Bookstores were considered ‘essential services’ during lockdown and allowed to stay open, which gave us the chance to really find out the full extent of Berlin’s English language offering. From long-established literary dens to brand new feminist nooks, there’s plenty of bookworm fodder to be found to stave off that existential doom.
Here’s a run-down of the ones you need to know.
With 30,000 mostly used books, including many contemporary American and British titles, jam-packed into ceiling-high shelving and barely any seating save a dilapidated Chesterfield, St. George’s is a bookstore’s bookstore, its old-world, no-fuss British vibe accentuated by charmingly dour owner Paul Gurner. It remains open, although you might have to queue before you browse.
Wörther Straße 27, Prenzlauer Berg, Mon-Fri 11-20, Sat 11-19
Roman and Laurel Kratochvila have been running Shakespeare and Sons on Warschauer Straße since 2011. Half café, half international bookshop, its dual identity means this go-to spot for English readers, curious browsers, eaters and typers can’t fully open during lockdown. The generously schmeared bagels, however, are still available for takeaway, along with gems from its French-language selection and translated Eastern European classics.
Warschauer Straße 74, Friedrichshain, open daily 8-19
This chaotic haven is both a shop and a cult, with British expat and known Berlin personality Sophie Raphaeline as figurehead. In addition to a plethora of secondhand books – any of which can be brought back for a refund, minus €1.50 – they host concerts, readings, quiz nights and gluttonous €5.50 suppers in non-lockdown times.
Riemannstr.7, Kreuzberg, Mon 12-19, Tue-Fri 11-20, Sat 12-18
Formerly in Neukölln, The Curious Fox has now moved to a new location in Kreuzberg. The Curious Fox established itself as a local institution, renowned for its cosy quiz nights and “if you can spell it, we can order it!” philosophy, meaning Berlin is very pleased to welcome it back in its new form. Go for the tiny shop’s lovingly curated kiddie corner, LGBTQ+ interest section and books by Berlin-based authors, or strike up a chat with friendly Irish owners (and one-time Another Country acolytes) Dave Gordon and Orla Baumgarten.
Lausitzer Platz 17, Kreuzberg, Mon 14-19, Tue-Fri 11-19, Sat 11-18
For the chance to read through books in a comfy environment but relative anonymity, head to lit superstore Dussmann das KulturKaufhaus. A constant stream of customers, cosy corners in its two-storey English section and lengthy opening hours make this the perfect place to hide out on a grey winter evening.
Friedrichstraße 90, Mitte, Mon-Fri 9-24, Sat 9-23.30
This friendly nook on Kastanienallee offers fiction, non-fiction, crime stories, cookbooks and books about Berlin in-store, as well as 50,000 books to pre-order for next-day pickup. There’s also a sizeable section of English-language books for adults and children of all ages.
Kastanienallee 88, Prenzlauer Berg, Mon-Fri 8-20, Sat 10-18
German bookstores with proud English shelves
Alte Schönhauser Straße’s cosy basement of German-language books boasts an extensive English collection ranging from translated German favourites to the latest prize-winning fiction. For the last 16 years, this bibliophile basement has been defying the competition of digital giants (a sign tells visitors “you’ll be leaving the amazone”). In recent years, it’s grappled with the ruthless gentrification that’s eaten up almost every other independent shop on Mitte fashionista’s Alte Schönhauser Straße – but Hundt Hammer Stein prevails.
Alte Schönhauser Str. 23-24, Mitte, Mon-Sat 11-19
Marga Schoeller’s classic green façade has been a staple of Charlottenburg’s Knesebeckstraße for over 90 years. It’s faced plenty of adversity, from hiding forbidden books in Nazi times to finding its way in post-war Soviet and then British occupied territory. Throughout it all, the store has always nurtured a strong English-language department.
Knesebeckstraße 33, Charlottenburg, Mon-Wed 10-18, Thu+Fri 10-19, Sat 10-17
Located in the brick viaduct under the S-Bahn tracks at Savignyplatz, Bücherbogen has been a home for all kinds of stories, memories and meetings over the past 30 years. In 1980, founder and owner Ruthild Spangenberg transformed two of the arches from a car repair shop into a bookstore and exhibition space specialising in art, photography and architecture. Nearly one-third of its stock is in English.
Stadtbahnbogen 593, Charlottenburg, Mon-Sat 11-19
Coffee table tomes, magazines and more
First and foremost, Ocelot is an alluring space. Large, modern and dreamed up by local designer Martina Zeyen, the beautiful oak-panelled interior is hard not to appreciate. In normal times, you have the possibility to bury yourself in great graphic novels, comics and books on urban culture over a coffee. Although the selection of English literature is small, they do cover a reasonable spectrum from the likes of James Joyce to Haruki Murakami.
Brunnenstraße 181, Mitte, Mon-Sat 10-20
This central bookstore is a light, bright mecca for those with time to browse, offering a thematic approach across art & theory, design, architecture, politics and economic critique – with many of the coffee table gems in English. They also stock a selection of lifestyles magazines from around the world.
Almstadtstraße 48, Mitte, Mon-Sat 11-19
The slick and spacious store on Auguststraße boasts a glossy spread of contemporary international magazines, themed journals and books from more than 20 countries with a focus on art, fashion, photography, design and architecture, as well as literature, music and contemporary culture.
Auguststraße 28, Mon-Sat 12-18
International second-hand trove
A multilingual treasure: Pequod in Neukölln’s Schillerkiez stocks used books in English, French, Dutch, Swedish, Turkish, Italian, Spanish, German, Polish, Danish and Norwegian, among other languages. The calm, well-organised shop has two rooms stacked high with over 12,000 books.
Selchower Straße 33, Neukölln, Mon-Sat 13-19
On Schönleinsstraße, Ilya Evdakov offers secondhand books mostly in English. Evdakov wants to reimagine the book-buying experience. Instead of arranging volumes by genre or author, they have organised their shelves by personalized themes, acting as your “literary matchmaker”.
Schönleinstraße 32, Kreuzberg Tue-Sat 12-20
The anti-colonial reading room
Hidden away in a courtyard off Kurfürstenstraße, Hopscotch Reading Room is a place to discover non-western & diasporic perspectives. The shelves are crowded with novels, poetry, theory and history of all kinds, but there is a clear emphasis on anti-colonial struggle. Check out their website or subscribe to the newsletter to stay up to date with events, readings and book recommendations.
The new queer feminist kid on the block
It’s time to put down the Jack Kerouac and pick up the Audre Lorde with a little help from She Said, the queer feminist bookshop and café that opened on Kottbusser Damm late last year. Founder Emilia Von Senger dedicates an entire shop to the world’s unsung lit heroines, with 1300 hand-picked works to educate and inspire. Pop inside this safe space for a good book, some ethical tea and a timeout from the heteropatriarchy.
She Said Kottbusser Damm 79, Neukölln, Mon-Fri 10-19, Sat 10-18
A shop almost as old as a united Germany, Modern Graphics has its origin story based in the Wild West days of reunified Berlin in 1991. This cramped shop in Kreuzberg is its own special universe – cramped not for lack of space, but because of the sheer volume of nerdy wares. The three adjoining rooms are packed to the gills with current issues of comic books, graphic novels, knick-knacks and assorted paraphernalia to suit whatever your quest may be. Of course, they carry plenty of comics in both English and German.
Oranienstraße 22, Kreuzberg, Mon-Sat 11-19