Belfast has an exceptional literary heritage, from C. S. Lewis’ Narnia series to the influential Belfast Group of poets. The yearly Belfast Book Festival is a popular draw for bibliophiles, but Belfast’s book culture is a year-round option for people who know where to look. With that said, here’s our guide to the best bookshops in Belfast, so that you’ll know where to go in search of stories.
No Alibis, on Botanic Avenue, is a true Belfast landmark. In the autumn months it’s often packed with textbook-seeking students from nearby Queen’s University, but No Alibis is also Northern Ireland’s only specialist crime bookstore. It’s clearly had an impact on Northern Ireland’s mystery aficionados, as Colin Bateman has immortalised the store in his Mystery Man series of novels. Owner David Torrans isn’t sure about the novels’ portrayal of the store, and we agree that it’s infinitely better to experience No Alibis in person than in the printed word. Between the excellent selection, frequent events, and friendly staff, it’s a hard act to beat.
Keats and Chapman
Unsuspecting book-buyers might accidentally find themselves spending a whole day in Keats and Chapman. Its appeal lies not just with the selection of books, but with the structure of the store itself. It’s deceptively small from the outside, but upon stepping over the threshold shoppers will discover a surprisingly long room, with narrow aisles and shelves packed to bursting. This is a browser’s dream, and there’s bound to be a handful of treasures hiding in the stacks.
Bookfinders has been going strong for three decades now, and has the noted honour of being the first combined bookshop-cafe in Ireland. It’s a stone’s throw from the university, and is almost directly across the street from The Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry. As well as an excellent selection of secondhand books, there are several cabinets of rare tomes and first editions. Stop in for a cup of tea and a toastie, and take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city.
An Ceathrú Póilí
An Ceathrú Póilí is a niche item on this list: an Irish-language bookstore. Situated in the heart of Belfast’s Gaeltacht Quarter, it’s indisputably Belfast’s finest Irish bookstore. Based in Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich, an Irish language cultural centre, English speakers need not worry, as the store also stocks hundreds of English-language books dealing with Irish interests.
Comic Book Guys
A niche interest of a different sort, Comic Book Guys is Belfast’s premier independent comic store. They deal in single issues, trade paperbacks, and graphic novels, as well as memorabilia and merchandise. Comic Book Guys buy as well as sell, so if you’re looking to make a few pounds and support a small business, bring your unwanted comics along and see what they’re worth. They’ve recently relocated to new premises.
Books Paper Scissors
Opened in the Summer of 2017, Books Paper Scissors is very much the new kid on the block in Belfast’s bookselling community. Located on the student thoroughfare Stranmillis Road, it’s a compact space dedicated to fiction, non-fiction, and stationery. Empty notebooks sit on the shelves just waiting to be filled with ink from any number of pens, pencils, or crayons. Books, paper, and scissors are all on offer, so the name of this store is apt.