Providence is a small city in a small state, but their bookstores can hang with the best of them. A few years ago, I called Providence home, and some of these stores played a big part in that. I’d go frequently just to peruse the shelves and get inspired. I got lucky because some of the best bookstores in Providence, Rhode Island were within walking distance from my downtown apartment.
In my time away, one of my favorites ended up closing down and a few intriguing new shops popped up. So I travelled up to Providence to spend the day reacquainting myself with these stores and introducing myself to others. From this recent trip, I’ve compiled a list of must-see bookstores if you’re ever in the area.
I’m happy to say that this list can definitely be explored in a day. Many are in walking distance from each other. See, there are perks to being in the smallest state.
Here are the best bookstores in Providence, Rhode Island
A version of this blog was previously written (by me!) for IndependentBookReview.com
This store used to be just a few minutes outside of the city but recently relocated to a new shop, really close to PVD donuts. This business is so cool! What started (and continues still) as a bookshop in a van has recently expanded to a brick and mortar in Pawtucket. Each month, the owners curate twenty titles across different genres to put on display and sell in their shop/van. Their van location is ever changing, and their locations for the week can be found on their website and social media. Their new physical space hosts readings, workshops, and community events with local artists. Twenty Stories is 100% worth the tiny detour out of Providence.
Symposium Books lies smack dab in the middle of downtown on beautiful Westminster Street. Doting a large display window, you can’t walk by this shop without feeling drawn in. Since 2004, Symposium has been a staple of the downtown area with its new and used books, and it really is worth checking out. In addition to their impressive book collection, they have a small record shop inside for all you music lovers out there.
3.Riff Raff Bookstore & Bar
All of these stores deserve to be named on of the best bookstores in Providence, Rhode Island, but Riff Raff be one of my favorite bookstores ever.
Fairly new to the Providence area, this bookstore combines two of my favorite things: reading and drinking. This new book and bar is located in the Olneyville neighborhood at a converted industrial mixed-use building called The Plant. The space is beautiful, boasting an outdoor patio area and a clean open layout inside. Better yet, the books are meticulously curated. I found myself picking up so many titles that I’ve read recently and loved, as well as books I’ve had my eye on for a few months. I’m not sure you can pick a bad book in this shop.
With shelves of antique and collector books, the vibe in this bookshop whispers history. They’ve been located in East Providence since 1996, and have recently moved to a new location a few doors down from their previous spot. They sell nonfiction books on art, architecture, history, philosophy, and more, but they’ve also got a great collection of fiction. Their stock is largely influenced by the surrounding colleges, Brown and RISD, so they have many scholarly editions and titles on the arts. They also have a selection of new and collectible H.P Lovecraft titles, a huge Providence literary icon.
A classic in Providence, this bookshop is the vintage search-and-see shop that fuels Bookstagram. Despite its name, you actually walk up a long set of steps upon arrival and come out at the second story of what seems like a big house. The aisles are long and filled with books in every direction. Many of their books are used or rare and in a wide variety of categories including vintage paperbacks, antiquarian volumes, and more. They’re obviously doing something right, because they’ve been thriving in Providence for over 30 years!