I’ll level with you – I wanted to upload this post before 2020, but you know what the festive season is like. It’s hard to write coherent sentences when you’ve eaten so many pigs in blankets you’re on the verge of becoming one. But here we are, refreshed and ready for a whole new year of books and literary gallivanting.
So a while back I asked the lovely people on my bookstagram to recommend their favourite independent bookshops in Edinburgh, and they delivered. I was going to be there anyway to see its famous Christmas Market for the first time, and there is literally always time to visit bookshops. ALWAYS.
Address: 72-74 West Port, Edinburgh EH1 2LE
This hidden gem feels like something straight out of Harry Potter’s wizarding world. It’s a cosy little nook on city’s West Port, under the watchful eye of Edinburgh Castle.
Every spare inch of space is bursting with books, from beautiful antiquarian tomes to recent bestsellers and everything in between. The range of genres here is unlike any other second hand bookshop I’ve visited so far, so this small, family-run business with that old book smell we all love is a (well-priced) must-visit.
Armchair Books is the kind of place where you don’t have to whisper, but there’s a weird sense of reverence for the sheer volume of literature under its roof. Also they sell very cute tote bags.
Topping & Company
Address: 2 Blenheim Pl, Edinburgh EH7 5JH
It was my first ever visit to Topping & Company, one of the bookshops recommended by you guys on IG (thank you!). They’ve got more shops in Bath, Ely, and St. Andrew’s and to be honest, I might just beg them to open up in Newcastle too.
As soon as you walk in, you’ll notice how (a) warm and welcoming and (b) nicely laid-out the shop is. There’s a HUGE range of books nestled politely in their pristine shelves, waiting to be picked up so they can make your acquaintance and charm you into taking them home. The shelves stand tall and stacked with beautiful books, so much so that they’ve got those cute shelf-ladders dotted around. My inner Belle felt all warm and fuzzy inside.
While I was browsing, a lovely bookseller came over to ask me if I’d like anything to drink while I looked around. Yes, they serve pots of coffee on the house and show you to one of the perfectly placed tables so you can sit comfortably while you debate whether or not you really need all eight books. Don’t just take my money, take my hand in marriage. Consider me wooed.
But they’re not just bringers of much-needed caffeine; they’re also super knowledgeable about basically any book you pick up and will probably have a recommendation or two for you based on what’s in your hands at check out.
Golden Hare Books
Address: 68 St Stephen St, Edinburgh EH3 5AQ
One of the most popular recommendations on my list, Golden Hare Books was actually voted Independent Bookshop of the Year in the UK and Ireland in 2019!
Visually, the shop is stunning; they’ve actually designed the shop in such a way that you can see as many outward-facing books as possible while you browse – a welcome fact that plays on your bookish curiosity. If, like me, you do judge a book by its cover, this is ideal. But don’t take my word for it – take a look:
And if that’s not enough fabulousness for you, the good people there also run a book subscription box. Yep. Books. Delivered. To your door. Or your loved one’s door, whatever you fancy. Very pleasing.
Address: 43-45 W Nicolson St, Edinburgh EH8 9DB
Another of your kind recommendations! Lighthouse Books specialises in curating and selling work by non-mainstream , marginalised, and political voices from all over the world. They also have dogs. Need I say more?
This cosy little bookshop will have you feeling right at home as soon as you walk in. Speaking of homes, they also have a brand-spanking-new Writer in Residence programme that’s definitely worth a look if you’re a wordsmith looking to sharpen your skills or just engage with a tight-knit community of readers and writers.
The Portobello Bookshop
Address: 46 Portobello High St, Edinburgh EH15 1DA
Given that Edinburgh has such a strong presence when it comes to indie bookshops, I was very surprised to find out that Portobello didn’t have its own place until very recently. Enter, The Portobello Bookshop.
This beautiful bookshop made its home in what used to be a fishing tackle shop – fitting, considering the location. Known for its warm, contemporary look and a layout that really lends itself to a leisurely browse of the many books on offer, you could easily spend hours lost in this corner of the city. And just in case you’re not familiar with Portobello…
Here’s what the sunset looks like! Picture yourself breaking into your latest book haul with this as a backdrop. Not too bad, eh?
The Edinburgh Bookshop
Address: 145-147, West Port, Edinburgh EH3 9DP
We’ve got another award winner in our midst, ladies and gentlemen. The Edinburgh Bookshop (I do love a simple name) was named Scottish Independent Bookshop of the Year 2018, and was sweetly described by The Guardian as ‘the kind of bookshop we’d all like to have in our neighbourhood’.
The Edinburgh Bookshop is run by a smiley team with a load of experience in the industry under their belts, so if you’ve got questions or just need a recommendation for your next read, they’re always more than happy to help!
Address: 3a, 4a Haddington Pl, Edinburgh EH7 4AE
This one’s a little different from the rest of the list! McNaughtan’s Bookshop first opened its doors in 1957 and specialises in rare, collectible, and second-hand books.
They also have a gallery for you to enjoy, where you’ll also find a quirky mix of newer publications and second-hand typewriters for sale. Like I said, a little something different.
Address: 1 Hope Park Cres, Edinburgh EH8 9NA
I stumbled upon Tills Bookshop completely by accident, during a taxi ride into town one night. Am I always on the lookout for bookshops like some sort of excitable meerkat? Yes.
I mean come on. They have a working fireplace. Imagine rushing in on a blustery day, with winter biting at your heels. Walk in. Browse. Warm up. Pick up a few books you might want to buy. Hang out and read with the sound of a crackling fire punctuating the words on the page.
So there you go, my book-obsessed friends. A quick little roundup of independent bookshops in Edinburgh; if I’ve left any out, tell me about it in a comment! The more the merrier.