Want to know about Cambridge bookshops? This guide will introduce you to the bookshops of Cambridge including second hand bookshops, independent bookshops and academic bookshops.
Cambridge is a small city that is most known for the historic and world-famous university that calls it home.
Numerous notable authors from the past few centuries have studied at the prestigious Cambridge University so it should come as no surprise then that the city is also home to lots and lots of great bookshops.
Where else would all those scholars get the material to fuel their minds?
Keep scrolling to find out about the Cambridge bookshops you need to add to your Cambridge day trip itinerary.
The Haunted Bookshop / Sarah Key Books
One of the best bookshops in Cambridge has to be The Haunted Bookshop. It’s tucked away in a side street right opposite King’s College, which should definitely be on your Cambridge itinerary, so there’s no excuse for not popping in for a visit. King’s College Cambridge is one of the most famous Cambridge colleges and is, therefore, an important part of any day trip to Cambridge, especially for first-timers.
As you head down St Edward’s Passage, keep your eyes peeled for the bright red exterior which signals you’ve reached Sarah Key Books or The Haunted Bookshop in Cambridge. It is technically now Sarah Key Books but the previous owner requested that she keep the original shopfront, which is why it still says “The Haunted Bookshop”.
This second-hand bookshop is quite small and narrow but it’s positively packed with books. Every nook and cranny from floor to ceiling contains books.
The ground floor contains general fiction including classics, poetry, theatre and more. I particularly loved the section of old Penguin classics in translation, which features the likes of Moliere, Balzac, Dumas, Cervantes, Dostoyevsky and more. There is a mixture of paperbacks as well as beautiful, vintage and antiquarian editions by The Franklin Library.
The first floor pays homage to all the children’s classics that your grandparents grew up reading. As someone who lived for Enid Blyton’s stories, I adored this room.
Now you may be wondering why the shop is called The Haunted Bookshop. Are there any ghosts here? I can certainly imagine a ghost haunting these walls! Both the old owner and Sarah Key have said that they’ve sighted something spectral in the bookshop. And if you go on one of Cambridge’s ghost tours, you’ll undoubtedly be brought here for some ghostly rumours.
Address: 9 St Edward’s Passage, Cambridge CB2 3PJ
Opening Hours: 10am – 5pm Monday to Saturday
Cambridge University Press Bookshop
Cambridge University Press Bookshop is located in the heart of the city and this bookshop site is one of the oldest (if not the oldest) in the world. Books have been sold at this located since 1581 so it has got a huge amount of history.
As you’d expect, Cambridge University Press is predominantly an academic publisher so they stock textbooks for every subject, English language learning materials, Bibles, journals and more. It’s still well worth it for the average reader to pop their head in to browse these shelves as Cambridge University Press is the oldest publisher in the world and the second-largest university press in the world.
It is by all accounts a lovely bookstore to browse if you’re looking for non-fiction or academic books but it’s not the kind of place to idly browse before making a purchase. Academic literature is always very pricey and it’s no different at the Cambridge University Press store.
The books published here are written by world leaders in their fields and as such these hefty tomes are pretty expensive. This isn’t where you’d come for some new bedtime reading material but if you’re visiting the city as a tourist then I think it’s worth browsing these shelves for interest.
From Monday 6 July 2020 they will be operating a “call and collect” service where you can call to order your book and collect it at the door. See their website for more information.
Address: 1-2 Trinity St, Cambridge CB2 1SZ
Opening Hours: 9am – 5:30pm Monday to Saturday, 11am – 5pm Sundays
Books at Cambridge Market Square
As a university town, there really are books everywhere, including out in the streets. In the centre of Cambridge, there’s a market that is open daily with a wide range of stalls manned by friendly local sellers. There’s a great atmosphere here so if you’re looking for fresh food, homemade snacks, vintage items, Cambridge University memorabilia or second-hand books and CDs make sure you make a pit stop here.
I was surprised to find that the market book stall was still pretty busy at the weekend despite the wet weather. There are books in crates, on tables, on mini shelves, they’ve really made good use of the space here so it feels like you’re browsing a small bookshop rather than an open-air stall.
The books here are all in pretty good condition and there are popular fiction titles as well as some newer releases on display here. Whether you’re looking for fiction or non-fiction, there are plenty of options here at low prices so take your time to study each row of books.
Address: Market Hill, Cambridge, CB1 0SS
Opening Hours: 10am – 4pm every day
G. David Booksellers
If you continue down the passage where Sarah Key Books is located, you’ll come to another quaint bookshop. This one is G. David Booksellers, which sits opposite a little patch of green, and has distinctive dark blue awning. Outside the bookshop are two tall bookcases and several crates full of books. This is exactly the kind of thing that is very inviting to a bookworm.
The backstory of this shop is really quite lovely and exactly why I love shopping at independent bookshops. The original G. David was a Parisian bookseller who began selling books in Cambridge’s market square (mentioned above). Today the bookshop is located in St Edwards passage, a passage that looks like a slice of times gone by.
