Here is the tip for those of you whose Zodiac Sign, like mine, is Bibliophile with ascendant Traveler… your next trip, whenever will be, should be to Hay on Wye, the amazing Town of Books that, every year, organizes an even more amazing Book Festival. It was with tears in my eyes that, a couple of days ago, I received an email stating that this year the festival will not take place, but my hopes are still high: I don’t know when, but I will go back with my friend Roberta and a couple of empty cases, that, at the end of the trip, will be magically full of books!
But now, back to Hay-on-Wye: imagine a castle full of books, shelves on the streets, incredible bookstores everywhere… things that even Belle in The Beauty and the Beast could not dream of.
Are you wondering where the idea of turning a city into a Book Town comes from? Well, here’s the story… Once upon a time, there was Richard Booth, who first opened a second-hand book store in an old fire station in the town. Having heard that many bookstores in the United States were closing, Booth filled up his shop with volumes and, not long after, many others decided to follow his example creating book stores, many of which specialized in niche markets. Today Hay-on-Wye has more than 20 bookstores, all dedicated to the love of the written word.
And now what you’ve been looking forward to… the list of the best book stores in this beautiful town in Wales.
Murder and Mayhem, 5 Lion St, Hay-on-Wye, Hereford HR3 5AA
Let’s start with my favorite… a bookshop specialized solely in thrillers, thrillers and thrillers. If you are an Agatha Christie lover or a Sherlock Holmes fan, this is the right place for you. Once you step into this tiny little shop, you will undoubtedly find that book you have always wanted to read or a thriller you have never heard of. And the sign is truly unique.
The Addyman Bookshop, 27 Castle St, Hay-on-Wye, Hereford HR3 5DF
This is undoubtedly the most Instagrammable of all Hay-on-Wye bookshops: vintage shelves, books arranged by colour, illustrated editions, hidden corners where you can admire your favorite volumes … the advice is to start your visit with a photo tour first and take a look at the books to buy later.
Honesty Bookshop at the ruins of Hay Castle
Here we are: this is the castle I mentioned earlier, whose walls are covered by open-air shelves… Guess how people pay for books? Putting money into a box: there are no sellers, no one checks what is being done, they rely only on the honesty of the buyers. The only mystery to be solved is how they keep books dry.
Richard Booth’s Bookshop, 44 Lion St, Hay-on-Wye, Hereford HR3 5AA
Three floors full of books of all sorts and sizes, complete with cafes and cinema… What can I say? Booth likes to go big! In any case, this bookshop is worth seeing, even because it seems that it is from here that the city took shape.
Books aside, of course, Hay on Wye is a characteristic village, with excellent pubs and restaurants where you can stop and rest between one page and another. And, even if you are not a convinced bibliophile, or travel with someone who does not share your passion, it is still worth visiting.