I recently went to Oxford with my flatmate Jaz (she blogs over at whatsyourfutureplan.) Before we left, we looked up the booky places in the city so we knew where we were heading throughout the day. As this is part of my Bibliophile’s Escape series I will be recommending all the places we found which I think are worth the visit.
My first recommendation would be The Arcadia bookshop. It is quite small and it had a quaint and old-fashioned feel to it. It is on a side road off Cornmarket street, which is one of the main shopping strips in the city. There were books inside as well as in some boxes outside the shop and they also sold other vintage items too. All the books were second hand and included a range of titles from general fiction, to older classics. I did think it was a bit strange that the books outside were wrapped in plastic because it didn’t seem at all necessary, as it wasn’t raining, and they weren’t first or special editions, they just seemed to be cheap, regular second hand books. Apart from this, the place was a nice little pit-stop to our day, and a lovely place to pick up some cheaper, second hand books.
Next, a bookish travel-guide wouldn’t be complete (in my opinion) without one kind of charity bookshop. Oxfam bookshops will always have a special place in my heart; they are reliably full of hidden gems and great, cheap books. The one in Oxford, however, may now be my favourite Oxfam ever. Every time I go into a second hand book shop, I always look for one thing: editions of Samuel Johnson’s The History of Rasselas Prince of Abissinia. 99% of the time this is a futile endevour which leaves me empty handed, however, the Oxfam on Pusey Street in Oxford, did not disappoint. I found this gorgeous edition in the classic literature section and bought it for £3. Plus, the book is part of a series called ‘The Art of the Novella’ so I will keep my eye out for other titles in the collection including Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hounds of Baskerville and Rudyard Kipling’s The Man Who Would be King. This Oxfam also had a downstairs so there was plenty to browse and choose from!
The Last Bookshop is my next recommendation. It was further out of the hustle and bustle of the main city centre; it was down a quiet side road, but still not too hard to find, on Walton Street. The outside of the shop looked very inviting and their were signs everywhere advertising the bookclub they hold in their cafe. Inside they had just about every genre of books with everything from classic literature to an LBGT+ section, there really was an impressive assortment of novels to choose from. The top half of the shop has discounted new titles and downstairs had a whole host of second-hand titles. Being a discount and second-hand bookshop, all the items were fairly cheap, most of the books were £3 or 2 for £5, so you can easily purchase a few titles and not feel like you’re breaking the bank. Downstairs, I particularly enjoyed their children’s books section and their knitting an cross-stitch books as well, but like I said, there were a whole range of other sections to browse too.
Finally, there were two Blackwells in Oxford; the first we came across was an art and poster shop which (much to our enjoyment) had some lovely cross-stitch books and a whole range of other arty books too. The second Blackwells is their flagship store, and needless to say, it was very impressive. There were four floors with loads of books and beautiful displays and even a board game section. I could have easily spent hours in there. Plus, if that isn’t enough to tempt you, this Guardian article also states that it has a room certified as the world’s largest single display of books! So all the more reason to go an explore it’s endless shelves.
I would also like to give an honourable mention to St Phillip’s Books which was a small library of a range of books focusing mainly on rare theology, religion and philosophy books. So if you’re into those kind of titles, then I would definitely recommend you head on over there if you find yourself in Oxford.
So that’s everywhere we explored in Oxford, do let me know if there’s any hidden gems we missed!