Top Picks For You
Seattle Travel Guide

The 10 Best Bookstores in Seattle

Book lovers, read on.

While there is plenty to do in Seattle, it is essentially the Big Apple’s opposite in that it is the city that definitely sleeps. Nightlife is limited, especially when compared to other major U.S cities. This can be a disappointment to some visitors, so if that’s an important aspect of any trip for you, perhaps consider a different destination.

However, if you dream of a city with a quieter vibe and overall less hectic atmosphere, Seattle is a fantastic option. You’ll just need to keep in mind activities (and the hours you’ll partake in them) will differ from Chicago or LA. So, while you won’t be at the club or sipping post-Broadway drinks until the wee hours, we do have other earlier-hour options.

Seattle is known for its numerous amazing bookstores, where you can lose yourself on any given afternoon. And no, I’m not talking about Amazon shops. Below are 10 of the best bookshops in the city that you’ll want to add to your list of things to do.

1 OF 10

Elliot Bay Book Company

WHERE: Capitol Hill

I had to start with arguably the most well-known non-corporate bookseller in the city. The Elliot Bay Book Company has provided Seattleites with reading material since it opened in the early ’70s at the original Pioneer Square location.

These days, you’ll find a much larger shop up on Capitol Hill. It houses one of the widest selections in Seattle, so if you have a specific title in mind, chances are you’ll find it here. Even if you’re not quite sure what you’re looking for, it’s an absolute delight to wander the well-lit, wood-accented space. Once you’ve found a book (or two or three), crack it open with a latte at the on-site café. Elliot Bay helped pioneer the bookstore café combination that is so common these days. Finally, if you’re hoping to catch a favorite author or literary guest on tour, the shop hosts a high volume of events, often with big names.

2 OF 10

Ophelia’s Books

WHERE: Fremont

Ophelia’s began as an initiative to help those in the Fremont neighborhood re-sell the books they no longer wanted. The shop reflects its surroundings — an eclectic mix of books (or businesses if referring to Fremont as a whole) where any individual feels right at home.

The shop is also very community-led and still frequently hosts buy-and-sell days where you can sell your old reads. Ophelia’s also recently began selling new books, and the friendly staff can order you a specific title if it’s not on the shelves. They also sometimes host clubs and events in the small downstairs space.


3 OF 10

Magus Books

WHERE: U-District & Wallingford

In an unassuming side street of University Way NE (or the Ave as it’s more commonly referred to by students and U-district residents) lies a local favorite, Magus Books. The small shop is one of the best-used bookstores in the entire city. The stacks are a bit dusty, but in a way that feels like a favorite library or a cozy nook of your grandma’s house. It’s easy to go in to browse and suddenly, you’ve been holed up in a corner for a couple of hours and now have a stack of books you’re not sure how you’re getting home.

The shop is often people’s first stop if they’re looking for a rarer title or one that is no longer printed. Recently, the smaller annex in Wallingford has started carrying new books.

4 OF 10

Third Place Books

WHERE: Ravenna, Seward Park & Lake Forest Park

Third Place Books is much larger than a lot of others on this list, but it is still devoid of a corporate feel like Barnes & Noble or an Amazon bookstore. That’s because, from the beginning, the community was central to the bookstore. That is very evident in the flagship location in Lake Forest Park, outside of Seattle city limits and along the Bothell-Everett Highway. If you’re spending time in the suburbs or are in town with a car, definitely stop by the OG location, grab a coffee or a famous baked good from the in-house café, and enjoy your new read at the on-site public commons.

The area also hosts various events and performances throughout the year and there is free Wi-Fi should you want to get some work done. The Ravenna location is home to the lovely Arta Café and Seward Park hosts Chuck’s Hop Shop with numerous beers on tap and hosts weekly trivia night.


5 OF 10

Secret Garden Books

WHERE: Ballard

As children, we all loved getting lost in the world created in this novel, and Secret Garden Books in the Ballard neighborhood seeks to recreate some of that magic. The Seattle institution has been around for over four decades and has a decent selection. However, its primary focus is children’s books, in line with the brand’s whimsical feel.

The store frequently has rare and signed copies of odd books in stock, should you want something a bit more unique. Secret Garden also hosts children’s book authors and book fairs, the perfect way to spend an afternoon with little ones. It’s also conveniently located on the main drag in Ballard, should you need a coffee or lunch before or after perusing.

6 OF 10

Twice Sold Tales

WHERE: Capitol Hill

This fun little shop is quite quirky and often feels more like a maze than anything. Twice Sold Tales feels like you’re in the stacks of an archive holding state secrets, although one where you might spot a feline friend or two. There are seven, yes seven, live-in bookstore cats, so if you have allergies or aren’t a fan, best to go elsewhere. The store, like many of Seattle’s popular cafes, started as a cart selling used books on Broadway in Cap Hill before moving to a brick-and-mortar location in the ’90s.

After Magus, this is probably the best place to go if you’re looking for something out of print or not commonly found. You can also trade in old books for store credit. The owner is always happy to search something out if you can’t find it initially, or order it for you.

7 OF 10

Ada’s Technical Books and Café

WHERE: Capitol Hill

A bit more niche, but it wouldn’t be an article about Seattle if we didn’t have some odd options thrown in, now would it? Ada’s Technical Books sells an interesting mix of technical titles in the genres of biology, coffee and tea, astronomy, engineering, and more. They even have children’s books for the science-minded kid in your life. Additionally, the on-site café serves up tasty lunches that people from all over the neighborhood line up for during the week.

8 OF 10

BLMF Literary Saloon

WHERE: Pike Place Market

The market might be best known for flying fish, the first Starbucks (groan), and endless rows of tasty treats. However, hidden in the lower levels below the main street is the wonderful BLMF Literary Saloon (which stands for Books Like a Motherf*****), a bookstore that feels more akin to a quirky comic shop.

The name stems from something a friend of the owner said upon visiting his house for the first time. So he figured he might as well share his book wealth and knowledge with the city. The new and lightly used stock is always reasonably priced and a great addition to any Pike Place tour.

9 OF 10

Left Bank Books Collective

WHERE: Pike Place Market

The Left Bank Books Collective is not in Paris but squarely in the left-leaning city of Seattle. The shop sells new and used titles, with a focus on anarchist and radical indie-print ones. It’s on Pike Street, just across from Pike Place Market, and is small and quaint at first glance until you peruse the selection! Like Ada’s, it’s a bit more niche but absolutely a fun browse! It’s also owned and operated by employees, which is fun and rare, in line with their philosophy.

10 OF 10

Bookstore Bar

WHERE: Downtown

Okay, we’re cheating with this one a bit, but again, it wouldn’t be a Seattle list if we didn’t throw you for a loop now and again. The Bookstore Bar is a lovely bar and restaurant housed in the Alexis Hotel. The building has an interesting atmosphere that is somewhere between an upscale boutique from the last century and an Ivy League school library.

Have a drink or lunch (with many regulars) amongst stacks of books and magazines. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time, either to the 1930s when establishments like this were normal or the early 2000s when print was king. Make sure to reserve in advance to avoid disappointment!