In an increasingly digitised world, we book lovers often have to struggle through a jungle of chain stores before we can find that one independent bookshop which satisfies all of our quaint, bookish needs. Not only are these places brimming with character compared to the bigger bookstores, they are generally much cheaper as well. If you are a student with a lengthy reading list for each of your classes, this is a significant draw. Luckily, Dublin has a couple hidden gems. Imagine we are starting a walking tour from Trinity to the heart of the city, and let’s embark on a journey to some of these magical bookstores.
Our first destination is Books Upstairs, Dublin’s oldest independent bookshop. Established in 1978, this cozy establishment has a wide selection, ranging from essay collections, classics, young adult fiction, contemporary fiction and more. Take the descending staircase and fall down a rabbit hole of piles and piles of cheap, second-hand editions. No, you are not dreaming! As the shopkeepers informed me, the owners pride themselves on both their friendly environment and the cheapest prices in town. Given Books Upstairs’ proximity to College, the shop is perfect for students needing to buy a book last-minute or unwilling to go far from College to find affordable editions. They also stock accessories like tote bags (which are an absolute essential for all students), t-shirts and mugs. Their second floor has a café (books and coffee, do I really need to say more?) which is small and cozy.
The Winding Stair
Perched on the River Liffey’s edge, it’s easy to miss The Winding Stair, which makes this bookshop’s aura even more alluring. Inside, the store has a magical atmosphere. The interior is not very brightly illuminated, giving the shelves an antique and almost gothic quality. The front part of the shop holds new books, while the smaller section at the back is packed with second-hand books. The bookshop is small enough, but their selection of books is excellent. Moreover, they also stock literary magazines, zines, Irish gifts, postcards and tote bags with your favourite Oscar Wilde quotes. Their staff are also just as friendly as their prices.
Finally, Chapters, or, as I like to call it, the holy grail for college students. This absolute heaven of cheap, second-hand editions is Ireland’s largest independent bookstore. As well as old books, CDs and DVDs, the Parnell Street store stocks pricier hardback editions. Near the entrance stands a shelf completely dedicated to deluxe editions of classics, which would make great gifts. The second floor boasts shelves filled with old orange and blue Penguin editions. Of the three bookstores listed, I would most highly recommend Chapters to students, because of its vast collection of second hand college books, including the classics.
Be sure to have your credit card in hand and look out for these independent bookstores on your next ramble around town.