In this bookshop guide, Ellen McHugh takes us on a tour of some of the best independent bookshops in Dublin, Ireland. If there’s a bookshop that you think others should visit in a particular city, further information about contributing follows this article.
From James Joyce to Sally Rooney, Oscar Wilde to Claire Keegan, Ireland’s rich literary history means that compiling a list of its capital’s top bookshops is a challenge. Dublin is home to a wealth of bookshops, catering to a myriad of tastes, budgets, and interests. While there are a number of established chains with branches in Dublin (Hodges Figgis on Dawson Street, owned by Waterstones, is particularly worth a visit) and many of its suburbs and outer neighbourhoods contain gorgeous bookshops (I recommend The Gutter Bookshop in Dalkey and The Company of Books in Ranelagh), I’m going to restrict this list to independent bookshops that are within walking distance of Dublin’s City Centre. If you are planning a trip to Dublin, make sure to check out at least one of them!
Opened in 1978, Books Upstairs is Dublin’s oldest independent bookshop. When I first moved to Dublin in 2018, the name confused me – all the books were, in fact, downstairs! However, the shop has changed location numerous times since 1978: in its first two locations on South King Street and College Green, at least some of its books were a level above the ground floor. Now located in a preserved Georgian building on D’Olier Street, the shop added a second-hand section in 2019… upstairs! On the same floor is one of my favourite cafés in Dublin, a laptop- and mobile-free haven for reading and conversation.
Books Upstairs’ collection is thoughtfully curated, with a particular emphasis on highlighting marginalised and under-represented voices. The shop contains excellent feminist and LGBTQ+ sections, along with poetry, drama, essays, and more. It also stocks the latest Irish and international journals and anthologies, making it an excellent place to discover new and emerging writers. In terms of fiction, I always recommend Books Upstairs as the place to go to find books beyond the bestseller list (although these books are represented on the shelves, too!). Not just a bookshop, however, Books Upstairs prides itself on being a literary venue, hosting launches, readings, and other literary and cultural events. Most recently, they have announced an evening with four Booker Prize-nominated Irish authors. Many of their events are free (although you often need to register in advance) and a fantastic way to engage with Ireland’s literary scene.
Dublin’s book-loving community was devastated when Chapters announced its closure in 2021. Luckily, the much-loved shop was bought by new owners (while remaining under the same management), who have retained its strengths and added a plant section (because the only thing better than a bookshop is a book-and-plant shop). Located on the north side of the city, just behind the Ilac Centre, Chapters contains two floors of shelves (new books downstairs, second-hand upstairs) and one can spend hours perusing its wide-ranging selection. I find Chapters’ classics section to be particularly strong, as well as its selection of Irish writing. When I studied in Dublin, it was a great place to pick up staples of philosophy, political thought, and social theory at reasonable prices.
This cosy bookshop is located near the famous Ha’penny Bridge, along the Liffey River. Much like Books Upstairs, the collection is very well-curated, and features a particularly strong selection of both classic and emerging Irish writers. The second-hand section, tucked away at the back of the shop, adds to the shop’s charm – the low ceiling, armchair, and lamps create a sense of stepping into a proper reading nook. Upstairs is a restaurant serving “good, old-fashioned home cooking”, using seasonal Irish produce. The menu is definitely on the expensive side (with the cheapest main course coming to €24), but the TripAdvisor reviews indicate that this could be a good spot if you are looking to treat yourself on your trip to Dublin.
My final recommendation is, fittingly, The Last Bookshop. Walking down Camden Street towards Portobello Bridge, it’s hard to miss its striped red awning and the tables covered in books outside the shop window. Stepping inside, the stacks upon stacks of books are overwhelming in the best way possible. The Last Bookshop is a treasure trove of second-hand fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and drama, precariously stacked in tottering piles that cover every available surface. After browsing, if you can make it to the back of the shop without knocking anything over, you’ll find a partially-hidden door leading to a beautiful little yard which contains a café serving drinks and cake. While TikTok may have let the cat out of the bag, this place still manages to feel like a hidden gem.
- Marrowbone Books, The Liberties
- Ulysses Rare Books, Duke Street
- The Library Project, Temple Bar
To locate the bookshops listed in this guide, take a look at Ellen’s Interactive Bookshop Map.
Note: This bookshop guide gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Do you have a favourite bookshop? If there’s a bookshop that you think other students and academics should visit, then this is your chance to tell us all about it.
As part of a regular feature on LSE Review of Books, we’re asking academics and students to recommend their favourite three or four bookshops in a particular city, with the aim of building an exciting online series for our book-loving community of readers the world over.
Bookshops could be academic, alternative, multilingual, hobby-based, secret or underground institutions, second-hand outlets or connected to a university. We’d like to cover all world regions too and are particularly keen to feature cities outside of Europe and North America.
If something comes to mind, we’re looking for a brief introduction about the city and around 150 words per bookshop, detailing why each one is a must-see. Our editorial team can then find suitable photos and links to accompany the piece, though you’re welcome to supply these too. We only ask that you focus on just one city or region, and three or four bookshops within it.
Email us if you’d like to contribute: firstname.lastname@example.org