Hello gang. For this week’s post, I thought I would do something a little different and tell you about my home town of Belfast. For those of you unfamiliar with Belfast, it is the capital city of Northern Ireland and we are most famous for building the Titanic (yes, it sank, but it was perfect when it left here and we were not the ones who drove it into an iceberg) and more recently because Northern Ireland is where Game of Thrones is filmed and the UK premiere of the newest and final season was recently right here in the city. Both the Titanic and GOT have a myriad of tours, museums and exhibits dedicated to them, but what I have noticed is lacking out there is a definitive guide to all things bookish in this fair city. So, because I am a total book nerd and because I spend a probably unhealthy amount of time scouring book shops, I thought I would put together a list of my favourite book shops in the city. Maybe these shops are well known to you or perhaps they are somewhere new to discover, either way, sit back, grab a snack and happy reading…
Keats and Chapman – North Street.
You know those book shops that literally have rows upon rows of higgledy piggledy books from floor to ceiling? The kind of shop that send the bibliophile’s heart all a flutter and causes them to involuntarily squeal with glee the second you step inside? Keats and Chapman is one such shop. Situated on North Street, not far from the trendy Cathedral Quarter, this little gem of a store contains more books than any one person could ever possibly read in their lifetime (although I am willing to make a stab at it in the name of scientific research). There is literally something for everyone here and a book to suit every taste. Given the vast amount of books literally crammed into every nook and cranny, a book worm could literally lose hours of they life scouring the shelves here and truthfully over the years, I probably have done just that. Whilst I would love the budget to sustain the many, many books I crave, I find myself having to limit my spending each month so I am a massive fan of second hand book shops in general. They allow a book, well thumbed and once loved, to be picked up and loved once again as well as introducing those wonderful worlds and characters to buyers who may otherwise have been unable to afford it. Also, anyone who is a fan of my Instagram will know I have a MAJOR obsession with vintage books and this store is positively stuffed with vintage gems. If you find yourself wondering the city centre with some time on your hands, this Aladdin’s cave of bookish treasures is definitely worth a browse.
Visit immediately, you won’t regret it! You can check out opening times and details on their Facebook page here.
No Alibis– Botanic Avenue.
This book store is well known and well respected by local book worms and was even featured in a book by local writer Colin Bateman (if you haven’t read any of his work, do so immediately. You WILL laugh out loud, guaranteed). It may be known as Northern Ireland’s only independent crime fiction book shop but it features lots of other genres as well, including a rather wonderful and well stocked children’s section. It regularly hosts amazing events and author signings and meet and greets and would draw in some incredible names in the world of literature (like one of my personal favourites, John Connolly). Nestled on Botanic Avenue in the heart of the student area, a mere hop, skip and a jump from my old alma mada, Queens University, it is a truly wonderful shop which is definitely worth visiting should you get the chance. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to support the sadly increasingly rare independent book store. Botanic Avenue is literally stuffed with amazing restaurants and coffee shops (or near some great bars if you prefer to read with a pint than a coffee), so head on in, browse, inevitably buy and find a little nook somewhere to chill out and read- you know you want to! You can find out about their opening hours and upcoming events on their website here.
Self Help Africa– Botanic Avenue.
Out of all the second hand book shops on my list, this one is my personal favourite. Whilst it may not be the biggest or the most well known, it holds a special place in my heart and I have found so many books for my ever growing vintage collection on its stuffed shelves. This place is packed with books to suit every reader and more than that, it has heart. The lovely ladies who volunteer there are always a delight to chat with and obviously enjoy volunteering their very much. It genuinely brightens my day to visit them. Not only are their books a complete steal, with prices being beyond reasonable, but every penny you spend goes to support the charities work to end hunger and poverty in rural Africa. Win win right? Of note are the little bargain boxes, where all of the books within are reduced to only 50p (I have found so many hidden gems in those). Please, if you are in the area, drop in, say hi to the wonderful volunteers and buy yourself a book! If you want to find out more about what Self Help Africa does or would like to donate, click here.
Oxfam Bookstore– Botanic Avenue.
Now, I know what you are thinking- Botanic Avenue really has a lot of book shops featuring on your list and you would be 100% right. The fact is, Botanic Avenue has and always will hold a special place in my heart. I went to Queens University to get my degree in Psychology and I spent so many hours here, visiting the many shops and cafes. It is chock full of second hand shops, vintage shops and thrift stores which are all my very favourite kinds of shops. I could fill a book with the amount of amazing second hand gems I have found here over the years, but instead of boring you with the time I bought a stunning almost new pair of Topshop jeans from a charity shop for £2.50 and found a fiver in the pocket when I got home (that was a truly great day), I will stick with the book shops of this wonderful area (for now at least). Every large city has an Oxfam book store, in fact there are at least two others in Belfast that I know of (and also regularly visit) but of those, this is my favourite for three main reasons. Not only is it the largest, it is also the brightest and most well laid out. But mostly, it is near the other bookstores already listed, so you can literally spend the day just strolling from book store to vintage store grabbing goodies as you go. I always visit this store when I visit the others, it’s like a routine for me now, so I had to include it on my list. Once again, not only are you grabbing yourself some bookish bargains, you are also helping a great cause in the process and it couldn’t get any better than that. If you would like to learn more about Oxfam and what they do, or perhaps donate, click here.
Waterstones– Fountain Street.
Ok, every major city these days has a Waterstones. You have all visited one, you have all stared dreamily at the shelves and touched the many books contained therein to let them know you are thinking of them and will be back for them soon…No? Just me? Well regardless, there is no point in me telling you about the store because inevitably you have seen one. I mostly buy second hand books or try to support smaller businesses where I can but I always find myself wondering into this gorgeous store every time I am near the city centre so it had to be included on the list. If you want to find beautiful books and amazing bookish goodies, then this place will have something for you. Personally, I tend to find myself buying more mugs and notebooks that I don’t need and have no space for but simply must have (you know the ones). My recommendation is not to enter when your funds are low or you may find yourself weeping in front of the cloth bound vintage Penguin Classics collection…No? Just me again? Fair enough.
So that’s my list- what do you think? Are there any shops not featured you think I need to visit? Comment below. And don’t forget to subscribe to stay up to date with all my latest posts. For now, happy browsing fellow book lovers.