Reading remains one of life’s great pleasures.
While the internet has provided a quick and convenient way to buy books, you can’t beat the experience of actually visiting a bookshop.
The distinctive smell of books, the unique feel of them and the glorious sight of endless shelves of wall-to-ceiling paperbacks is a sensory treat we all need every once in a while.
Unfortunately, in many parts of Australia bookshops are a dying breed. But thankfully this is not the case in Sydney where the bookstore scene is still very vibrant.
Here is our recommendation of some of the best bookshops you will find in Sydney.
Located in Paddington, Ampersand Cafe & Bookstore is the kind of bookstore you could easily spend a whole day in.
Set out within a three storey building, it specialises in secondhand books. Offering everything from science fiction and Mills & Boon romance novels to sporting biographies and self-help guides.
There are plenty of nooks and red velvet armchairs to plonk yourself in while you thumb a few pages of your latest find.
If you are hungry there is also an excellent café onsite, which serves up a pretty good chai latte and delicious treats like French toast stacked with a selection of seasonal fruits.
Boasting one of the most extensive selection of titles in the city, Kinokuniya offers a fabulous respite from the frenzy of the Sydney CBD.
Much loved by creative types, the bookstore presents an impressive catalogue of English, German, French, Chinese and Japanese titles that centre exclusively around the arts.
Popular with aesthetes, photographers, designers, and illustrators, this impressive bookstore is located on George Street – the oldest street in the city.
It also showcases a terrific selection of manga and comic books, and has a dedicated art space, known as ‘The Wedge Gallery’, that promotes works for budding artists from Sydney, Australia and overseas.
Having first opened in Paddington back in 1985, Ariel Booksellers is now one of Sydney’s oldest independent bookshops.
Situated in the heart of Oxford Street, the store is probably best known for its section of titles about design, architecture, and art. But this merely represents a portion of their offerings, which also include a number of books about poetry, literature, plays and film history.
As well as their impressive range of books, Ariel also run fun and interesting events at night. This includes hour long audiences with authors who are promoting their latest book, which is a great way to meet likeminded people.
Another venue that regularly runs author events is Better Read Than Dead.
Situated in Newtown, the bookshop was awarded the title of ‘Sydney’s Favourite Bookstore’ by such esteemed judges as Lonely Planet.
Established in 1996, the bookshop features floor-to-ceiling shelves that are full of publications from a wide range of genres.
Poetry, law, fiction, sport, travel, and medicine, they are all here in abundance.
And if you are passionate about cooking, you will love the huge selection of culinary themed books on the landing. Which include more recipe books, memoirs, and biographies than you could ever hope to read.
Over the years a great many bookshops have come and gone in Sydney. But Berkelouw Paddington is one that has stood the test of time.
Originally launched in Rotterdam, in Holland, back in 1812, when Solomon Berkelouw started selling books on theology, the Paddington store opened in 1994.
Now run by the sixth generation of his bloodline, it spans three floors and offers a huge range of both new and preloved books.
A slightly more mainstream bookstore than many of the other independent ones that appear on this list, one of the best things about Berkelouw is that it has a café that is licensed and open late.
So you can really make an evening out of your visit here.
Named in honour of the Australian writer Frank Moorhouse’s 1993 novel of the same name, Grand Days pays homage to Sydney’s glorious bohemian past.
Although it offers a massive range of publications, including those based around science, history, architecture, and art, this is a whole lot more than just a bookshop.
With bona fide spaces devoted to vintage clothes and an impressive collection of vinyl records, Grand Days is a very eclectic space. It is also a venue that hosts gigs, author talks and even long-table dinners.
So the real beauty of this place is you can come here regularly for completely different reasons.
Elizabeth’s Bookshop is one of the most charming and endearing bookshops in Sydney.
Situated in Newtown, this is a place for those with a voracious appetite for reading and an aptitude for discovering new authors.
It is known for its innovative ‘blind date with a book’ special offer. An ingenious promotion that see customers buy a brand new, inexpensive book, that is wrapped in brown paper – the identity of which remains a mystery to them until they have completed their purchase.
If you would rather know what you are buying prior to handing your money over, there are plenty of titles here to pique all interests.
Another venue that is more than just a bookstore, Sappho Books in Glebe also takes the form of a café, tapas bar, live performance venue and relaxed place to hang out.
Specialising in an eclectic range of secondhand books, Sappho also buys books as well. So you are guaranteed to find a constant rotation of new titles every time you visit.
From rare first editions and publications you can’t find anywhere else, to almost brand new copies of an international bestseller, you are encouraged to really take your time to explore them all.
Once you have selected your book, the courtyard café is a great place to start leafing through its pages with a coffee, wine, or something delicious to eat.
Located on Darling Street in Balmain, Hill of Content is one of those bookstores you will instantly fall in love with.
A well-stocked traditional style bookshop, its presents a huge range of publications from Australia and abroad. While its very friendly and knowledgeable staff can give you plenty of recommendations when you need some inspiration.
A relaxed place where you can spend hours perusing the shelves, this is also a great bookshop to bring your little ones, as they showcase a number of publications that are perfect for children.
Aside from the books they also offer a range of games, jigsaw puzzles, and literary-themed bric-a-brac as well.
The Potts Point Bookshop is a book shop for those who really love books!
Curated by book lovers and adored by local bookworms, this Elizabeth Bay institution is like Walt Disney World for bibliophiles.
An independent bookstore with a distinctly European vibe, this outlet is filled with all manner of books. From political memoirs and Shakespeare to travel diaries and poetic anthologies, you will find it all here.
The sheer variety and number of publications requires a dedicated team of experts. Together the staff have over 50 years of award winning and bookselling expertise – including that of Simon McDonald, who won the Young Bookseller of the Year award in 2020, as decided by ABA Penguin Random House.
There are a number of other bookstores of note in Sydney. These include the following.