The best book cafés in Shanghai

Once you find a good spot, you really have no reason to leave

Photograph: Kimberly Ng (The Mix Place)
With the plum rains upon us, there's no time like the present to curl up with a hot cup of coffee or tea and spend the day lost in a good book. All part excellent book stores, part chill café, here are some of the best places to while your day away with fellow book lovers in Shanghai.

Sinan Books

Following a successful 60-day pop-up bookstore in Sinan Mansion in 2017, Sinan Books opened in April last year in collaboration with the London Review Bookshop. This three-storey space stocks both English and Chinese titles ranging from classics to film and art, as well as translated works.

There are also a number of small nooks for readers to cosy up with a book in, including an outdoor area for lounging on sunny days and a café, so once you find a good spot, you really have no reason to leave.

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517 Fuxing Zhong Lu

Sisyphe

This indie chain bookstore with outlets in a number of districts in Shanghai, including one in Pudong, is pretty much a treasure trove of local Chinese titles and translated international works. Books here are arranged by category, some of which include ‘novels and dramas of Hong Kong and Taiwan’ and ‘sentimental prose’. Its titles are all in Mandarin, but there’s more than enough space for you to curl up with your own at the café tucked away at the back with large windows and comfy chairs.

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166 Xizang Bei Lu

Dayin Culture Center

Another small chain bookstore, Dayin Bookstore mainly stocks novels by Chinese and Taiwanese writers, with just a handful of titles available in English. While some outlets are bigger (the one along Daxue Lu spans two levels and is open till 2am daily), others, like the one along Chongqing Nan Lu, are quieter and more modest. This one also has a Japanese tea house serving tea and desserts, a simple seating area with long tables, chairs and tatami mats. 

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No 308 Chongqing Nan Lu

The Mix Place

Spanning three storeys and overlooking the greenery of Hengshan Lu, The Mix Place is the perfect enclave for readers of all kinds. Here, they stock a wide range of titles, from art and fashion to fiction novels and more in both English and Mandarin. Apart from books and visual art editions, the third floor is dedicated to magazines of all kinds, from fashion to lifestyle and design. There are English, Mandarin and Japanese titles available, with big names like Nylon and i-D beside smaller titles like Australia’s Frankie and the UK’s Cereal. Though many books and magazines are sealed up, they do have browsing copies available with the covers wrapped neatly in plastic to prevent wear and tear. 

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880 Hengshan Lu

ZiWU

More of an art house than a bookstore, this three-storey space sells vinyls, photography prints, art and fashion books and design magazines (though books are really only available on the first floor, while the second and third floors are dedicated to design and photography). Located in a quiet area along Jianguo Zhong Lu, foot traffic is relatively low, even on the weekends, making this a great, quiet place to hole up in with your own book or one of its many art- and design-related titles. There is a 50RMB entrance fee, but with that you’ll get a cup of coffee or tea and unlimited entry for the day.

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10 Jianguo Zhong Lu

1984 Bookstore

The most hidden bookstore in this list (it's tucked behind an unmarked metal door with no signage), you're probably not going to stumble upon 1984 unless you’re looking intentionally. In fact, we’re not even sure we should be calling it a bookstore, as none of the books are for sale – they’re solely for browsing. 

The drinks are not the best, but what keeps regulars coming back is the homey vibe of the place, with its rough hewn wooden tables, outdoor seating and quiet, residential location.

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11 Hunan Lu

Old China Hand Style

Originally along Shaoxing Lu and open in town for some 20-odd years, the owner relocated Old China Hand Style to Shaanxi Nan Lu when the street underwent redevelopment. 

Find old titles largely relating to Shanghai and wider China architecture, design and history available for browsing (they’re part of owner Deke Erh’s personal collection), but there are also a handful of Mandarin novels and books written by the owner for sale. 

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374 Shaanxi Nan Lu

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