A Book Lover’s Guide to Mexico City

Mexico City was a book lover’s dream, full of open-air bookstores, magical libraries, and fantastic places to read. I visited the city late this past January, and while I of course hit all of the classic tourist destinations—climbing la Pirámide del Sol at Teotihuacán; marveling at Casa Azul, Frida Kahlo’s home in Coyoacán; and standing starstruck in front of the murals at the Palacio de Bellas Artes—I also, naturally, spent a lot of time finding the best places for literary tourism in Mexico City.

The most beautiful bookstores in Mexico City, the libraries that blew me away, the hidden places to read that made me feel the most at peace. Here are my recommendations for anyone visiting Mexico City who plans to go home with a pile of books, or who just appreciates some great bookish places when they travel. To someone who, like me, spent their time pre-trip figuring out the best books to read when visiting Mexico City.

From one book lover to another, here is a guide to Mexico City’s best bookish places.

Bookstores

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Mexico City Bookstore Visit #6: Porrúa in Chapultepec. It's about to be ludicrously cold in Chicago, and I have a pile of books and ARCs to read all of which I want to read first, and I have a long essay to revise, and my apartment is a total mess, so my plan for tonight is to go home and drink a lot of wine and pretend I'm still in Mexico where it was 70 degrees, there were trees growing through bookstores, and I could go sit on a bookstore porch beside a lake and write postcards and pretend I had no real obligations. ✨ #mexicocitybookstores #beautifulbookstores #porrúa #chapultepec #chapultepecpark #bookishtravel #literarytravel #obligations #anxiety #booksandwine #booksandcoffee

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Porrúa Chapultepec

A bookstore with a tree inside of it. You heard me right—in Chapultepec Park, right across the street from the National Museum of Anthropology, is a branch of Porrúa where a tree grows through the building, and the back of the bookstore is open to the air, a lovely porch beside the lake where you can read to your heart’s content.

Centro Cultural Elena Garro

Named after Elena Garro, writer and poet, this gorgeous bookstore in Coyoacán is full of light, with a gorgeous brick balcony, shelves and shelves of wonderful books, and a substantive collection on gender theory. I also found the people there kind and very helpful.

Under the Volcano Books

Seeking libros en inglés? It might be a good idea to seek out this English-language bookstore. I didn’t make it over there, but I’ve read many wonderful things about this bookstore in the beautiful neighborhood of Condesa.

Librería Rosario Castellanos

Rosario Castellanos was a brilliant poet and writer who influenced Mexican feminist theory, and this gorgeous art-deco-inspired bookstore was named for her. This gigantic bookstore is located within the Centro Cultural Bella Época, and you can sit and read for hours in the natural light.

El Péndulo

If there was one bookstore on this list where I wanted to spend more time, it was this one. This Condesa bookstore has a pendulum hanging from the 2nd floor ceiling, drawing sand patterns on a metal disc. It has a great selection—I purchased The Labyrinth of Solitude by Octavio Paz there in English—as well as a beautiful café with a balcony on the upper floors. A really wonderful, colorful place.

Bookish Places

Audiorama in Chapultepec Park

This place is literally my dream come true. Tucked away through a small gate near one of the Mexican cypress trees planted by Nezahualcóyotl, the poet king, hundreds of years ago, is a small cove. Surrounded by trees and flowers, all in shade, the castle peeking out from overhead, this is a clearing of rounded, comfortable benches, with speakers playing classical music, a rule of enforced silence, and a table of books you can borrow if you want. I journaled there as someone napped on a nearby bench; incense wafted from a small shrine in the cave to my right. It was intensely peaceful, and I wanted to stay there for hours. It is a perfect place to read.

Calle Donceles

From the Zócalo, walk past the Templo Mayor. You’ll see a branch of Porrúa; turn left and walk up Calle Donceles, a street dedicated to used bookstores. So many used bookstores, stretching far back, high shelves of cheap books, mostly in Spanish, but in English as well, stretching into the backs of these wonderful quiet shops. You’ll have plenty of stores to choose from; a book lover or collector could spend hours trying to find treasures in the book stacks.

Libraries

biblioteca de méxico

My biggest bookish regret from my trip to Mexico City is not making it to this library that a friend recommended. Painted in a vivid red, on the inside are rooms centered around the personal libraries of authors such as Antonio Castro Leal, Jaime García Terrés, Ali Chumacero and Carlos Monsiváis—each room has its own design, feel, and seeks to preserve the life and letters of each author. Located off the Balderas Metro stop, this is a must-see for book lovers visiting Mexico City—don’t be like me! Go see it!

Biblioteca Vasconcelos

Eight floors. Natural light streaming in. Metal girders and walkways holding everything so it appears the shelves are floating above your head. A whale skeleton hangs in the hall. This is the gorgeous and unbelievable Biblioteca Vasconcelos.

If book lovers go to one place in Mexico City, it should be this library. I fell in love instantly with its wooden shelves, its greenish walkways, its high ceiling. There are balconies on the upper floors where you can read; fresh air flows in through the doors. There’s a connected garden full of flowers and lush greenery where you can go and read. I browsed, explored, and took in the sights. It’s the library I never knew I needed: gorgeous, modern, strange, magnificent.

Where else should book lovers go while in Mexico City? Let me know in the comments.

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