My Favourite Bookstore Cafes in New York City

What better way to spend the weekend than to have coffee and be surrounded by books?
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My Favourite Bookstore Cafes in New York City

My Favourite Bookstore Cafes in New York City

I am totally in love with books and bookstores and have been for a long time. I can’t think of a better way to spend the weekend than to head to the bookstore to collect a long-awaited book or browse the shelves and stumble across a new title or recommended read. 

I find cafes inside bookstores hugely welcoming and highly relaxing. Nobody is rushing around or shouting, and everybody is calm, chilled, and absorbed in their little world. I also find that bookstores are a great people-watching spot– from the family bringing their young child to choose their first book, to Gen Z collecting college texts, to Gen Xers looking for that stimulating read,  to the aunts, uncles and grandparents looking for something to while away their well-earned retirement. I love to settle into a corner and begin to read my latest purchase. I also love to observe the people around me, watching how they interact with the books – carefully touching their covers, picking them up, and placing them back down before straightening them and moving on to the next. That is why a bookstore with a coffee shop is an absolute delight for me and somewhere I can happily chill out for an hour or two. 

That said, New York City has great bookstores with coffee shops. Here are a few of my favourites. 

Take the weight off, and enjoy your book with a warming coffee or tea! Try to purchase a book while you’re there, as many of our bookstores are still struggling after the COVID pandemic and the increasing number of online retailers taking a bite of the market. 

Shakespeare & Co, 939 Lexington Avenue, Upper East Side 

The iconic Manhattan bookstore is named after the English playwright; their flagship store opened on the banks of the River Seine, Paris, in 1951 and became the hottest meeting spot for anglophone writers and readers alike. In 1983 they opened their Upper East Side store close to the Hunter College campus. Browse an enormous selection of books and choose from a selection of beverages and an array of tasty treats in their cozy café. They also sell art supplies, textbooks, and apparel on their lower floor. 

Ever considered writing and publishing your own book? If so, you can also do that in-store – and they’ll even sell it for you (read more here)! Their sister store on Broadway hosts regular literary events, including book clubs and open mike nights.

New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, 5th Avenue, Manhattan

Sitting loud and proud on 5th Avenue, the Stephen A. Schwarzman building, the NYC Public Library’s main branch, was built in the late 1890s. The reading room is one of the most elaborate in the world, and movie buffs will recognize it, along with the front of the building from the 1984 film Ghostbusters. The café is located inside the library bookshop, where you can grab a coffee and handmade pastry from Amy’s Bread before exploring the grandeur of the building. Admission is free for everyone. So other than your coffee or sweet treat – and perhaps a little something from the library shop – your trip won’t cost you a cent. 

Book Club Bar, 197 East 3rd Street, East Village 

Book Club Bar is one of my favourite places in New York City. Since 2019 Book Club has served as the East Village community hub. A cozy, independently owned bookstore hosting various literary events featuring locally roasted coffee and a selection of wine and NY state craft beers. The venue also hosts the East Village Wordsmiths, a themed monthly salon for artists (writers and performers) to share their work. Other events include writing workshops, poetry recitals, music evenings, game nights, and even drawing classes – bringing artists and wannabe artists together in a creative space. It’s one of my favourite spaces to lose myself and forget everything else around me, and I highly recommend the drawing & drinking class if you’re in town!

Barnes & Noble, 33 East 17th Street, Union Square

A visit to Barnes & Noble may not sound like the most exciting bookstore experience as they are not unique or quirky and have numerous stores across the U.S. However, the store at Union Square is the biggest bookstore in Manhattan. It is located inside the old headquarters of the Century Publishing Company, built-in 1881. The architecture is stunning, and you feel like you’ve returned in time when surrounded by wooden bookshelves and library ladders. Located on the 3rd floor, the coffee shop is vast. There is lots of space to peel off your coat, down your shopping bags, and truly unwind as you look out over Union Square Park with the south Manhattan skyline as a backdrop. They host many in-store and virtual events, including weekly story time sessions, monthly game night and many book and author events. 

The next time you’re in NYC, please visit one, or all, of my recommendations and let me know what you think. 

Do you have a favourite local bookstore with a welcoming café? Why not dig them up and share their details in the comments below. 

Jacqui Hodges

With 30 years of general management experience in the global insurance industry and having lived in 4 countries, Jacqui now spends her time between London and New York where she continues to pursue her passion for writing, food, books and travel.

A Reiki practitioner, yogi and huge animal advocate, her home isn’t complete without a furbaby or three. In addition to being a BooknBrunch contributor, she writes for  industry publications.

Favourite book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
Favourite brunch dish: avocado toast with tomato and chilli


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