There are certain things that just go well together. Hamburgers and fries. Wine and cheese. Peanut butter and jelly. Books and coffee. For many people, myself included, there is just nothing better than grabbing a book, a cup of coffee (or tea, depending on the time of day!), and plunking down in a comfy chair to enjoy a moment of respite. While there are certainly chain bookstores that have combined the love of books and coffee, to really appreciate the pairing, you need to seek out an indie bookstore that has their own cafe. Not only will you find baristas who can also talk books, you will find like-minded bibliophiles, that is, those who seek out bookshops off the beaten path. I know my friends will be looking for museums and historic sites when they travel, but me? I’ll be looking for an indie bookstore with a cafe where I can soak up the local culture, one cup of coffee at a time.
If you find yourself in Northumberland, England, then you simply won’t want to miss Barter Books in Alnwick. This indie bookstore was once a train station, complete with a fireplace, curved ceilings, and a miniature train that travels around the store above the shelves. They serve traditional British fare, so don’t pass up a chance to pick up a book and have a spot of tea at the same time. And history-buffs will enjoy this shop as well. Before WWII, a set of propaganda posters were commissioned by the British government, including one that read “Keep Calm and Carry On.” While some of these posters were used, others were held back for dire circumstances. The “Keep Calm” posters were never put on display, until one was found in Barter Books and is still on display there today.
While there are quite a few famous indie bookstores in Paris, France, none is cooler than Le Barbouquin in the Belleville neighborhood. This bookstore has titles in both French and English that you can peruse while drinking your coffee in a truly bohemian cafe.
No trip to Mexico City would be complete without visiting El Pendulo. To say this bookstore is packed with books is an understatement; there are books from floor to ceiling as far as the eye can see. And their cafe has an amazing view and serves almost exclusively local Mexican fare.
Trieste, Italy is stunning and the location of a gorgeous bookstore-cafe that has been around since 1914. Antico Caffe San Marco is a true literary cafe; readers, writers, and coffee aficionados have been gathering here for years to exchange ideas.
While a visit to Staten Island may not seem like a destination spot on your trip to New York, the Every Thing Goes Book Cafe, may make you change your mind. They have organic chocolate and organic espresso, they sell vinyl records and the work of local artists, as well as an eclectic collection of used books spanning many genres. Comfy mismatched chairs and sofas, along with a quaint garden just add to the appeal of this neighborhood gem.
While you are in New York, don’t miss Housing Works Bookstore Cafe. This shop is completely staffed by volunteers and all of the proceeds go to Housing Work, an organization committed to ending homelessness and AIDS in the community.
If you are in Boston, don’t miss out on a visit to Trident Booksellers and Cafe. They serve food all day long and are a favorite hangout for local college students looking for sustenance between classes. Many indie bookstores have given up on selling magazines, but not true for Trident. They actually have won awards for the magazine section of their store!
While there are several indie bookstores in Los Angeles, California, Stories Books and Cafe, is located on the infamous Sunset Boulevard, giving it some serious street cred. They have a wide assortment of new and used books AND they now have expanded their evening cafe offerings to include beer, wine, and cocktails. Now I can feel even more like Hemingway by ordering the cocktail he invented, “Death in the Afternoon,” which is sparkling wine with a shot of absinthe.
Finally, one of my very favorite indie haunts of all time is Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Oregon. Being the world’s largest indie bookstore means having a world class cafe nestled right inside your bookstore. World Cup Coffee & Tea offers delicious coffee and reasonably priced snacks to fortify yourself as you make your way around this amazing bookstore.