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Second hand book stores

There are few things I enjoy as much as wandering around second hand book stores. At the airport on my way home after an extended trip it’s not a collection of gifts and curious that are likely to get me in trouble at the baggage weigh-in, but rather a case of worn, yellow-paged books that I’ve picked up in the course of my travels. I will be expanding this list of book stores from time to time, but for now lets start with Cape Town, and specifically, Long Street:

Cape Town, Long Street 

Depending on which side of Long Street you find yourself (I won’t bother with North and South, we simply talk about the “mountain end” and the “sea end”) you can arrange a lovely book store meander. Let’s start at the mountain end then (corner of Long and Buitensingel). The first book store you will come across is Select Books, a real treasure trove for Africana and rare books, but a bit pricey if you’re just looking for a casual read. A short walk further you’ll find Clarke’s Bookshop, they’ve been around since 1956 and carry a great selection of new and used books (you’ll find the used books upstairs). They used to be on the corner of Long Street and Pepper Street, next to the Nando’s, but have recently moved to a new premises which, fortunately, is just 100 meters or so further down Long Street. Your next stop will be Tommy’s Books (on Long Street next to the African Music Store and just before you hit Whale Street). Tommy’s has downsized recently but still has quite a nice selection of new and used books.

When you reach Whale Street turn right and across the road you should see the entrance to the Long Street Antique Arcade, a hidden little nest of antique stores with a few second hand book stores among them. Your final stop is just a few meters further down Whale Street. Walk down towards the Company Gardens and the Slave Lodge until you reach Queen Victoria Street, just ahead of the St George’s Cathedral. Take a right into Queen Victoria Street and about 20 meters down the road at the city bus stop you will see a small book store called the Cathedral Book & Bric n Brac Shop (or something to that effect). This is a great place to pick up really cheap books – they have a great selection of Christian books but also carry a lot of fiction, political history and other categories.

There you have it. You can start this walk at either end of Long Street (just use Google maps to identify the intersection of Long and Buitensingel “mountain end” or corner of Long and Whale “sea end”), just don’t buy a ton of books at your first stop because you’re sure to find some great books as you progress down Cape Town’s very own book trail!


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