My Christmas day 2015 was spent getting lost in Berlin. My friend and I walked for a good few hours through the centre of Berlin and out to the neighbourhood of Friedrichshain, which we had heard was the ‘cool area’. We were just starting to feel tired and in need of a pit-stop when what should we find around the next corner? A sign displaying the heavenly words, ‘WOW! Fine BOOKS…’
Bookshop cafés have to be one of the best types of shops (one of my favourites being The Globe in Prague), and this one ticked all the boxes.
Speaking of Prague, Shakespeare and Sons actually started off in Prague, with a great bookshop in Malá Strana, close to Charles Bridge. It’s a shop I’ve visited many times but not yet written about on the blog. Berlin also has a branch in Prenzlauer Berg, but the one I came across on Christmas day was the third and most recent shop which opened in May 2014.
Shakespeare and Sons on Warschauerstrasse is large and airy. As you walk through the door, you are met with a brilliant welcome of books. Straight ahead there are bookshelves filled with a mixture of new releases in both paperback and hardback. And different categories such as film, music, food and a bit of poetry too. This is where I found a copy of Patti Smith’s Woolgathering on display. It’s been on my wishlist for a while, but I couldn’t risk buying it due to Easyjet luggage restrictions!
To the left of the entrance there’s a lovely display of coffee table books covering everything from art and architecture to fashion and cookery. It was lovely to linger over these books on the way out. I particularly enjoyed giggling at The Ladybird Book of the Mid-Life Crisis. In this part of the shop you can also find a small selection of children’s books, cards, postcards and wrapping paper.
Food and drink can be ordered on the right hand side. There is a beautiful display of bagels and a good selection of cakes and biscuits, all neatly arranged in glass jars and on cake stands. It did all look very delicious, but I was still feeling full from my Christmas lunch (Goulash soup and Glühwein). I’m afraid I didn’t take any photos of this part of the shop, as I was too eager to explore the bookshelves! However, this review has some mouthwatering photos if you’re big on bagels.
Armed with our drinks, my friend and I headed to the middle of the shop to sit down. It didn’t take long to down my cappuccino (which was very nice) and jump up to browse the shelves. I started at the back of the shop, in the ‘computer-free room, dedicated to face-to-face interactions with real live human beings, real paper books, and real fine bagels’. I didn’t take any photos in here, as I thought it might be frowned upon! However I did manage a sneaky shot from the outside…
Back in the main room, I was pleased to see a quirky section of the shop, using suitcases to display journals made out of reused books. It’s quite a novel idea, especially the old cookery books which would be perfect for writing out recipes.
And shelves for poetry, drama and more children’s books (including a battered sale suitcase).
This branch of Shakespeare and Sons concentrates on quality over quantity. It’s a large, clutter-free space, perfect for keeping a clear mind. Many of the customers had their laptops out and I imagine lots of people come here to write essays and use the free wifi.
The shop isn’t stuffed with books in the same way that some of my favourite bookshops are. But there’s enough quirkiness going on here for it to still have character, and enough great books to keep any bookworm happy. There’s also a wide range of subjects available, such as history, politics, travel and philosophy, as well as sci-fi, fantasy and general fiction.
With the majority of the books being English speaking or translations (I also saw some French and German language books), this bookshop has a real expat feel. I bet it’s a great place to meet people. I saw a couple of flyers lying around for literary events and the Facebook page seems quite active.
It was dark by the time we left. As we passed the outside of the shop, we were pleasantly surprised to see drawers filled with second hand books. So, I suppose they managed to cram in some extra books after all!
All in all it was a lovely Christmas day, made even better with the discovery of a great bookshop.
If you happen to be in Berlin and want to check it out, visit their websites: Shakespeare and Sons and Fine Bagels. You can also keep up with news and events on their Facebook pages: Shakespeare and Sons and Fine Bagels.