Edinburgh is a magnet for book lovers. It’s home to some of the world’s most influential writers and to the Edinburgh International Book Festival, and many happy hours can disappear exploring the masterpieces that are packed into Scotland’s UNESCO City of Literature.
Whether you’re in it for the hunt or craving a casual browse, check out our bibliophile’s guide to Edinburgh and start exploring its most beautiful bookshops.
Found within McNaughtan’s Gallery, it’s easy to lose track of time in Typewronger Books with its retro chairs, vintage typewriter selection and new and indie press reads. This unique book browsing experience is made even brighter with pots of fresh coffee and the odd origami animal upon arrival. Although new to the capital’s reading scene, it feels like home straight away thanks to founder Tom’s extensive book knowledge and bookselling background. The personalised book subscription service caters to avid readers looking for a steady flow of hand-picked finds.
Founded in 1957, McNaughtan’s Bookshop & Gallery is Scotland’s oldest second-hand and antiquarian bookshop. This atmospheric space is packed with charm and rare, collectable and second-hand books. It’s also the only open shop in Edinburgh to serve as a member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association, the oldest trade body in the antiquarian literary realm. The gallery (currently home to Typewronger Books) features original artist exhibitions and there is always warm tea or wine upon arrival. Consider this a go-to when searching for old and elusive titles.
Till’s Bookshop is a treasure trove of second-hand literary finds of all kinds. The pleasing layout and the overflowing cases, rich in titles, make browsing a breeze. Anyone stuck on what to read can ask the owners, who are forever up to speed on the best new picks. This tried-and-true book sanctuary has established a loyal following over the years and is a pilgrimage site attracting book fans from far and near. After all, visiting Till’s is just like getting hooked on a good book — once you start, you can’t stop!
As home to the independent Scottish book publisher Word Power Books, Lighthouse is more than just a bookshop. It’s a vehicle for challenging the socially constructed status quo and a politically-engaged hub for titles involving radical, left wing Scottish politics, intersectional feminism, revolutionary history, environmentalism, LGBTQ writing and more. A self-confessed ‘oasis for curious minds’, ‘Edinburgh’s radical bookshop’ hosts numerous talks and discussions worth getting involved in. Whether translated fiction, poetry, tattoo art or cookery books, Lighthouse is brimming with niche literature; you’re guaranteed to find something new on these shelves.
With its maze of second-hand fiction, non-fiction and collector’s editions, Edinburgh Books is in a league of its own. Formerly West Port Books, this quirky Edinburgh icon has catered to the city’s book enthusiasts for over twenty years. And just when you think you’ve explored every nook and cranny, the four additional basement rooms are revealed. One such room, rented by Alba Musick, is bursting at the seams with sheet music. Voracious readers can delight in the collection of antiquarian books, compelling titles and the old maps selection.