Bucharest is a special city in the age of electronic readers and online newspapers and magazines. Tucked in between and among its eclectic pastiche of crumbling Parisian/Balkan/Soviet architecture, is a booming world of bookstores. Real, actual, paper books – ones with the undeniable scent of pressed paper, where you can feel the fibres underneath your thumbs as you turn the pages one by one. (I recently started reading on a kindle – is it obvious that I miss real books??). It’s a world away from the one we are familiar with – where the last man standing is the one big chain monopolising the market out of necessity. In Bucharest you can find multiple bookshops in one street, and an old gentleman selling books off the pavement every now and then, and there are customers shopping around in all of them.
Anyways, you get it. Bucharest is for book lovers. And here are some stores you should not miss if you’d like to venture into this book culture – a self-guide highlight tour of Bucharest’s book shops, if you will.
Strada Arthur Verona 13-15, open daily 10am – 10pm
Cărturești is one of the big brands in Romania, and this is their biggest space. But it isn’t large-stately-hall-with-an-echo kind of big. It is set in an old aristocratic family mansion and it is labyrinthine, with different cozy corners and rooms that envelope you. I am not sure how much time I spent in there and if I found every room, like I entered some kind of time warp. My favourite room has to be the record and dvd room, where international art films and records are stacked around a stately fireplace and against creamy embossed walls with the paint peeling off here and there.
Strada Biserica Amzei 10, Mo – Sa 10am – 8pm, Su 12pm – 6pm
If you’re French you will feel right at home in Kyralina. Unlike me, who felt like a fish out of water because I don’t know any French and completely overlooked the fact that it’s a French bookstore. They even greet you with a ‘bonjour!’ I pretended to understand and paged through some comics before I avoided eye contact and snuck out. Kyralina is very small and very adorable, but very (completely) French. Highly recommended for all the French speakers out there.
Calea Victoriei 45-47, Mo – Sa 10am – 9pm, Su 10am – 7pm
Another sprawling book store brand, this location consists of two floors and a beautiful café overlooking an 18th-century church (let’s face it – sometimes the best part of going to bookstores is the cafés…). It has a wonderful section of gorgeous glossy art books, by the way. Humanitas has 4 stores in Bucharest, and if you’re gonna go to more than one, you should definitely head to Elizabeth Boulevard 38, where the books are stacked around a beautiful art-deco building.
Strada Lipscani 55, Mo – We 10am – 10pm, Thu & Su 10am – 10.30pm, Fri & Sat 10am – midnight
The crowning jewel of Cărturești, and possibly the most instagrammed spot in Bucharest, Cărturești Carusel epitomises the love for real paper books in Bucharest. It’s not even 5 years old yet and it’s a bustling reader-friendly hub with a light tearoom and coffeeshop at the very top. It is known as the ‘Carousel of Light’ and lives up to that name with it’s sparkling white interior and grand central open space that floods with sunlight. It’s modern and accessible but it parodies that ‘traditional’ library (aka Hogwarts) with its mezzanine levels and winding staircases that we all love so much.
So here’s how the tour works
Make sure you hit these main book spots and you are bound to run into tons of other little bookstores on your way – there really are so so so many. It’s that easy! And the furthest two stores are 20 minutes’ walk away from each other (Carusel and Kyralina), and the rest are in between! If you are a book lover, you will feel right at home in Romania. The printed book culture is alive and well and it’s living it up in Bucharest!
And who doesn’t love a good poll?