Dublin: A Bookworm’s Paradise
When I was little, being coaxed up the stairs and tucked into bed didn’t necessarily mean it was bedtime. Quite frequently I would slip under the quilt when the coast was clear with a book and a torch and squint over my latest book before sleep got the better of me. As a child I was fascinated by the whole other world that could be found between the covers of a book and this same fascination has stuck with me throughout my teens and twenties.
One of the first things I noticed upon moving to Dublin was the abundance of book shops; no matter where you are, you are pretty much guaranteed to be within walking distance of one. Given Ireland’s history of producing literary greats, it only really makes sense that literature should still be such a massive part of Ireland’s culture. Dublin was given the prestigious title of UNESCO City of Literature in 2010 and rightly lives up to its name.
Like most bookworms, I can’t resist a book shop and am particularly partial to second-hand stores. Truth be told, the smaller and mustier the shop, the better. Over the past couple of years, I have visited quite a few corners of Dublin in my hunt for books and the following is a list of the ones I would heartily recommend.
Temple Bar Book Market
Temple Bar Square – http://templebar.ie/Market/Book_Market
Well okay, this first one isn’t exactly a shop but it’s just as good! The Temple Bar book market is held every Saturday and Sunday of the year, from 11am till 6pm. There are usually four or five different sellers with books ranging from pristine copies of recently published novels, to books that have clearly seen a lot of love over the years. You can pick most up for a few euro each, although some of the more specialist books will understandably have a higher price-tag.
While you’re there, the best thing you could possibly do is strike up a conversation with the seller. I have had many an interesting chat as I peruse the stalls on a Sunday afternoon; after all the Irish are famed for their banter!
23 Parliament Street, Dublin 2 – www.oxfamireland.org/oxfambooks
Most charity shops will have a few shelves of books on sale and are always worth popping into but the Oxfam Books shops are dedicated and therefore have a lot more to offer. I used to live on the same block as the Parliament Street branch … I’m smart like that!
The website tells me there is another branch in Rathmines, which is a great place to go if you’re in a book-shopping mood as there are plenty of little second-hand stores along the main street. The Oxfam shops sell their books at very low prices and are always happy to take any old books off your hands. Don’t forget that the money goes to a good cause, which is always a plus.
The Secret Book & Record Store
15a Wicklow Street, Dublin 2 – Facebook Page
The name of this shop might seem like an exaggeration but it really is a hidden gem. For a year and a half I walked down Wicklow Street at least once a week without noticing it. Finally, last Christmas I was out in town hunting down the last few presents, when I saw a man with a sign outside the shop. Peering in through the doorway I was a little hesitant at first, wondering if I was about to be suckered into some kind of trap but curiosity got the better of me (thankfully) and I discovered The Secret Book & Record Store.
It’s quite a small space but every available inch is covered in books, with a section for records and CDs set aside. Given how many times I had walked past the shop front without noticing it, I assumed it was just a pop-up shop for Christmas but upon asking the man at the till how long it had been open for, I found out that it has been going strong for the past sixteen years!
I absolutely love the atmosphere in this place; there’s something about the smell of all those books that makes me want to curl up in a corner and stay there for days. Despite how ‘secret’ the shop is, there are always quite a few people in there whenever I pop in so I’d say it’s a favourite with those who know where to look. Now you know where to look and should certainly pay it a visit.
George’s Street Arcade
South Great George’s Street, Dublin 2 – www.georgesstreetarcade.ie
George’s Street Arcade is one of my absolute favourite buildings in Dublin. Every time I visit, I am taken aback but just how beautiful it is and always make it a point to take any visitors I may have to see it. Aside from a number of fantastic stalls selling an array of artsy and craftsy goods, there is also a large selection of books available thanks to Stoke’s Books. You’re unlikely to find many best sellers or brand new books here, and a lot of what’s available probably appeals more to those looking for collectibles. However, it is well worth a visit if you love holding, smelling (you know you do it!) and looking through older books.
Ivy Exchange, Parnell Street, Dublin 1 – www.chapters.ie
Last but certainly not least is Chapters, Ireland’s largest independent bookstore. As I mentioned previously, I love the little shops and would always prefer to buy my books from them rather than from the big chains like Easons. The great thing about Chapters is that, whilst it is big enough to rival any of the chain stores, it maintains the charm that comes with the smaller bookshops. The staff are incredibly helpful and the selection of books is vast. I absolutely love the second floor which is a massive collection of second-hand books.
And there you have it … These are a few of my favourite places to wile away the time. There are, of course, so many more bookshops in Dublin but each of these is a great place to start. If you know of any others that I simply must visit, please do let me know!