With large chain bookstores dominating the market, independent bookstores in Warsaw needed to carve their niches. From offering books from unique, small publishers to specializing in specific types of literature, or trying to lure customers in with fresh coffee and sweets, indie bookstores offer an interesting glimpse into the changing spirit of Warsaw’s literary scene.
Hidden in a courtyard near Nowy Świat, this iconic bookstore café is a real gem for non-fiction fans. With reportages, interviews, biographies and travel literature in both Polish and English covering the walls from floor to ceiling, Wrzenie Świata offers stories from any corner of the world. Those travelers who get lost in the pages can refuel with healthy food and beverage options at the café. The bookstore also often organizes discussions and meetings with authors and travelers.
Another legendary institution on the Warsaw book scene, Tarabuk welcomes its guests with a smell of freshly ground coffee and printed paper. The bookstore café shares the space with cultural center Nowy Świat Muzyki, which organizes daily Chopin concerts, so in addition to the usual cup of joe, readers can enjoy the great selection of contemporary and classical literature to piano accompaniment. The bookstore also helps foster a new generation of readers with its weekly puppet shows, but the fully grown-up book lovers can also find something for themselves.
Filled with trendy art magazines, design bibles, photography albums, graphic novels and architecture monographs, Bookoff offers inspiration to anyone interested in visual arts. Two brick and mortar locations complemented by an online store provide a wide selection of both international and Polish titles. However, they do come at times with a hefty price tag, so those on an art student budget may want to wait for the biannual sale, which offers up to 85% discounts.
Cookoff by Bookoff
Bookoff’s younger sister, devoted to food-related books, Cookoff will surely have your mouth water as you skim through the pages filled with colorful dishes. On just a couple square meters, the place fits hundreds of titles, so whether you want to get that authentic, Polish grandma-approved pierogi recipe or try the newest fad green juice cleanse, there surely is a title catered to your taste.
Taking its name from a children classic The Six Bullerbyn Children by Astrid Lindgren, Bullerbyn is one of those ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ places, even though it is located in the strict center. Dedicated to children’s literature, the bookstore features titles from independent presses from Poland and abroad. Bullerbyn’s selection merges well-crafted storytelling with smart illustrations and graphics.
More of a curiosity cabinet than a store, given its tiny size, the Bęc Zmiana bookshop belongs to a well-established non-profit operating under the same name. Here, readers can find titles at the intersection of arts, architecture and public life with a strong emphasis on issues relevant to contemporary Warsaw. Once there, pick up a copy of Notes na 6 tygodni (6-weeks notebook), a free culture magazine that features the most intriguing projects across Polish design, arts and architecture.
Atlas may be the least hip and trendy place on this list, but its position on the Warsaw bookstore scene remains uncontested. Offering maps and guidebooks for even the most remote locations, Atlas is the go-to place for book lovers who are planning their next adventure, while those who prefer to explore the world from the comfort of their sofa can pick up travel-inspired fiction and reportages.
Super Salon might just be the embodiment of the creative class’s dream nightstand. From white, pristine aesthetics, to copies of Kinfolk, Cereal and Aperture neatly arranged on the display, the bookshop could easily be transplanted into Brooklyn or Berlin with no change in the assortment. Located next to a vegan fast food and bubble tea shop, Super Salon portrays the spirit of the new, artsy Warsaw.
Księgarnia Bagatela na Pięterku
Those who prefer the company of a cat to the one of well-groomed men in flannels and women in Ray-Bans and vintage dresses, will enjoy Księgarnia Bagatela na Pięterku. Visited mostly by a local clientele, the bookstore has a vibe of a giant, cosy living room where customers can enjoy a cup of tea, grab a bite and play with the cat, only to finally recline in an armchair with their book of choice.
The go-to bookstore of the ever-expanding expat community and a good option for anyone who wants to brush up on their language skills, Co-Liber has the greatest selection of foreign language books in the city. If a title you are interested in is not on the shelf, the owners will make it their quest to find it and deliver it to your hands.