I enjoy bookish cities. There’s no clear definition for a bookish city. It’s just a vibe I get when there. So what may be bookish to me may not be for you.
There are some common features that tend to make a city more bookish than another. Generally they’re places where bookstores seem popular; sometimes the bookstore itself might be a tourist spot. You’ll find residents reading in the subway, a park, or a cafe. Maybe there’s a number of book clubs that are popular in the area. Sometimes the weather is conducive to reading.
Here are some cities that I’ve felt are bookish:
Seattle: Weather is dreary and conducive to indoor activity. Strong cafe culture with people opting to read or work in public spaces. Lots of activity in neighborhood bookstores on weekends (Elliott Bay Bookstore comes to mind.)
London: Daunt Books in Marylebone is a classic tourist visit. Also notable for its Books on the Water barge, a popular place to visit for locals and tourists alike. And it certainly seems like there are more Waterstones stores in the city than there are Barnes and Nobles stores in American cities.
Edinburgh: Its claim to fame is The Elephant Cafe, the coffee shop where JK Rowling would visit to write Harry Potter. Edinburgh is also a cold, rainy, dreary city like Seattle. A perfect environment for book lovers. The city also hosts the International Book Festival each year. The NYTimes documents Edinburgh’s relationship with books.
Lisbon: Host of the world’s oldest bookstore, Bertrand, close to the heart of the city. Lisbon also owns the most bookstores per capita of any major city in the world. Books are available in both Portuguese and English.
Bangalore: A frequent site in Bangalore is the street carts filled with books sold on the cheap. Furthermore, Church St. is one of the city’s most lively commercial streets and is host to Blossom Book House, The Bookworm, and more. Buildings in the same neighborhood house book clubs to gather in. I did notice the books here leaned towards hustle culture. It’s common to see reads like “Zero to One” and “The Cold Start Problem” selling on street carts. Seems on brand for Bangalore’s tech reputation. Murakami books seem popular in the city.