our family vacations.
If it’s an independent bookstore, and its sells used books and coffee, we might spend a whole vacation day sipping and browsing.
Here are some of our all-time favorite bookstores. If you love books, you’ll love these stores, too.
Sundial Books, Chincoteague, Virginia
Sundial Books has been around for decades. You’ll find it right on Main Street, as you cross the bridge onto Chincoteague Island.
The store is bright and cheery, with cozy places to read.
Sundial sells new and used books, and they also sell online. When we last visited, my husband ruminated over buying a rare book about Ben Franklin, as it was a bit expensive.
When we got back home, he decided that, yes, he really did want it. Thankfully, we were able to order it from Sundial online.
This bookstore also sells pretty souvenirs. It’s a great place to spend a rainy afternoon when the beach is a “no go.”
Sundial Books, 4065 Main St, Chincoteague Island, VA 23336, phone (757) 336-5825, website https://www.sundialbooks.net/
Read more about our Chincoteague vacation here.
Sherman’s Maine Coast Bookshop & Cafe, Damariscotta, Maine
This bookstore is special for so many reasons.
I think it was the first time we all, as a family, spent hours looking through the shelves and stacks, and enjoying every minute. Each of us carried away 2-3 titles to read on our summer vacation.
The store itself is spacious with plenty of room to sit and leaf through your potential purchases.
Its collections are carefully curated; you really feel you are getting the best choices in each category. To me, that’s what makes a bookstore great.
When I was searching for information about a favorite children’s author, Barbara Cooney (Miss Rumphius), I was amazed to discover that Cooney herself was once a co-owner of this bookstore. How cool is that?
Sherman’s Maine Coast Bookshop & Cafe, 158 Main St., Damariscotta, ME 04543, phone (207) 563-3207, website shermans.com
Read more about our Damariscotta vacation here.
Hatchards Piccadilly, London, UK
One of the many great memories from our London trip was spending a few hours in Hatchards book shop.
It’s true that Hatchards runs several book shops, so it’s not really a “small, independent” book store. However, the Piccadilly location is old. This book store is the oldest in the UK, dating back to 1797.
As my husband likes to say, London is a town that sells “old.” You’ll find history everywhere here, and Hatchards Piccadilly is no exception.
I loved the creaky floors, staircases, and abundant representation of British authors.
Hatchards opened a new location in St. Pancras in 2014. But, if you are into the nostalgia, Piccadilly is the location to visit.
An added bonus: both locations are neighbors with specialty food shop Fortnum and Mason.
Hatchards Piccadilly, 187 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9LE, Tel: 020 7439 9921, website hatchards.co.uk
Argonaut Book Shop, San Francisco, CA
How lucky can you get, to find a rare and used bookstore on the same street as your hotel?
My husband and I spent an hour plus here in the dusty stacks on a typical cool and cloudy San Francisco afternoon.
I found an old paperback copy of a collection of short stories about the California gold rush. Tales of California, by Hector Lee, was published in the 1970’s and includes funky cover art.
Added bonus – it was signed by the author. I didn’t even realize this at the time.
Finding historical books about the place you are visiting makes the trip so much more enjoyable, and gives you insight into the local culture.
Plus, the book kept me busy during our down times on our visit to this beautiful city.
Argonaut Book Shop, 786 Sutter Street, San Francisco, CA 94109, telephone: (415) 474-9067, website Argonaut Book Shop
After-words Bookstore, Chicago, IL
After-words Bookstore remains one of my favorite places to hang out in downtown Chicago.
The first floor has all of the latest books, and curated selections on an array of topics.
But, find the stairs to the lower level and dedicate some time to scanning the used book selections.
Unlike some used book stores, After-words lower level is bright and cheerful. You won’t feel like you are hiding in somebody’s musty basement.
Bring your own shopping bag – or a few of them! Like many stores, After-words encourages the use of reusable bags.
After-words New and Used Books, 23 East Illinois Street, Chicago, IL 60611,
Phone: 312-464-1110, website After-words New and Used Books
Raven Used Books, Cambridge, MA
Raven Used Books, outdoor restaurant patios, the Charles River … visiting Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is worth fighting a bit of traffic on a sunny Saturday.
When I was searching for photos to include in this post, I ran across this old one from 1872. It came up in a Google search of “Raven Books Cambridge Massachusetts.”
So, yes, bookstores in Harvard Square have a long history.
After spending time digging through the stacks in Raven Used Books, it’s nice to head down to the John F. Kennedy Memorial Park along the Charles River, grabbing a tea or coffee on the way.
You can sprawl out on the grass and peruse your book purchases until the hunger pains and thirst are strong enough to get you moving again.
Then, it’s time to find a casual eatery with an outdoor seating area, order a freshly tapped wheat ale and hearty sandwich, and linger in the afternoon shade.
Sound good? It is.
Raven Used Books, 23 Church Street, Harvard Square. Cambridge, MA 02138, 617.441.6999 website: ravencambridge.com
Brattle Book Shop, Boston, MA
Boston has lots of higher education, so it’s no surprise that bookstores abound as well.
Brattle Book Shop is a recent find, though it’s been around a long time.
Like many others, this shop offers new and used books. I found a wonderful book about oil painting here.
There seemed to be a lot of shoppers looking at history books, as well.
And, next to the shop, there’s an outdoor sidewalk section of used books at steep discounts.
Brattle Book Shop is located a stone’s throw from the east end of Boston Common, so it’s a worthwhile and convenient place to find a special souvenir of your trip to Beantown.
Brattle Book Shop, 9 West Street, Boston, MA 02111 ,617-542-0210, Toll free 1-800-447-959, website: Brattle Book Shop
Shakespeare and Company, Paris, France
This bookstore is another that I’ve recently visited. It also has a long, interesting history.
The owner is the daughter of a U.S. solider, George Whitman, who studied at the Sorbonne on the G.I. Bill.
Shakespeare and Company is located just across the Seine from Notre Dame de Paris.
Because of its history of hosting artists, and its location in central Paris, this bookstore can be packed with people.
Oh, the fact that its aisles are narrow and it occupies three stories in a very old building make it a bit crowded, too.
But it is so quaint and picturesque that it is worth the wait to get inside. Better yet, scour the bins outside and wait for the touring parties to clear.
Then, take your time and enjoy the scenery before you head out to a nearby cafe.
Shakespeare and Company, 37 rue de la Bûcherie
75005 Paris, France, website: Shakespeare and Company