As well as being a beautiful city, Canterbury is also a place with deep literary connections, some of which span centuries. From being the birthplace of Christopher Marlowe to famously featuring in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Canterbury has been a beacon of creativity and talent for hundreds of years.
Keeping this literary heritage alive, the city has a great variety of bookshops for residents and visitors alike.
So, in no particular order, here’s The Book Boy's guide to Canterbury’s best bookshops:
The number one stop for vintage beauties. This labyrinthine bookshop is filled to the brim with stunning collector’s editions, leather-bound tomes and books that you simply won’t find anywhere else. With lots of nooks and crannies displaying books you didn’t even know that you needed, a trip to Chaucer Books usually ends with exiting the building with a unique treasure in your hands.
Set in the amazing architecture of what many locals call the crooked/ bulging house (dating all the way back to the 1600s!), this wonderful charity bookshop offers a range of second-hand titles across two floors. As well as being incredibly welcoming, every purchase in the shop raises proceeds for Catching Lives – a charity dedicated to helping those experiencing homelessness or insecure accommodation.
The building famously features a quote from Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield and is said to have inspired the author when writing the novel. Plus, with every book, you know you’re supporting a good cause – what’s not to love?
Another excellent charity bookshop that always has a wonderful selection, Burgate Books covers two floors and has arguably the largest second-hand selection in the city with over 5,000 titles in stock at any one time. Close to great tearooms, restaurants and other shops, Burgate Books is the perfect stop off during a wander through the city and helps to support Pilgrims Hospice – a service supporting terminally ill patients with the care and support they need.
Another shop for those who enjoy some guilt-free book buying, Oxfam bookshop carries an excellent selection of second-hand titles – the proceeds from selling of course going to charity. What makes Oxfam Books a must-visit is not only that the stock is changed regularly, but there are also specialist sections for music and foreign-language titles – perfect for tourists who want a taste of home or those looking to improve their language skills.
Standing pride of place near the centre of Canterbury’s main shopping district, Waterstones Canterbury is so much more than your average bookshop. Three floors filled with new editions, a wonderful café, monthly author events – it is the perfect place to treat yourself to a new release, cosy up with a coffee and let your worries unwind.
Plus, the staff are incredibly helpful and well-informed – not only have many of them been working in the branch for years and know the store better than the back of their own hand, but they’re also great at suggesting your next read. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice! For those looking for some bookish conversation, there are also a number of book clubs you can join if you’re looking to broaden your reading tastes – make sure to ask at the till if you’d like information about the next meet up.
Written by Charles Edwards-Freshwater, an avid book lover, bookstagrammer and writer living in Ash, Kent. You can follow him on Instagram at @thebookboy.