Beijing's hideaway bookshops

Find some literary gems in these lesser-known book emporiums

If you're like us and you love nothing more than finding a quiet corner to settle down and get stuck into a good book, then look no further – we've got a treat in store for you. We've searched high and low to track down some lesser-known bookshops where you can wile the long summer days away.

Discover old Beijing

Opened as a labour of love, piles of yellowing, dog-eared books fill every corner of this small shop. Owner Cui Yong’s fascination with old Beijing led to a collection that became the shop’s stock. There are some fascinating written records of Beijing’s history and Cui himself is more than willing to chat with customers about his beloved city in a thick, local accent.

Find inner peace

Sipping on tea and reading old books is so cliché (but not if it’s in a tiny temple). The second branch of well-respected Qianmen antique bookstore Zhengyang Shuju run by owner Cui Yong.

This Xisi location shares a courtyard with a small temple called the Pagoda of Monk Wansong. Originally built in the Yuan Dynasty, the temple was inaccessible in modern times until the construction of subway Line 4 in 2007 lead to the demolition of buildings surrounding it. Last year, Zhengyang Bookstore moved into the space. Books for sale date back several decades, and while the majority of volumes are in Chinese, a small selection are English language.

Bring a bit of cash as price tags aren’t bargain bin level – plan on 50-150RMB a book – but it can be well worth it. Tea is sold for 68-108RMB a pot and can be sipped leisurely at tables in the tranquil courtyard. A small exhibition room displays old photographs of and artefacts from the site, with historical descriptions offered in Chinese.

Page One

Save your pennies

Page One has made an effort to attract local bookworms with a congenial, contemporary environment and a decent selection of books – all of which are both practical and aesthetically pleasing and at reasonable prices.
We like that they also stock books from Japanese publishers.

The thinker’s choice

Well-known in local intellectual circles, this two-storey bookstore has a large selection of books on philosophy, art, literature as well as CDs and even vinyl recordings of classical music. Though the English-language selection is small it's still a great spot to pick up art and photography magazines, comic books, recordings of traditional Chinese instruments and catch book talks and readings.

Books for free

Hidden within a hutong near Yonghegong Lama Temple, the Civilian Mobile Library is a pleasant spot to stumble upon, especially when you realise they hand out books for free. With the motto ‘reading changes you; you change the world’ in mind, the library allows anyone to help themselves to a book, with the idea you pass it on once you have finished. Most books are in Chinese, of course, but the location next to expat-popular Wudaoying Hutong means their English-language section is steadily growing.