In Our Book: Here are the Best Bookshops in Christchurch Ōtautahi

A woman with a short brown bob reading an old book.

There is a certain kind of feeling you get when you enter a good bookshop, it’s warm and inviting, and a sense of cosiness and calm takes over. The scent of hundreds and thousands of pages waiting to be discovered and devoured is nostalgic, and it is easy to lose an hour or two browsing the aisles deliberating over your next read.

In Ōtautahi Christchurch, we are blessed with a stellar number of bookstores, from a specialist children’s shop, booksellers that have been in the city for generations and second-hand shops that ensure literary gems reach the hands of new readers. So whether you are on the hunt for the latest bestseller, looking to build up your child’s library collection or happiest when spending an afternoon amongst stacks and rows of books, here’s your guide (in no particular order) to enjoying the best bookshops around the city.

Smith's Bookshop

The Tannery, 3 Garlands Road, Woolston, Christchurch

Smith’s Bookshop is a true icon of the Christchurch book scene, first established in 1894, and for many years, it inhabited a historic building on Manchester Street. Following the earthquakes, Smith’s relocated to The Tannery, where it has maintained its charm and reputation as one of the best booksellers in the country. Selling both new and second-hand books, they specialise in New Zealand non-fiction, have an excellent children’s section and also deal in rare and antiquarian books. Next time you are at The Tannery, make sure to set aside some time for browsing in Smith’s, it’s truly good for the soul.

Scorpio Books

120 Hereford Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch

Another independent bookshop legend in Christchurch is Scorpio Books, first trading as Pisces in the 1960s, current owner Dave Cameron bought the store in the 1970s, and it has been Scorpio ever since. A mainstay in the central city, it calls the Five Lanes precinct home and has just about every genre of book stocked in store. Scorpio is well-known for its friendly and helpful staff, who are always at the ready with top recommendations. When you think of what makes a classically good bookshop in your mind, Scorpio fits all the criteria, and at the end of each visit, you’ll be excited for your next one.

London Street Bookshop

48 London St, Lyttelton

Lyttelton’s London Street is full of independent stores enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. The London Street Bookshop is one such example, and it takes bookstore charm to a whole new level. Stocking an extensive collection of second-hand books, chances are you’ll find something from your favourite author here or perhaps discover a ‘new to you’ title. They also have a collection of vintage maps and postcards that are well worth checking out whilst you are browsing in-store.

Telling Tales

101 Cashel Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch

Telling Tales is a love letter to children’s literature and is heaven for littlies and all those near and dear to them. Opening their doors in the central city in 2021, it’s no surprise that it is the same team behind Scorpio Books (and found in the same Five Lanes precinct). Babies right through to teenagers are considered at Telling Tales, with sections dedicated to different ages, genres and interests. The space is creative and colourfully decorated, sparking the imaginations of both the young and not-so-young customers visiting the shop.

Leslie’s Bookshop

29b London Street, Lyttelton

Lyttelton packs a punch when it comes to quality bookshops, and the best thing is you don’t have to venture far from one to get to the other - it’s a mere 100m walk from London Street Bookshop to Leslie’s Bookshop. It’s here at Leslie’s that magazine enthusiasts will be in heaven, with an extraordinary range available, covering any kind of interest you can imagine. They also stock journals, papers and local interest books; they are more than happy to help you source something you are trying to get your hands on. Located just under Lyttelton Coffee Company, we recommend heading into the cafe after you visit Leslie’s to enjoy your purchase alongside a nice hot brew.

The Custard Square Bookshop

The Arts Centre, 2 Worcester Boulevard, Christchurch

Quite possibly the cutest and tiniest bookstore in Christchurch is the pastel yellow and white vintage caravan in the Arts Centre, appropriately trading as The Custard Square Bookshop. Given the petite size of the caravan, the number of books owner Cathleen manages to display is seriously impressive, and all are only $5! The caravan has been thoughtfully kitted out with visitors in mind, and there’s even a kids reading nook. After you have selected your reading material, wander over to Frances Nation Grocer and pick up your treat of choice to indulge in as you bury your head in your new read.

Steadfast Books

372 Ferry Road, Woolston, Christchurch

At Steadfast Books on Ferry Road, they take great pride in being an old-fashioned bookstore and have an admirable mission statement; ‘creating equal opportunities, one book at a time’. Specialising in quality second-hand books, the majority of their collection is non-fiction but never fear fiction fans, there will always be something for you at Steadfast too. Make yourself at home whilst browsing the shelves and take up a pew on one of the armchairs dotted around the store. If you are looking for somewhere to sell books from your own library, have a chat with the team at Steadfast, as they are always looking to add to their well-curated stock.

University Bookshop

University Drive, Ilam, Christchurch

You may not know that The University Bookshop isn’t just for UC students but it is for everyone to enjoy. Alongside the expected textbooks, a wide variety of books cover diverse genres, from cooking to crime and everything in between. UBS, as it is fondly known around campus, takes great pride in the number of New Zealand titles it stocks and its dedicated children’s area - nurturing the thinkers and creative minds of tomorrow. In case you need more reasons to visit, the bookshop also regularly hosts author events and the staff and their literary expertise is second to none.

Book Barn on Ferry

374 Ferry Road, Woolston, Christchurch

Literally next door to Steadfast Books, you will find Book Barn on Ferry - happy coincidence, you might think, but this was actually by design. The owners of each store are great friends and they thought it was the perfect opportunity to make their spot on Ferry Road a booklovers destination. With thousands of books in stock, the Book Barn on Ferry is dedicated to keeping the cost of their second-hand books low and affordable for everyone. After all, reading shouldn’t be a luxury and everyone deserves to enjoy a good book!

Reverie Booksellers

52 Edgeware Road, St Albans, Christchurch

This boutique second-hand bookshop opened in the late 1970s and has remained in the same family for all this time. Current owners Ry and Angela, are the third generation to run Reverie Booksellers, and when they took over in 2021, they completed a full renovation and rebranding to ensure the longevity of this charming shop. With four rooms packed to the brim with books to explore, the second-hand offerings at Reverie do not disappoint and span many genres, both fiction and non-fiction. One of the rooms is a dedicated children’s space, so it is perfect if you have young readers right through to teens entering the young adult fiction space. The Reverie team pride themselves on their wide selection and excellent second-hand quality, and if you can’t find what you are looking for they’ll do their best to source it for you.

Books lined up on wooden shelves.

The Clocks Bookshop

12 Normans Road, Strowan, Christchurch

Nestled in the neighbourhood shops of Normans Road, you’ll find The Clocks Bookshop, specialists in crime and mystery novels, cookbooks and children’s books, in addition, they stock a range of other genres to appeal to all kinds of bookworms. One of the neatest things about The Clocks children’s range is their specialist books for dyslexic and reluctant readers. This inclusive approach to reading is just one of the many reasons you need to visit this bookshop, not to mention their incredible service and assistance.

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