A Guide to Bookshops in Oxford, UK
By Christiana Jasutan, Holly Presswell and Tamara Yamamoto
A city famous for its university and beautiful medieval architecture, Oxford – the “City of Dreaming Spires” – has a lot going for it. It would only be right that the city, full of some of the greatest minds in the country, contains some outstanding bookshops. We have rounded up the very best and made a guide for you below.
Blackwell’s’ story began in 1879 when they first opened their doors on Broad Street in Oxford. The original store remains the same, yet the business has expanded across the UK, opening thirty bookshops in high streets and supplying books to libraries, universities and government departments. This Oxford bookshop has won many awards, including Book Retailer of the Year – an award it has won three times!
This historic store does not disappoint and, inside its rooms stacked high with books, you can find any book you may desire. Make sure to check out The Norrington Room while you’re there. This room has been open for over fifty years and, for many of those years, was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the single largest room in the world for selling books. Alongside containing nearly every genre you can imagine, the store hosts many author events and even Blackwell’s’ Book Quiz, which is a fun evening out.
The Last Bookshop
A hidden gem for all you second-hand lovers out there is The Last Bookshop, situated on Walton Street. Their aim as a shop is “to provide that rare pleasure, found only in discovering a book you weren’t looking for, slipped between two volumes you always meant to read.” The Last Bookshop mainly stocks second-hand books, making it a cheap alternative to the bookshops found on high streets.
As described in their aim as a store, the bookshop stocks a wide range of books from psychology to poverty to fiction – anything and everything is stocked here. The staff are lovely and always happy to recommend any books for you to try. If you do visit, make sure to check out the mysterious door on the staircase…
If you love coffee and books, then Gulp Fiction is the perfect little bookshop for you. The bustling heart of Oxford is where you will discover this oasis – a lively yet cosy and carefully curated bookshop. Stocking modern classics, fresh paperback fiction and a fantastic range of second-hand books, you are bound to find and go home with a book you will like. If you need help choosing, you can turn to the wonderfully knowledgeable and friendly staff for assistance. If you are still not convinced about visiting this bookshop, then perhaps this special deal they offer will persuade you: If you purchase a book from the “free coffee books” collection, then you, as the name suggests, will get a free coffee with the purchase. You can then snuggle onto one of their sofas, reading your new book and sipping on a cup of coffee. Gulp Fiction also hosts an array of fun events, from quiz nights to queer-led comedy nights, live music and more! For more information, please visit their website here or check out their Instagram page @gulpfictionbooks.
Oxford University Press Bookshop
As the largest university press in the world, it only makes sense for there to be an Oxford University Press Bookshop in Oxford. Located in the heart of the city, you can find academic texts, dictionaries and also the “Very Short Introductions” series, which are little books to get you started in learning more about a concept or subject you’re interested in. When visiting Oxford, popping into this bookshop is a must, and you might be surprised at how long you will be spending in this bookshop, browsing the wide range of books which cover everything from religion and history to science and politics and, of course, a massive collection of classics.
It is a no-brainer that a visit to Waterstones is never the wrong call when it comes to wanting to buy books. We think the Waterstones Oxford branch is an extraordinary beauty, spanning over five floors with a cafe on top of the building so you can study, read or people-watch on a cosy rainy afternoon. The collection in this bookstore is extensive; if you visit, don’t forget to keep an eye out for the quotes in the stairwells.