Buckle up for this Book Nerd’s guide to Dublin bookshops. I’ve assembled for you a curated list of Dublin’s best bookstores guaranteed to help you fuel your book lust.
Trust me, this isn’t some listicle that I’ve assembled from a Google search. I’ve personally visited each of these bookshops, checked out the inventory, spoken with the booksellers and dropped my own cash in order to find the best that Dublin has to offer.
Dublin’s excellent collection of bookstores is an outgrowth of its literary history. Dublin is a UNESCO designated city of literature and it’s full of libraries and literary sites (which you can visit with the help of this literary guide). These well-preserved traditions have fertilized an environment that is conducive to ideas…and there’s no better place to find new ideas than at a bookshop.
This guide will share why each store is unique and there is a map at the end so that you can plot your own bookshop tour.
You can supplement your visit to Dublin with these additional itinerary ideas.
The Absolute Best Bookshops in Dublin
The Gutter Bookshop
The Gutter Bookshop is a small but well-curated store in Temple Bar. They don’t carry everything, but they do carry the best things. Their shelves are liberally sprinkled with staff pics and they always highlight Irish authors. The booksellers there are willing to stop what they are doing and chat with you. I once had a very interesting conversation there with the bookseller and another customer wherein we dissected the messed-up nature of book censorship in America. They were shocked that schools and libraries in the US get challenged for carrying books like Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. I’m shocked by that too but was delighted that the store had created a display of banned books. Because that’s what they do at a really good bookstore.
Hours: Mon-Sun 10a-6p
“We’re all in the gutter, but some of use are looking up at the stars”
At Books Upstairs the books are actually downstairs. They do, however have a delightful little cafe upstairs that serves coffee, tea and light lunch with a large bay window overlooking the street below. The book selection on the lower floor leans toward the humanities, fiction and Irish writers. The store was pretty busy… but not so busy that the bookseller couldn’t take the time to give me a stack of recommendations when I asked her for modern Irish Fiction. It’s the mark of a good bookstore when they can knowledgeably hand-sell you just the thing that you are looking for.
Hours: Mon-Fr 10a-7p, Sat 10a-6p, Sun 2p-6p
The Winding Stair
The Winding Stair is a wee little shop right on the Liffey. They don’t have a gigantic selection of books, but they pride themselves on offering more unusual books which the larger chains don’t carry. They have a good fiction section along with an interesting assortment of non-fiction books that tend toward creativity (cooking, gardening, etc) and a very cute kids area. As with the two shops above, the booksellers there know their inventory and can be trusted to recommend something interesting. After you’ve made your purchase, you can chill out in one of their two armchairs and have a cuppa.
Hours: Mon-Wed, Fri 10a-6p, Thurs, Sat 10a-7p, Sun 12p-6p
Good General Interest Dublin Bookshops
Dubrey’s is a three-tiered cake of a bookstore located on the busy Grafton street shopping district. The store has something for everyone with a well-rounded selection of both fiction and nonfiction. They had some good staff pics on the tables but the store was very busy when I visited so the staff was less available for personalized attention. The highlight of the store is its third floor cafe. It’s a great place to plonk down after a busy shopping day for a cup of tea and some cake.
Hours: Mon-Sun 10a-7p
Hodges Figgis isn’t strictly an indy store because they are owned by the large Waterstones chain. But the store doesn’t have that cut & past Waterstones feeling and, while large, it still has somewhat of an indy feel. The store has been operating since 1768 and their selection of books is huge. They staff an entire academic floor, presumably to serve the nearby Trinity College students. But they also have very generous areas for genre fiction (something lacking in the smaller stores), Irish interest books and children’s books.
The store was quite busy, so once again, personalized attention was hard to come by. But their staff recommendation tables were well stocked and the store’s large inventory made it the kind of place that you could kill an afternoon perusing.
Hours: Mon-Wed, Fri 9a-7p, Thurs 9a-8p, Sat 9a-6p, Sun 12p-6p
Niche Bookstores in Dublin
Forbidden Planet serves book nerds who are also comic nerds and action figure nerds. They call themselves a “cult entertainment retailer”. Their Facebook page for the Dublin store alone has over 20,000 fans so that tells you that they are serving their cultish customers well. The Dublin store carries a large selection of graphic novels, fantasy DVDs and all of the related collectibles. BUT, first and foremost, they consider themselves a comics bookstore.
Hours: Mon-Sat 9a-8p, Sun 11a-6p
Gallery of Photography
The center features contemporary photography, primarily from Irish photographers or on Irish topics. In addition to exhibits, they have a bookstore that specializes in photographic topics. The store is fairly small but perfectly curated for anyone who loves photography. Check their website for current exhibitions.
Hours: Sun-Mon 1p-6p, Tues-Sat 11a-6p
The Library Project
The Library Project is a great example of a small, niche organization doing what they can to support local artists. They stock their store with art and photography books, many of which are self-published by artists who work in the upstairs studios. Check their website for event information.
Hours: Tues-Fri 11a-6p, Sat-Sun 12p-6p
Rare & Secondhand Bookshops in Dublin
Ulysses Rare Books
Ulysses is rare and antiquarian bookseller with a particular specialty for 20th century Irish literature. If you are feeling flush, you can purchase their first edition of James Joyce’s Ullsses for €30,000. The book was one of only 750 first editions printed by Shakespeare & Co and it caused a censorship uproar in the US in 1933 which resulted in a landmark Supreme court case If that’s a bit rich for you, you can peruse the rest of their shelves and don’t miss out on the map room downstairs.
Hours: Mon-Sat 9:30-5:45
Temple Bar Book Market
You aren’t going to find a €30,000 rare first at the Temple Bar book market, but you can find some interesting used books, vinyl and other second-hand bric a brac. If you visit on Saturdays, you can also go to the nearby food market for some locally sourced deliciousness.
Hours: Sat-Sun 11a-6p
If you are a true literary traveler, then you need to check out my literary travel section for advice on other literary destinations and reading lists. And if you are planning a longer trip for Ireland, check out this road trip on the Wild Atlantic Way.
I hope that this book nerd’s guide to the best bookstores in Dublin will give you inspiration to spend a day (or three) strolling around the city, sampling the best that its literary culture has to offer. Do you have a favorite bookstore that I’ve missed? Please comment below and share it with other readers.
As they say in Irish– sásta léamh (happy reading).
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