Yes, there’s that big book shop on the Rows. But Chester has so much more to offer the book lover. The monks got in first. They built Saint Werburgh Abbey library on the site of Chester Cathedral eight hundred years ago. Now we have Storyhouse and everything from comic book shops, to book-stacked market stalls. Whatever keeps you page-turning, you’ll find it on Chester’s many bookshelves.
Reading is very good. And you can quote me!
If you like your novels graphic, look no further than Chester Comic Co, on Brook Street. With over 50,000 comics in store, you’d be forgiven for losing track of time in this small but packed venue. The stock ranges from new releases to vintage classics. In 2012 I bought two first edition X Men comics (1963) from this shop, took them down to the London Super Comic Con and got them signed by Stan Lee, but that’s a story for another day. The friendly and knowledgeable staff are really the best asset of Chester Comic Co. They will help you navigate your way through the stacks, or browse in peace. (And that quote? Stan Lee of course!)
Open Wed to Sat 10:30 – 18:00, 73 Brook Street, CH1 3DX
It’s never too late to learn something new.
Fancy giving your brain a workout? Anyone can visit the Chester University Student Bookshop. The shop is named after John Smith of Glasgow, who established Britain’s first public bookshop in 1751. Since 2006, John Smith has run the Aspire program across the UK, giving over 500,000 students a bursary to buy academic books for their studies. The shop on the Chester Campus is medium sized, with a good range of books on law, business, education, religion, health and politics. They also stock general interest books, as well as an excellent range of cute stationery to bring on your student nostalgia.
Open Mon to Fri 09:00 – 17:30, Parkgate Road, CH1 4BJ
Charity begins in Frodsham Street
The best charity shops in Chester for books seem to have made an agreement with each other to cluster together at the end of Frodsham Street. You can score a hat-trick here, visiting Claire’s House Hospice, Oxfam and the British Heart Foundation in one fell swoop. Each offers shelf upon shelf of guilt-free book buying potential. The winner however, has to be the Claire’s House Hospice shop, with an amazing upstairs room furnished with comfy sofas and a coffee machine. You could easily pass an hour here. Old favourites, recent bestsellers and a hefty supply of non-fiction can all be bought for a few pounds, plus the knowledge that you’re helping out a worthy cause into the bargain.
Oxfam: Mon to Sat 09:00 – 17:30, Sun 11:00 – 16:00, 33 Frodsham Street CH1 3JJ
Claire’s House Hospice: Mon to Sat 09:00 – 17:00, Sun 10:30 – 16:30, 53 Frodsham Street CH1 3JJ
British Heart Foundation: Mon to Sat 09:00 – 17:30, Sun 10:30 – 14:00, 39 Frodsham Street CH1 3JJ
A royal jewel in Chester’s crown
Chester Market has a gem of a book store. The wonderfully named ‘Bookingham Palace’ can now truly claim to be Chester’s only remaining independent book shop. Don’t let its small size fool you, there are thousands of books here! There’s a definite focus on travel and transport books and an impressive collection of vinyl. You can even try before you buy, as there is a record player in store. The prices are very reasonable and you can sift through at your leisure. Need a break and a sit down after all that hard browsing? You are mere feet away from some of the best eateries in Chester. If you haven’t been to Chester Market since its regeneration, this is yet another reason to do so.
Open Mon – Sat 09.15 – 17:00, Princess Street CH1 2HH
Not all the best book shops are books shops
Sometimes stumbling across a selection of unexpected books for sale is as exciting as seeking them out. Visitors to Chester Cathedral gift shop will find a very nice selection for perusal. As well as the expected religious offerings, there are books about spiritual comfort, grief, raising a family, and other self-help guides. The setting alone is worth a visit. Who doesn’t like their books resting under a thousand-year-old stone arch?
Hunters of vinyl in the mind-blowing Grey n Pink on Brook Street (seriously, there must be a million records in that shop), will also be treated to a very nice little stock of music biographies tucked away under a groaning deck of records. Grey n Pink is worth a visit anyway, if just to marvel and long for a record player.
Chester Cathedral Gift Shop – Open Mon to Sat 09:00 – 17:00, Sun 13:00 – 16:00, Abbey SquareCH1 2HU
Grey n Pink Records – Open Mon to Sat 10:00 – 17:00, 57 Brook Street CH1 3DZ
Books from floor to ceiling
A book lover’s visit to Chester wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Storyhouse. In 2017 the contents of the nearby Chester library were relocated to the seven hundred metres of shelving that make up the Storyhouse library. As you enter the heart of the building, these bookshelves wrap around you and tower above you. You could spend a good thirty minutes just wandering round in awe. There’s plenty of seating and with a great café and bar, a very cosy afternoon awaits you. The library staff are fantastic and will help you navigate your way through the delightful maze of books. There is a real focus on community engagements, with a wealth of clubs, societies, activities and events almost every day of the week. This is the sort of library every town and city deserves, but only the fortunate few get.
Open Mon to Sat 08:00 – 23:00 (staffed 08:30 – 19:00), Sun 09:30 – 23:00 (staffed 09:30 – 18:00), Hunter Street CH1 2AR
Chester used to have two very popular independent book shops. Stothert’s was based on the corner of Nicholas’s Street from the 1970’s until 2008, and now operates online and out of a farm in Burwardsley, Cheshire. City Walls Books and Music, beautifully perched on Chester City Walls above Northgate Street had been in business since 1991. Both have gone from our city. Competition from online giants and cut-price chains are tough on the bookseller. However, Chester can and will continue to be a top-rate destination for the book lover, if we keep browsing our independent bookshops and preserve Chester as a book lover’s utopia.