7 foreign language bookstores in shanghai to escape the crowds

Looking to stock up on some books for the upcoming winter? Check out these great bookstores

Photograph: courtesy 1984 Bookstore
With the advent of e-readers and online shopping, visiting a bookstore is no longer that essential to get our reading fix. But if you're someone who still likes spending their time wandering through a bookstore and searching for interesting books, then these seven bookstores are for you.

Foreign Language Bookstore

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Photograph: Mark Farrell

Probably the biggest and most well-known foreign bookstore in Shanghai, this four-storey bookstore will almost surely have what you’re looking for. The first floor is where you’ll probably spend most of your time. They have an extensive collection of books that include new popular new releases, classics, and nonfiction on topics from cooking and travel to history and economics. The sections aren’t clearly labelled, so it can be a bit difficult to find what you’re looking for, but you can also ask an assistant to help you find what you’re searching for. On the second floor, you’ll find language learning books and a host of educational materials. The third floor is all about art and design books, while the fourth has children’s books, magazines, and Japanese cartoons.

Foreign Language Bookstore, 390 Fuzhou Lu, near Shanxi Nan Lu.


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Photograph: Mark Farrell

Located in the rather lavish Jingan Kerry Center, this bookstore fits in with the mall. It is fancy and stylish without being too ostentatious or showy. As you enter, you’re met with a wall of magazines, books, and CDs (yes, these still exist). As you move through, you’ll find mostly English books organised by genre. Like most bookstores, you’ll mostly find well-known fiction and nonfiction titles ranging from classics to contemporary works. They do have an exciting section of biographies which is not something we see everywhere. There’s also some limited seating available, so it’s a great place to hide away for a little bit.

Boocup, Fourth Floor, North Block, Jingan Kerry Center, 1515 Nanjing Xi Lu, near Changde Lu.

Text and Image

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Photograph: courtesy Text & Image

The epitome of a small, independent bookstore, Text and Image is the perfect place to hide away for a while. A small yet cosy and welcoming place, you’ll be able to find books here that you won’t find anywhere else. You can easily become enthralled by the esoteric design and art books that you didn’t know existed. The owners run a publishing and design company and see opening a bookstore as a way to share even more titles than they could through only their publishing. You’re not going to find many novels here, but in addition to the design and art books, you can find a decent collection of books covering the humanities.

Text and Image, 42 Tianping Lu, near Huaihai Zhong Lu.

1984 Bookstore

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Photograph: courtesy 1984 Bookstore

Full disclosure – this place isn’t a bookstore because the books aren’t actually for sale. It is more of a cafe that has books to read while there. Nevertheless, with its quiet environment and simple wooden tables, 1984 is a great place to post up with your laptop to get some work done or enjoy a book away from the craziness of the city. Their books are of the secondhand variety, so it’s a bit difficult to know if you’re going to find what you’re looking for, but part of the place’s charm is slowly ambling around and flicking through random titles. They have all sorts of books, from recognisable titles to niche magazines that you’ve probably never heard of. There’s also a lovely outside area perfect for the weather these days.

1984 Bookstore, 11 Hunan Lu, near Yongfu Lu.

Garden Books

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Photograph: Mark Farrell

One of the go-to places for English books in Shanghai, Garden books has one of the best selections of English books that you’ll find. Although you probably won’t find many esoteric or niche titles that you may be looking for, they do have an awe-inspiring collection of titles on subjects like Chinese history, culture, and traveling. The second floor has a collection of secondhand books, so if you’re lucky, you might be able to find a gem somewhere in there. There’s also a coffee shop inside and a lot of seating available, so you could spend an afternoon sipping on some coffee and reading a book if you like.

Garden Books, 325 Changle Lu, near Shaanxi Nan Lu.

The Mix Place

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Photograph: Mark Farrell

Situated in central Xuhui (near the massive Metro City mall), The Mix Place is a great place to slip into for a while to get away from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding streets. The bookstore stocks mostly Chinese titles but has a decent, although not extensive, selection of English books and foreign-language magazines, mostly in arts and photography. So, even if you can’t find the specific title you’re looking for, you’re bound to find something that piques your interest. Some seats are available to read on, but they’re somewhat limited, so don’t be surprised if you have to nestle yourself into a corner while flipping through a book. The bookstore is rumoured to be closed in September, so do check it out before it’s too late.

The Mix Place, 880 Hengshan Lu, near Tianping Lu.

Shanghai Book City

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Photograph: Mark Farrell

One of the most well-known bookstores in Shanghai, many people were dismayed when the Fuzhou lu location closed down to be refurbished. It’s expected to reopen sometime in 2023. But while we wait for that, the good news is that they have another location in the Changning district. This location is not as big but still has lots to offer. Over the multi-floored building, you can find many children’s books, a wide variety of Chinese titles, and a whole floor dedicated to learning materials. The English books are placed along the stairs up to the fourth floor. The selection is very limited, but you can find some classics and well-known best-sellers.

Shanghai Book City, 1057 Changning Lu, near Kaixuan Lu.

By Mark Farrell