The Best Independent Bookshops in Shanghai

Groucho Marx once said, “outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read”. As a fast-paced city filled with skyscrapers and commercial buildings, spots with literary atmosphere are not scarce in Shanghai. These special independent bookstores are often hidden in alleys rarely known to tourists and travellers. From small bookstores piled up with vintage hard-to-find magazines, to independent bookshops featuring a leisurely literary atmosphere, here’s the guide with the best bookshops in Shanghai.

Garden Books

On the tranquil and quaint Changle Road lies a two-storey villanette furnished in warm and earthy colours and displaying ranges of English books in perfect order. Funded by the Chinese Taofen Foundation, Garden Books features books on open shelves. On the continental-style bookshelves you’ll find newspapers, including the International Herald Tribune and the Wall Street Journal that are flown in from the US. The first floor of Garden Books has a spacious reading room, where coffee and ice-cream is served, whereas the upper floor is packed with books, magazines, and newspapers that are imported from UK and US.

Opening hours: Mon-Sun 10am-10pm

Garden Books | © Jonathan/Flickr

CANS Book Shop

As the owner of reckoned that a “can” represents the idea of simplicity, integration as well as conservation, the bookstore was named CANS. The two-level shop features a selection of books from arts, photography, design to humanities. On the first floor you can enjoy reading new books with the aroma of coffee beans and tea leaves. Out-of-print books are treasured up on the upper floor where you can curl up on the tatami and read. Apart from CANS, where else can you grab a cup of coffee and book and spend an afternoon?

Opening hours: Mon-Sun 9.30am-6.30pm

Julu Road in Shanghai | © Livelikerw/WikiCommons

Hanyuan Bookstore

It has been 18 years since Hanyuan Bookstore was first opened, in 1997. Hanyuan Bookstore was founded by Tung-Keung Yee, the cousin of world-renowned movie director Tung-Sing Yee. Hanyuan hosts a selection of books from ancient and modern times, from China or elsewhere. All kinds of ornaments are hung on walls and pillars, while antique French carved chairs and an old-fashioned gramophone are found indoors. Mellow coffees are served at the café. In this secluded environment, you can read the masterpiece at hand while taking a sip of a latte.

Opening hours: Mon-Sun 10am-12am

A bookstore in Shanghai | © 2 dogs/Flickr

Qiancai Shufang (Colourful)

Attracting visitors from all corners of the world, Colourful is a bookstore that gives prime place to Eileen Chang, one of the most influential modern writers in China. Situated beneath the old home of Eileen, the façade of Colourful contains large floor-to-ceiling windows and vintage gig lamps. Pushing the door, books neatly piled up and photos of Eileen placed beside the shelves first come into view. The adornments at Colourful are of a vintage style, with a pendulum, old suitcases, Chinese monochromes on the wall, and a phonograph that unveils the glory of Old Shanghai. In the courtyard of Colourful, you can sit at one of the few can chairs and savour coffee served in a small blue-and-white-porcelain cup.

Opening hours: Sun-Tu 8am-10pm; Fri-Sat 8am-12am

Jing’an District in Shanghai | © Baycrest/WikiCommons

Lumin Bookstore

Lumin Bookstore is located on Zhengsu Road, adjacent to the dormitories of Fudan University. The bookstore was founded by Gu Zhentao and Zhang Jinyaom, who are graduate students at Fudan University, and the place was named by the reputable scholar, thinker and literary theorist Wang Yuanhua. At Lumin you are unable to find any bestselling books. Specializing in scholarly books, Lumin features literature, philosophy, history, poetry and arts. Gaining a high reputation, it has attracted academics and intellectuals from all over the world to pay a visit.

Opening hours

Mo Mi Café

The Mo Mi Cafe is a bookstore that mainly features postcards. At Mo Mi, the varia-like hand painted maps are all homemade. Specialized in only four distinct fields, art books, illustrated books, fiction and travel stories, the selection at Mo Mi is limited, but every book on display has been read by the owners and deemed worth recommending. Similarly, on the magazine rack you can find only four local magazines – MING, Little Thing, O2 and Duku. Mo Mi has a postcard wall named ‘To Future’, and invested with the blessings and dreams of visitors.

Opening hours: Mon-Sun 10am-11.30pm

Pudong District in Shanghai | © Sergio Tittarini/Flickr

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