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Edinburgh and the Lothians Travel Guide

A Book Lover’s Guide to the Best Book Shops in Edinburgh

If you love books, look no further than these 10 beloved bookshops in Edinburgh.

This academic city is brimming with beguiling bookshops. With literary legacies from the likes of Sir Walter Scott, Muriel Spark, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Maggie O’Farrell, Edinburgh has been home to beautiful writing for hundreds of years. Steep yourself in that storytelling and enjoy endless leisurely hours browsing as many bookshops as you care to visit.

1 OF 10

The Portobello Bookshop

WHERE: Portobello

For a trip to this lovely bookshop alone, it is worth the 30-minute bus journey down to Edinburgh’s seaside neighborhood. Bright and spacious, with shelves decked out in pale wood, there is a breezy modernity to The Portobello Bookshop, which sets it apart from many of the more ramshackle bookshops of Edinburgh. Particularly excellent for contemporary fiction, poetry, and beautiful art and cookbooks, this is a lovely place to linger and browse. It is also a great place to bring children–the dedicated section includes many inspiring illustrated books as well as a magical cushioned tent, which will delight young ones.

INSIDER TIPSpecial appreciation for their beautiful selections of magazines and stationery.


2 OF 10

Armchair Books

WHERE: Old Town

In a city of enchanting second-hand bookshops, Armchair Books feels particularly magical. The hallowed smell of old books hits you immediately, drifting from their self-described “overburdened shelves.” This ramshackle space has a library-like, reverential atmosphere with a quirky twist–the perfect stage for the thoughtful browsing you need to discover their many treasures. This is not a large shop, but every cozy nook and cranny is crowded with literary treats.

INSIDER TIPTheir small shop houses a great collection of rare and antiquarian books.


3 OF 10

Rare Birds

WHERE: Stockbridge

Rare Birds is a pioneering bookshop celebrating women’s writing with the most joyful energy. There is a spirit of delight that infuses this independent business–from its “cult” subscription boxes to its colorful shop, which is nestled in the heart of Stockbridge. Given that Rare Books was born from a love of personally recommending books, they are especially gifted at helping customers discover specific books and even offer a personalized shopping service.


4 OF 10

Golden Hare Books

WHERE: Stockbridge

Another independent Stockbridge gem, award-winning Golden Hare Books, stocks a thoughtfully curated selection of books for adults and kids. With a pretty storefront, wood-burning stove, and a charming children’s book section, there is a homey, welcoming vibe here that encourages relaxed browsing. As you might expect from the shop that was founded by a former director of the National Museums of Scotland and London’s V&A museum, Golden Hare is design-led and gives the stage to beautifully designed books–making that old adage of not judging a book by its cover especially hard to resist.

5 OF 10

Lighthouse Books

WHERE: Southside

As a queer-owned and women-led business, Lighthouse Books is a vital part of the Edinburgh landscape. Their diverse selection of radical books celebrates LGTBQ+, intersectional, feminist, and anti-racist writing. With a huge range of titles across genres such as food, fiction, history, and children’s books, this is an oasis for bibliophiles.  More than a bookshop, Lighthouse is an active community space, a safe haven for left-leaning political thinking and progressive values.

INSIDER TIPCheck their buzzing event schedule for author talks and specialized book clubs.


6 OF 10

Topping & Company Booksellers of Edinburgh

WHERE: New Town

There is a sweeping elegance to Topping & Company, and as you explore the three floors of this grade-A-listed building, you can easily imagine you are drifting through the vast libraries of a refined estate. This is a beautifully photogenic space, a magical shop where the vertiginous shelves are accessed by rolling wooden ladders–enabling you to live out any Beauty and the Beast book-browsing fantasies. A small independent chain (their other two locations are Bath and St Andrews), they stock an extensive range of books across many genres. With enough shelves here in which to graze for hours, this is a book lover’s dream.

INSIDER TIPTheir children’s section is particularly good; it feels like a world within a world.



7 OF 10


WHERE: West End

I hesitated over whether to include a national chain in this list, but the views from this central location of Waterstones are so iconic that I couldn’t leave It off. With four large floors to explore, it also lays claim to being Edinburgh’s largest bookshop. Their café on the second floor has large windows looking out over Edinburgh Castle itself, set dramatically amongst the city’s ever-changing skies. Lucky you if you can land a peaceful table by said window from which to enjoy your new book and take a break from the central city bustle.

INSIDER TIPThey have an extensive Scottish department, perfect for souvenir shopping.


8 OF 10

Tills Bookshop

WHERE: Newington

A long-standing second-hand book shop, Tills is nestled on the edge of the Meadows in bustling Newington. Opened in 1985, this small and cozy space is filled with books across many genres; their little children’s section is particularly lovely. Often populated with students browsing, this is a pleasant little shop staffed with knowledgeable, bookish people. It is well worth a stop if you are in this part of town.

INSIDER TIPIn 2023 they opened a second location in Portobello–Tills & Company–which also boasts a great coffee shop.

The 10 Best Bookshops in Edinburgh

9 OF 10

Oxfam Bookshop

WHERE: Morningside

If you venture out from the city center, down through Bruntsfield, and into Morningside, you will benefit not only from a picturesque stream of independent shops and cafes but you will find yourself at the excellent Oxfam second-hand bookshop on Morningside Road. The global charity, which fights to end poverty, inequality, and injustice, is well known for its excellent bookshops across the UK. Always well stocked with a broad range of titles and genres, this is a wonderful way to buy great books whilst giving to a worthy cause.

INSIDER TIPThere are two other locations in Edinburgh, Stockbridge and Newington.


10 OF 10

Amnesty Bookshop

WHERE: Marchmont

Another wonderful charity bookshop, Amnesty Bookshop is an unassuming neighborhood spot and is a popular destination filled with second-hand books of all genres. Established in 2016 in the beautiful residential neighborhood of Marchmont (just south of the Meadows), this welcoming community shop is staffed with friendly volunteers happy to help you uncover unexpected treasures while supporting Amnesty International’s advocacy work.