Ireland is home to the most enchanting, Instagram post-worthy bookshops. With their rows of rare titles and colourful fronts, these bookshops will beckon you to whip out your mobile and snap away with your camera. But, if you can’t visit them right now due to the coronavirus pandemic, you most definitely can learn about their features and highlights through this list. So, grab yourself a cuppa and very much imagine yourself thumbing through their novels because there’s no doubt these Irish bookshops will make an appearance on your travel list (and Instagram feeds) in the near future!
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The Gutter Bookshop (Dublin)
Looking for a wander ‘round? The Gutter Bookshop lures you in instantly. This open-windowed establishment beckons you in with its shelves of colourful books. It makes room for a stunning selection of children’s books, the top of bookshelves teeming with animal cut-outs and hanging banners. Named after the ethos of Oscar Wilde, which goes like “we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars,” this indie bookshop is a stellar addition to Dublin’s popular Temple Bar district. Its crisp-looking, modern style, with its aforementioned wide windows, is the perfect Instagram opportunity to make it seem like you can’t get enough of window-shopping!
Vibes & Scribes (Cork)
If you ever find yourself in Cork, go forth and explore its streets by heading to Vibes & Scribes, a little retail space for good quality bargain books; the front window is a vibrant display, often decorated in a rainbow of colours to catch passerbys’ attention. Although it seems like just your typical, local bookshop at first glance, it has newly expanded due to the success of the arts and crafts side of the business: the owner has welcomed an area solely for fabric, wool, yarn, and haberdashery, making this small business turn into a medium one. So, if you’re looking for a photo-op, head to the front of the building to take a Bookstagrammer-inspired snap by the ever-changing window or head to the crafts section to be photobombed by an array of yarn balls. And, if you can manage it, don’t try to buy the whole store (but, if you will buy the whole store, at least make it local).
An outsider to Ireland’s Georgian urban architecture, this sleek bookstore is a modern oasis for any book lover. Its black matte panes and crystal clear windows give room to book displays aplenty. O’Mahony’s is also a holiday enthusiast when it comes to their displays: yule trees for Christmas, heart decals for February, etc. And, not to forget, this homely family business has been around for 118 years, selling books for all ages, as well as branching out to stationery, board games, and trinkets. As mentioned by Limerick’s city homepage, make a visit to the Irish bookseller, since no one “can match the wide diversity of stock and broad customer base” like O’Mahony’s. With over 17,000 square feet of retail space, O’Mahony’s isn’t lacking on cute spots for you to share over social media. So, grab the nearest book and make yourself at home in one of many historical places in Limerick.
The Clifden Bookshop (Galway)
The Clifden Bookshop looks like a storefront on the streets of London. It’s modern, well-kept, and classic. But, also, it’s a surprising take on Irish architecture because it doesn’t seem to fit in with the style, but is somehow located in the heart of Galway. Its awning says it all: “…the room with the books.” The navy blue bookshop is a haven for book lovers; it offers, according to their website “a comprehensive and diverse collection of books to suit all ages and a wide variety of tastes from guide books, maps, and local history to memoirs, fiction, Irish literature and books from local artists and musicians.” This bookshop caters to you, so don’t be afraid to browse the shelves and take a book with you. You can honour the moment with the perfect photo at the front of the store!
The Book Centre (Donegal)
This bookshop is truly a (red) gem; its red-painted storefront beckons you in instantly. It’s in the heart of Donegal after all, so the paint has to be intentional. It might be the perfect place for a February shoot! But, if you’re more interested in what the bookshop has to offer, then, I suggest you take a pitstop inside to see if any book strikes your fancy enough to be taken home!
John’s Bookshop (Westmeath)
John’s Bookshop is a Tardis-looking building housing antiquarian, used, rare, and new books. Its windowpanes are a turquoise colour, calling attention to the rather black-hued bookshop. John Donohue, the owner of the shop, told The Irish Times the pleasure of making a living (or rather a “lovely life”) out of this business, stating how “people bring in the most fascinating things to be valued or for me to buy. I remember one woman bringing in an exquisite, beautifully hand-illustrated Book of Hours, made in Rouen, France, in 1470. It was amazing that it had survived all those years.” With John’s passion for all things literary, there seems to be no reason he’ll say no if you want to take a picture while visiting!
Scéal Eile (Clare)
From behind its classic forest green-hued façade on Market Street, Scéal Eile combines the old and the modern! It is home to a carefully curated collection of brand-new, preloved, and antiquated books. So, if you want a piece of Ireland’s (bookish) history, sort through the hidden gems of this local business and see the best place to pose with your new (or ancient) book.
No Alibis (Belfast)
Welcome to No Alibis, an exceedingly quirky little Belfast bookshop with beautifully cluttered rows of books. Why is it called No Alibis, you may ask? Well, this Cubism-looking bookshop is the only establishment in all of Northern Ireland that specialises in crime; no alibis here for books about criminals past. This place gives quite the rock-n-roll vibes, and, once you enter, the attentive staff not only knows the store’s collection by heart, but also the Irish charm in always offering you a free cup of coffee to get you through your browsing. It’s the perfect place for a bookish craic (and any photoshoots you may be thinking about)!
I hope this short list of Irish bookshops throughout the Emerald Isle’s geography will give you inspiration to spend an hour (or four) strolling inside these bookshops! Sample the best that Ireland’s literary culture has to offer, and don’t forget your camera (and to post a photo on Instagram) to mark your nerdy occasion.
Like the Irish say, sásta léamh (happy reading)!