Even in the age of Amazon, e-books and future day drone book deliveries, Ghent has clung tight to its physical houses of literature. These 11 distinct bookshops, including one that doubles as an artist gallery and another that houses a superb typewriter collection, are where the Gentenaar goes to hold an actual book in his or her hand.
From it’s split-down-the-middle website to its obscure art publications, RIOT is quite the characterful addition to Ghent’s literary scene. Part bookshop, part gallery, the plywood-rich space belongs to a growing subset of initiatives by the city’s young creatives. It settled in the affordable but increasingly attractive Dampoort neighbourhood in 2014 and has become a great underground source for art mags and events like graphic design printing workshops.
Dendermondsesteenweg 80, 9000 Ghent, Belgium, +32 9 223 39 53
Paard Van Troje
Helped by an eclectic event calendar that doesn’t necessarily stick to the literary field – think exhibits showcasing the works of local artists or ‘Swedish folk on a Sunday afternoon’ – and a 60-seat café serving a decent cup of joe, Paard Van Troje (‘Trojan Horse’) has become one of the best-known independents in Ghent. The spacious family-run business on the Kouter square likes a good classic (as its name would suggest), and stocks some beautiful special editions on its wooden bookshelves spread across multiple rooms. A wide selection of children’s books from toddler to YA is part of its charm, and a Kathleen Kelly quote can’t help but pop to mind: “When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading does.” Well, they organise midnight Harry Potter sales. Enough said.
Kouter 112-113, 9000 Ghent, Belgium, +32 9 330 08 83
For those who ‘prefer to read in the language of Shakespeare, Molière, Goethe, or even Strindberg,’ Limerick boasts a wide offer of English, French, German and Swedish literature alongside its Dutch-language books. Gert Brouns’ place has been profiled together with Walry as one of Ghent’s literary strongholds, going its own way in a sea of chainstores thanks to unequalled personal service. The point is emphasised by the grand typewriter collection of renowned Dutch author Willem Frederik Hermans that found a home here in 2013, and by the assortment of both nostalgic and new children’s books.
Koningin Elisabethlaan 142, 9000 Ghent, Belgium, +32 9 222 17 57
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