Writers from the New East are producing some of the most exciting work around — so it’s only fitting that the region’s readers are also able to live their literary lives to the full. Here are our picks of the most luxurious, stylish and Instagrammable bookshops from Estonia to Romania, all of which offer a good selection of English-language works for the intrepid tourist.
Home to a small yet thriving photography, self-publishing and comics scene, it’s only natural that Riga also has a brilliant little independent bookshop to stock all the books and magazines. Going by the motto “books choose their readers, not the other way around”, Mr Page, which opened only a couple of months ago, wants to be a matchmaker as well as a bookshop — and going by all the photos of happy customers on their Instagram page, it seems to already be a big hit. A cutting edge concept store with the ambience of a library (you are even given a pair of white gloves to browse the books), Mr Page is definitely for those who believe reading is not just a hobby but an eternal love.
We’ve previously lauded Lugemik, run by graphic designer Indrek Sirkel and artist Anu Vahtra, for all the striking books and printed matter they publish. Those that love the Estonian independent publishers will be pleased to know they also have their own bookshop, specialising in art and design books and located right on the premises of the Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia in Tallinn. The shop is housed inside an old Soviet-era garage with two distinctive heads that sit on the roof of the building — which gives you some idea of the fantastical world that’s waiting for you in-store.
With its art nouveau interiors, winding staircases and six storeys of books, Bucharest’s breathtaking Cărtureşti Carusel looks like it was taken straight out of Beauty and the Beast. This bookshop opened in 2015 in a restored 19th-century building that once housed a bank. When the bank closed down in 1948, it was replaced by a men’s clothing store, then a department store called Familia during the communist period. Left abandoned after the fall of Ceaucescu, it reopened as a bookshop in 2015, with a much-needed restoration by Romanian architecture studio Square One, who did their best to preserve and show off its original features. With over 10,000 books, a bistro, a gallery and media centre, this photogenic bookshop is a destination in its own right.
Podpisnie Izdaniya, which means “Subscription Publications”, has always been more than just a place to buy a novel. First opened in 1926, it is one of the oldest bookshops in St Petersburg, though you would hardly guess it. Today, it’s a refuge for the city’s intellectuals, a quirky souvenir shop and a cosy brunch spot that offers pancakes, porridge and coffee by the Bolshe coffee company. The selection of books includes something for everyone, whether you’re interested in art or science, local or foreign titles, coffee table books or zines. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming — it’s the kind of place where you’re encouraged to really spend some time with the books, pull up a chair, and get inspired.
Prague is a literary capital, so much so that in 2014 it was designated the ninth City of Literature in the world by Unesco. There are plenty of bookshops to choose from but one of the most popular can be found in Letná, a neighbourhood that’s become the hang-out for the young and creative. Page Five opened up on Veverkova Street in 2014, where it feels at home among the indie coffee shops, designer showrooms and vintage stores. It was the first shop to stock foreign-language publications previously unavailable in the Czech Republic, and is now dedicated to promoting the work of young Czech artists. Page Five also publish their own material: it’s worth checking out their illustrated guide to Letná if you’re interested in the history of the buildings in the area. It’s recently opened a second branch devoted to architectural publications at the newly built Centre of Architecture and Urban Planning and has an online shop, to make sure you don’t miss out on the world of Czech print.
Super Salon opened in 2012. Its founder, photographer Krzysztof Kowalski, named the shop in honour of his mother’s beauty salon. The books and magazines here are arranged with aesthetics in mind, showing off each and every cover. Super Salon may be a small store but it has an enormous selection, putting other bookstores to shame. Ideally located in the city centre, it’s the perfect place to pick up some reading material for the trip or stock up on local indie glossies and bookazines.
This cafe and bookstore in central Kiev takes its name from Daniil Kharms, a Soviet absurdist writer who emerged onto the artistic in the 1920s and still continues to both confuse and delight readers with his nonsense poems, stories and plays. However, it’s the bookshop cat, Eliot, named after another famous writer, that steals the limelight here. The on-site cafe serves a menu of fresh pastries, soups, sandwiches, as well as hot beverages throughout the day. Kharms is also popular with vinyl collectors; if you don’t own a record player, you can enjoy their music collection straight from the cafe.
Text: Liza Premiyak
Want more stories delivered to your inbox? Sign up to our newsletter here:
Take a culinary tour across the Black Sea with Caroline Eden’s new cookbook
Russia’s prize-winning novelist on Orthodoxy, death and playing with time
Joanna Lillis enters the world of Kazakh ‘returnees’ in an extract from her new book
Reflecting on the life and literature of Croatia’s most courageous writer
Publisher Yelena Shubina on the wait for a great novel about contemporary Russia