Inside, you’ll find that David’s is even more inviting. Indeed, it looks a little like you’ve wandered into an Oxbridge professor’s study. Old and antiquarian books line the shelves and there are a number of armchairs dotted around. What’s great is that the books on offer here are really reasonably priced with many books starting at the £2 mark.
Not only is it aesthetically pleasing both inside and out, but it also has bargain offers! Don’t miss out on David’s whilst you’re in Cambridge if you’re the bookish type.
Address: 16 St Edward’s Passage, Cambridge CB2 3PJ
Opening Hours: 9am-5pm Monday to Saturday
Heffers Bookshop Cambridge
If you’re familiar with bookshops in Oxford then Heffers bookshop in Cambridge may seem a little familiar to you. Heffers have been selling in Cambridge since 1876 but in 1999 this Cambridge bookshop was acquired by none other than Blackwells of Oxford.
This shop doesn’t look all that big from the outside, but like Blackwells, it opens up like Mary Poppin’s magic bag. The shop extends back really far and, in addition to that, there’s a basement below. The gallery level at the back is the best part of the store with floor to ceiling shelves in neat rows, each packed with books.
If you’re a student in Cambridge then you can be sure that Heffers will have the books you need whether you’re studying classics, languages or physics. In addition to your academic books, they also stock most new releases and classics. If you’re after a particular edition of an old book then Heffers is a great place to look as they’ve often got several different editions of each title.
What’s more, if you’re a student then Heffers have a student price match guarantee so the prices are now much more reasonable than they used to be. In addition to books, Heffers also stock a range of stationery items, board games, bookish gifts and more.
Address: 20 Trinity St, Cambridge, CB2 1TY
Opening Hours: 10am – 4pm every day (opens 11am on Sundays)
Books For Amnesty, Cambridge
Cambridge’s Books for Amnesty is located just outside of the main city centre but it may be on your way if you’re coming and going from Cambridge via train. Books for Amnesty have always been a great place to find incredibly cheap books whilst also supporting a great cause. Books here are usually in great condition and are priced at as little as £1 so be sure to bring an extra tote bag along with you for all your bookish purchases.
You can find most genres here at this bookshop for both fiction and non-fiction titles as well as children’s books, Greek/Latin texts, foreign language books, sheet music and more. Their general fiction section is the best though with a mix of old and newer releases to be found.
Address: 4 Mill Rd, Petersfield, Cambridge CB1 2AD
Opening Hours: 10am – 5:30pm Monday to Saturday
Waterstones in Cambridge is a four-floor bookshop in the town’s beautiful historic centre. The bookshop front is particularly lovely as it retains the original wood and stone from times gone by with the simple Waterstones store sign hanging down.
Inside, there’s all that you’d expect from a local Waterstones including tonnes of new titles and themed tables of books dotted around. There are handwritten notes accompanying the books so you have recommendations from the store’s booksellers, which are a lovely extra touch.
There’s also a Cafe W, Waterstones cafe where you can enjoy coffee, tea cake or a spot of lunch.
Address: 22 Sidney Street, Cambridge, CB2 3HG
Opening Hours: 9am – 6pm Monday to Saturday, 11am – 5pm Sundays
Oxfam Bookshop Cambridge
Charity shops are often the best place to buy books and Oxfam’s bookshop in Cambridge is no different. This isn’t a particularly large store but you can always pick up a bargain. As this bookshop is located in the student city of Cambridge, there are loads of books donated by students here.
If you’re a new student to Cambridge then it’s worth browsing these shelves for literature and academic books that may have been left by students who have now moved on, especially if you’re studying English literature.
In addition to books, they also sell vinyl for both classical and pop music so if you’re a music aficionado then this shop is for you.
Address: 28 Sidney Street, Cambridge, CB2 3HW
Plurabelle Books is located a little way out of the centre of Cambridge so if you want to visit this one then you’ll have to make the trip specifically. It’s well worth the trip though as Plurabelle Books is one of the best second hand bookshops in Cambridge.
They stock a wide range of second hand and antiquarian books of all genres and periods. In terms of fiction they’ve got classics, poetry, crime, folklore, sci-fi, children’s and more. They’ve also got non-fiction books and journals covering gender studies, empire & race, politics, film, there’s even a whole section on Oxbridge-related works. They really do have a bit of everything here and you could spend a whole afternoon browsing the store.
Interestingly, Plurabelle Books operates first and foremost as an internet bookshop. However, it also occupies a warehouse in Cambridge where you can browse their shelves in person. The stock online and in-store are distinct. If they don’t manage to shift stocks online, then the books end up in the warehouse, where you can browse books at knock-down prices.
Address: Unit 8, Restwell House Coldham’s Road CB1 3EW
Opening Hours: 10am-4pm Monday to Friday
And that’s all for my guide to Cambridge bookshops! As a historic British city, loads of writers and authors have studied at the university here so it’s a great day trip from London for bookish people.
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Want more UK bookshops?
Bookshops in Oxford
Bookshops in Edinburgh
Bookshops in York
Bookshops in Bath
Bookshops in Brighton
Bookshops in Hay-on-Wye
Bookshops in Norwich
Independent Bookshops in London
Specialist Bookshops in London
Second-Hand Bookshops in London