When creating this list, I was able to find over two dozen bookstores within the Philadelphia city limits. There were cool bookshops that have been around for decades and a few that just recently opened up. So I put on my walking shoes and went to each one, revisiting stores I’ve loved for years and acquainting myself with the ones I’ve never even heard of.
I got to pay a visit to so many amazing bookstores in Philadelphia, but just like Kris Jenner with her children—I have my favorites. Whether it was their creative displays, gorgeous atmosphere or wide variety of books, each of these 5 bookstores felt so special that they needed to be shared.
A version of this blog was previously published by IndependentBookReview.com
House of Our Own
Imagine, you have a favorite aunt who you’ve always admired, but you’ve never been allowed in her house. She reads on the beach, she reads in the streets, she’s a renaissance woman. One day, when you’re old enough, she invites you over. And low and behold, she’s filled every room with books! That is House of Our Own.
Floor to ceiling books, books lining the stairs, books lining the hallway, in a beautiful Victorian house nestled into UPENN’s campus. It Is a dream come true. Though filled to its brim, House of Our Own manages to keep a tidy and well-curated collection of books in its ownership, (which I have so much appreciation for). No trip to Philadelphia is complete without stopping here.
Address: 3920 Spruce St, Philadelphia, PA 1910
Shakespeare & Co
This bookstore is relatively new to Philly, but it has been a beloved part of New York City for decades. Located right in all the hustle and bustle of center city, it feels like it was created for the working book lover. There are ample places to read or work on your laptop in the cafe, or on the second floor that overlooks the store.
They also feature an Espresso Book Machine. Don’t worry, I had no clue what the meant either but during my visit an employee explained that it’s just an amazing machine that can print public domain books for you. And if you’re looking to self-publish your own book, look no further. You can do it right here.
Address: 1632 Walnut Street Philadelphia, PA 19103
Joseph Fox Bookshop
Walking onto the street that Joseph Fox Bookshop is on felt like a relief from the craziness of center city. What first seems like a wrong turn down an alley, quickly turns into a much quieter island of a street and the treasure of it is Joseph Fox Bookshop. The shop is quaint, and packed precisely with so many books. We saw lots of small press books on display (including The Word for Woman is Wilderness!) while we were there and the staff was fun and knowledgeable. I watched an employee find a box a customer asked for in literally 2 seconds. It was impressive.
Address: 1724 Sansom St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Out of all the bookstores in Philadelphia, this one had the best use of space. Brickbat Books is really neat, and not like, “wow that sure is a neat backpack sally!”, more like these books are meticulously displayed and it looks amazing. Their shelving is probably the best I’ve seen of any bookstore , with square wooden shelves that all look big enough to hold vinyls, lined up from the floor to the ceiling.
It just feels good to be in there. I found myself drawn to so many books I wouldn’t normally pick up, because they were featured in a cube of their own. The space feels open, not over-crowded, and every detail feels intentional.
Address: 709 S 4th St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
This picturesque bookshop in Queen Village is a must see in Philly. Established in 2005, Head House is cozy, like something you’d find on the streets of New England. Large carpets lay on the wooden floors, strings of lights hang from the bookshelf. It’s truly a dreamy place to be. Their staff is friendly, their layout is beautiful and they have a wide variety of books to browse. They also hold a number of author events and readings for adults and kids.
Speaking of kids, I think this was my favorite children’s book set up out of all the bookstores. Located in the very back, this section felt like what a kid’s area of a bookstore should be. It wasn’t overrun by toys and knick knacks, but held enough color and gorgeous covers to grab a kid’s attention while also displaying books that were thoughtful and educational. When I was there they had a book called The Heart of a Boy on display and its the coolest thing and so perfect for kids. If I had a kid, I’d bring it here and buy it that book.
Address: 619 S 2nd St, Philadelphia, PA 19147