The Best Independent Bookstores in Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua Guatemala bookstores
Antigua Guatemala bookstores | © Kristin Klein/Flickr

Freelance writer

As the cultural hub of Guatemala, Antigua has much to offer. Its beautiful landscape and colonial architecture has inspired artists and creatives for years, and the city certainly isn’t short of excellent museums and art galleries. Besides these, Antigua has a wonderfully eclectic selection of bookstores to peruse and here are five of the best.

1. Dyslexia

Bookstore

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©Plofiz/Flickr
Dyslexia is the coolest bookstore in Antigua. This quaint secondhand bookstore is located inside Café No Se, a trendily downbeat bar beloved by the town’s writers, artists and creatives. It’s the brainchild of John Rexer, owner and proprietor of Ilegal Mezcal, and if you want to leaf through a novel in a speakeasy-style environment while sipping mezcal, this is the place for you.

Dyslexia is a bookstore for genuine book lovers; you won’t find many generic murder mysteries here. It carries respected contemporary books and classics, and the centre table is reserved for greats like Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Herman Hesse, Emily Brontë and Henry James. You get a free beer when you purchase your book, and if that’s not enough, you can return the book when you’re finished and trade it in for half the price. In the evenings there’s a lively music scene too.

2. Rainbow Café & Bookstore

Cafe, Pub Grub, Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten-free

The Rainbow Cafe & Bookstore
© cvander / Flickr

The Rainbow Café first opened in 1992 and since then has become one of the most popular spots for travellers passing through Antigua. Part café, part bookstore, Rainbow Café also hosts regular NGO lectures, usually about tackling the different social issues facing Guatemala and Central America. It also hosts an open-mic night on Wednesdays and has live music every night.

The bookshop itself is a lovely place: appealingly old-fashioned, it’s also very quiet, making it ideal for browsing, reading or working. There’s a good selection of new and second-hand books, mainly popular titles in English, but there are also some Spanish-language ones and several new guidebooks. Spend over 30 quetzal on books and you’ll receive a free hot drink.

3. Nim P'ot

Located on Antigua’s 5th Avenida, home of the yellow Santa Catalina Arch, is Nim P’ot, a huge hall that’s a cooperative for artisans. It has an extensive selection of Mayan textiles and clothes, traditional masks, wood carvings, kites, paintings and refrigerator magnets, but way at the back is a substantial collection of used books.

From old paperback bestsellers, crime mysteries, classics, thrillers and chick-lit, Nim P’ot isn’t picky when it comes to the books it sells. If you’re more into non-fiction than novels, there’s a decent selection of poetry, religion, self-help, travel guides and history books too.

5a Avenida Norte, Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala

4. La Casa del Conde

Located to the west of the main plaza, La Casa del Conde stocks only new books and is pricier than the other bookstores in Antigua. However, it has an outstanding selection of non-fiction, including books on Central American history and politics, travel and nature guides in English, and extensive literature and fiction in Spanish. You can also find some beautiful coffee-table style photo books on Antigua, which make excellent souvenirs – if your suitcase can stand the extra weight.

La Casa del Conde is also one of the few places in Antigua that stocks a wide range of language books, including Spanish-English dictionaries and grammar guides. These types of publications often prove elusive in the otherwise excellent secondhand bookstores in the city.

5a Avenida Norte, Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala

Browsing the shelves | © chase_elliott/Flickr

5. Librería del Pensativo

Bookstore

Librería del Pensativo – the Bookstore of the Pensive – opened in 1987 and since then has made a name for itself as a progressive publishing house. The initial aim of the company was to provide the public with books that would allow a critical view of Guatemala, encourage creativity and open up new possibilities. It also served as a meeting space to enable the exchange of ideas, the exhibition of works and various cultural activities.

Today Librería del Pensativo plays host to a monthly calendar of cultural events, offers a thought-provoking selection of books, and with the pretty gardens and a quiet ambiance it’s a great environment to read quietly in. You can also find private accommodation at Casa Pensativa.

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