Best Bookshops in the City

12 September 2019

Best Bookshops in the City

Originally published March 2017

It is impossible to ignore the fact that last week, Norwich Got Some Snow.

And not just any snow.

This snow fell thick and blankety, like something out of a Dickens novel. On Wednesday the streets were filled with people sliding around on sledges/bin bags/ill advised shoes, and the pub windows were steamed up with a workforce who had left the office early. One inspired man even took his snowboard to Gas Hill.

By Thursday everyone was irritated.

If you live here (or indeed anywhere rendered useless by the weather), you might have been unable to get into work. Instead you were stuck at home wondering what to do and feeling guilty because none of the items on your agenda involve steam cleaning the grout in your bathroom.

Actually, what it would have been nice to do – in hindsight – is take a much needed break while you have a reason to, and curl up with a book. We’ve compiled this list of Norwich’s bookshops so you can stock your shelves with some good reads, ready for the next time you have an afternoon to yourself (or are snowed in)

 Dormouse Bookshop

As featured in our film ‘The Writer’, Dormouse Bookshop sits on Elm Hill – Norwich’s most complete medieval street. The shop sells second hand and rare books – some of which are very beautiful – and is in a picturesque location just a stone’s throw from the river. Explore all sorts of titles here, before stopping for a coffee and a cake at the nearby Britons Arms; a similarly old building with a fascinating history and some of the best homemade cakes we’ve ever tried.

Tombland Bookshop

Tombland Bookshop

Photo: An illustrated text in Tombland Bookshop

This bookshop is like something straight out of a book itself. Inside this 15th Century Building located in Norwich’s historic Cathedral Quarter, you will find this charming shop stocked high with second hand and antiquarian books. Arranged by category, Tombland Bookshop stocks all sorts: architecture to topography, handicrafts to heraldry. There are some real treasures here. I popped in just before Christmas and saw this beautiful illustrated book on river fishes (picture above). The bookshop also offers a book-finding service, book restoration and rebinding, and a professional valuation service for insurance and probate purposes.

The Book Hive

Book Hive

Photo: Book Hive

The front of The Book Hive, London Street

Right on the corner of London street, nestled in the Norwich Lanes beside coffee shops and cobbles, is the Book Hive. This Norwich icon is as much a visitor destination as it is a shop, and one of the city’s most recognisable shop fronts. Inside, you’ll find intriguing titles that might be difficult to find elsewhere; poetry; small press; art books; children’s books; and some very good looking cookbooks. This is three storeys of magic.



Photo: Waterstones

The big ‘un. Norwich Waterstones is located just on Castle Street, and is stocked with two floors of classics, new releases, fiction, non-ficton, children’s books and even more besides. A place to while away hours, once you’ve done browsing, you can stop for a coffee and some cake in their 1st floor café. There’s also a gift section here selling beautiful stationary and other items (by the likes of the V&A, Moleskine etc), so well worth a visit if you’re still stuck for that Mother’s Day present. Their fantastic window displays are worth a mention too  – you can spot these sweet and ever-changing vignettes by the shop entrance on either side: Castle Mall or Castle Street.

City Bookshop

City Bookshop

Photo: Some of the Art Books at City Bookshop

Indeed in the city (on Davey place just off Gentleman’s Walk), City Bookshop is a must-visit destination if you love old maps, prints and topographies. This family run and independent bookshop has been in businesses for over 30 years, and sells lots of different titles in all sorts of categories. What is particularly special though are their fine art and photography titles, and their section on local history. Plus the books in here are a bargain: if you’re a fan of big, beautiful coffee-table books, you’ll find them very reasonably priced here.

JR & RK Ellis Bookshop

JK Ellis

Photo: Inside JR & RK Ellis

This is one of my very favourite bookshops in Norwich. Out the main bustle of the city, in gentle St Giles, JR & RK bookshop is an ocean of calm in order to browse second-hand titles at your leisure. The shop is lovely: all white and wooden with rows and rows of books to peruse and purchase. Once you’ve found your book, take it just up the road to Upper St Giles, and read it in the cosy warmth of Bread Source, with a cappuccino and a warm, fresh cinnamon bun.



Photo: The children’s section in Jarrolds book department

In the basement of their majestic department store, Jarrolds department is a papery nook of all kinds of texts. In a perfectly laid back setting, Jarrolds book department is well laid out, easy to navigate, and features all sorts of genres. They also have regular book signings and talks by authors: just last month I went to a sell-out talk by crime writer Elly Griffiths, who was in conversation with Jarrolds’ wonderful Book Buyer Chris Rushby. Once you’ve done perusing the book department, there are 5 floors to explore: you’ll find everything from fashion to furniture here.

And our county has some pretty great bookshops too…

Norfolk is home to bookshops of all shapes and sizes, some well-known and others far from the beaten path. Norwich in 2012 became England’s first UNESCO City of Literature.

Blog post written by Izzi Johnson.