Nestled in amongst the residential and office blocks of the Quartermile development adjacent to the Meadows is Looking Glass Books, a café/bookshop combo named in homage to the eponymous heroine of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The space is custom made for cosy hideaways on rainy Edinburgh afternoons with its bunting decor, checkered floor and curated selections of travel, history, YA, and new fiction. Take a cuppa back to one of the luxurious armchairs and wallow amongst the eclectic audience of bookworms who regularly drop into the shop. Additionally, Looking Glass schedules regular author talks and book club events. Flying visitors can also shop for quaint literary-themed gifts, so make sure to pick up that Penguin Books jacket cover mug for your niece’s birthday while you’re there.
Opening Hours: Sat – Thurs: 9am – 6pm
36 Simpson Loan, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, +44 131 229 2902
Throughout the capital, you can find small, tidily decorated, minimalist bookstores; the Old Town Bookshop is resolutely not one of those, and all the better for it. Situated on the winding Victoria Street (leading down to some of the capital’s best pubs in the Grassmarket – where better to take your newly purchased book haul?), the Old Town Bookshop is an old-school delight with mountainous piles of paperbacks to walk between and several antique collections acquired over the shop’s thirty years in the business. A true bookworm’s dream (it’s one of the few stores on this list that requires a good afternoon to navigate and digest completely), one can easily drop in for five minutes and end up walking out with an edition dating back to the 1600s, a map, an artwork or a £2 paperback.
Opening hours: Contact shop
Another Edinburgh trailblazer for all the small indies sticking it to big corporate sellers is the extensively stocked Word Power Books. In fact, a subversive streak has been at the heart of the store’s philosophy since owner James Kelman opened it in 1994 and is continued in its commitment to supporting small presses and new writers, as well as its central role in organising the Edinburgh Independent Radical Bookfair. Word Power remains a vital player on the Edinburgh book circuit and is well worth a delve into for its huge stockpiles of literature outwith the mainstream, offering alternative viewpoints on current affairs, gender and the environment.
Opening Hours: Mon – Sat: 10am – 6pm; Sun: 12pm – 5pm
43-45 W Nicolson St, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, +44 131 662 9112