Books. Therapy for the internet-damaged soul. No wonder that in recent years bookstores in Shanghai have been growing in both number and scale. An 8,000 square meter store by Fang Suo Commune is in the works in Pudong. But you don’t need to go huge to be an impressive bookstore. So we picked a handful of the city’s coolest bookstores (no Fuzhou Lu). Read on.
ZiWU’s art books reach up the ceiling of its three-floor loft. More than a bookstore —kind of a mixed-use space for art and photography —the shop also carries vinyl records and a number of English fashion and lifestyle magazines.
The second floor has a small photography exhibit; third floor is an art gallery. ZiWU operates like a gallery too: there is a 50rmb entry fee, though it includes a coffee or discount on book purchases. Good for lounging on a weekend afternoon.
(Gaolan Lu Store)
This is the famous poetry-themed bookstore inside the 85-year-old St. Nicolas Orthodox Church. Its main hall is sleek and modern but doesn’t detract from the lofty beauty of the church.
There’s also a little historical anecdote about why this store only carries poetry. They have lots of rare Chinese poetry books and a section (about 20% of the store) for English-language books selected by the London Review. Great, serene café in the back overlooking the street. For the time being, they require a reservation to visit, which can be done (in Chinese) through their official WeChat account (世纪朵云; shiji duoyun).
(Pearl Art Museum Store)
The nicest-looking Xinhua bookstore there is, attached to the Pearl Art Museum out in Minhang. It was designed by Japanese architect Tado Ando. The shop is airy, unlike many heavy-feeling bookstores. The English-language selection is small but there's a wide range Chinese literature, pop fiction, cooking, business management and quite a lot of picture books for children.
Nice To Meet You
New, stylish, cozy and super relaxing. This is the second bookstore of a chain named Nice To Meet You that is affiliated with Xingfu Li, the real estate development Panyu Lu. The bookstore is located on the ground floor of the 96-year-old Blackstone Apartments. The place feels like a maze: a French-style archway with mosaic titles opens towards narrower hallways, leading into individual chambers which break the books into different sections.
They carry a wide range of books in Chinese literature, history, design, and cooking, plus a unique stock of books on music, music sheets, and many vinyl records English books are selections from Penguin and Macmillan Collectors Library, some popular fiction and pieces on art and architecture. Most of the books here are free for leafing through. Or, make a purchase and chill at the adjacent Drops café.
(Shanghai Tower Store)
Duoyun belongs to a gigantic Chinese publishing group which also owns several other bookstores in the city, including Sinan Books, but this flagship store is the most gorgeous. It is fifty-two floors up in Shanghai Tower, with a panoramic view of the Lujiazui area. The interior is designed by the same person who did the Sinan Books on Gaolan Lu — very modern but not sterile.
This bookstore has long been a wanghong. When it first opened, the queue to get inside was over an hour. There are window seats where you can read or daydream above the clouds. In Chinese, there’s a great selection of literature and novels, and an English lit section by the London Review. For the time being, they require a reservation to visit, which can be done (in Chinese) through their official WeChat account (世纪朵云; shiji duoyun).
A tranquil corner in Lujiazui. Apart from a wonderful selection of Chinese books on history, cultural studies and philosophy, Jihe has a uniquely beautiful interior. One section will remind you of the study room of Hogwarts; the other is like a volcanic mountain cave.
The stock at this place is heavenly, if you can read Chinese. Tower of Babel, what a misfortune. Not too many English books carried here, except some literature and a small selection of art books. You can bring your own reading material or use a laptop (not a lot of outlets around though) at the long study table at adjacent Café & Bar Geographer.
Zhong Shu Ge
(Longhua Zhong Lu Store)
Zhong Shu Ge is a chain known for big-size bookstores and their interior design. Its Jing’An store inside Reel Mall has long been a popular spot among Chinese readers. This new location opened in January 2020, very close to the West Bund - huge, solemn, with narrow and dimly lit archways. Like a Gothic church. It is unbelievably quiet, and a great place to do some serious studying. There’s a sizeable café inside the bookstore for sitting. The Chinese books are excellent. English books not great. But it’s a great place to hang out, and would make a great day out with a trip to the West Bund.
A truly lovely little spot in the city. Yi Jian is not a bookstore, but a membership-based library slash quiet space. A tiny storefront on Nanchang Lu in spotless white leads into a six-story villa. The minimalist interior is done in wood and beige, and when the sunlight comes through the French windows and hits the books… it’s just a lovely experience.
Most of their 10,000+ books are in Chinese, but you may find some of the owner’s personal collection in English on world history. Many people also purchase a membership (starts at 688rmb quarterly) to use Yi Jian as a quiet space to work or study.
A bookstore with a killer view of the Bund and Lujiazui’s skyline. Built in 2016 by China Jianyin Investment, a big state-owned construction and investment firm, JIC Books won the Most Popular Bookstore Award at the China Bookstore Week that year. Its main hall is magnificent, like a train station from the 1800s, but only open for events at the moment.
They specialize in biographies and autobiographies, which is rare to see. But all in Chinese. Still, for the view and the vibe, JIC books deserves to be on this list. Go to chill at the café, which serves decent coffee.