The Best Mexico City Bookstores for Books in English

Best bookstores in Mexico City for English Books - El Pendulo

I have an addiction. I arrive in a new city and plan to see the sights, but when I stumble across a bookshop en route, I can’t help but pop in “for five minutes”. Several hours later, I leave with my purse much lighter and my backpack significantly heavier. Yet, despite my lack of Spanish, this has not stopped me in Mexico – “Tiene novelas en Ingles?” And through my illness, I have discovered the best Mexico City bookstores (for books in English, that is!)…

The Best Mexico City Bookstores for Books in English - Under the Volcano Pin

El Pendulo, multiple branches in Mexico City

The Best Mexico City Bookstores for Books in English - Cafebreria El Pendulo
The Best Mexico City Bookstores for Books in English – El Pendulo in Condesa

Cafebreria El Pendulo is literally what I imagine heaven to be like: a bookshop/café, with occasional live music, titles available in English, excellent coffee and strong WiFi. My favourite branch is in Condesa, though the one in Polanco is also amazing.

From bestsellers, to biographies, to poetry, to science fiction, basically El Pendulo is one of the most popular Mexico City bookstores and one of the best cafes too for a reason. It’s paradise!

A full list of locations can be found here.

Under the Volcano, Condesa

The Best Mexico City Bookstores for Books in English - Under the Volcano in Condesa
The Best Mexico City Bookstores for Books in English – Under the Volcano in Condesa

If you’re like me and you like your bookstores a little less mainstream, then Under the Volcano is your Mecca. Brimming with used and secondhand tombs by alternative as well as bestselling authors, this libreria takes its name from the novel of the same name by English writer Malcolm Lowry, set in a small Mexican town on the Day of the Dead.

Under the Volcano (the bookstore) is small, but quality won out over quantity here, as I wanted to buy just about everything in this little shop.

In fact, I reserved a copy of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (I ironically lost my copy on the road in California) and was eyeing up their selection of Joan Didion titles too. I planned to return the next day with cash, as they don’t take card, but unfortunately a pesky earthquake got in the way.

Under the Volcano is back up and running now though, and can be found in the Condesa area, here. They’re also looking for book donations. That is, if you’re the antithesis of me and can bear to let go of a good book.

Libreria Rosario Castellanos, Condesa

The Best Mexico City Bookstores for Books in English - Libreria Rosario Castellanos
The Best Mexico City Bookstores for Books in English – Libreria Rosario Castellanos

I was skeptical about Libreria Rosario Castellanos. Yeah, there are books, but it’s like it’s trying to be too many things: art exhibition space, crèche, bookstore, video store, café… and the feeling inside is definitely more HMV than “curl up with a good book and steaming coffee in a comfy chair”.

However, as much as I resent anywhere that sells a Nicholas Cage DVD boxset in the same place as the sacred pages of an actual libro worth reading, I was pleasantly surprised by their collection of English reads. They definitely cater more to the pop-fiction and young adult crowd, but there were a few interesting poetry anthologies, a wide selection of classics and tempting novels by authors such as Kurt Vonnegut, which I was loathe to put back on the shelf.

You can find the address here. It’s a big white building with a fancy curved entrance. You can’t miss it.

American Bookstore, Centro

The Best Mexico City Bookstores for Books in English - American Bookstore in Centro
The Best Mexico City Bookstores for Books in English – American Bookstore in Centro

I hate this place. American Bookstore is everything wrong with the world today, but I can’t deny that this is one of the few Mexico City bookstores that does indeed have English titles on its (poorly stocked) shelves. Lonely Planet once again deceived me when it said that this was one of the best Mexico City bookstores, simply because it stocks Lonely Planet guides.

Shame on you, LP. Shame.

1) The books are wrapped in cling film so you can’t open them. 2) There is literally nothing American about this place. It mostly specialises in English-Spanish dictionaries. The staff don’t even speak English. I don’t get it. 3) Your choice is limited to pop-drivel like 50 Shades, Twilight and that Fault in our Stars shite that seems to be everywhere at the moment.

If you’re lucky, you might even find a copy of the Da Vinci Code.

If you read that last paragraph and thought, “What is Amy talking about? I love those books!” then this is the Mexico City bookstore for you, the address is here and also, we’re not friends any more.

La Calle de Donceles (Book Street), Centro

The Best Mexico City Bookstores for Books in English - Donceles Street in Centro
The Best Mexico City Bookstores for Books in English – Donceles Street in Centro

However, just as I was sighing and giving up hope of finding English books in Mexico City’s Centro Historico after the disaster that was the American Bookstore, I happened upon La Calle de Donceles, also known (at least by me) as Book Street.

Note: similar to how shopping works in Hong Kong and other places in Asia, all shops that sell the same thing seem to be on the same street. This is kind of pointless for staff in these stores, considering the competition, but also incredibly convenient for those doing the purchasing.

I popped my nose into one particular bookish hole in the wall and tentatively asked, “Tiene novelas en Ingles?” expecting the answer to be “No!”, but it was “Si!” and I ended up walking out with a copy of Brave New World, which has been on my to-read list for years!

Believing this to be an utter fluke (the store was playing and singing along badly to the best hits of The Beatles, so I thought perhaps they were just anglophiles), I tried the next store. Si! And the next. Si! And the next. Si!

Despite appearances, all these backstreet Mexico City bookstores had English titles, with a lot of diversity in choice and super-cheap prices. Plus, most of these bookshops are incredibly satisfying to walk around (see pictures), though I’ve no idea how anyone knows where anything is.

Be aware that these establishments will ask you to leave your backpack at the desk while you browse. Also, either by happy coincidence or perhaps employed as sentinels, all these book stores have cats.

The best Mexico City bookstores for English titles… or have I missed one out?

The Best Mexico City Bookstores for Books in English - Novela en Ingles
The Best Mexico City Bookstores for Books in English – Donceles Street in Centro

Am I the only one who gets sucked in by that crumply paper smell and the promise of a good story? Do you have a good book recommendation (especially one about Mexico or written by a Mexican author)? Have I missed any excellent Mexico City bookstores that you believe should have a place on this list?

Then leave a comment below and also pin this for later because you never know when you might need to know the best Mexico City bookstores for English books…

The Best Mexico City Bookstores for Books in English - El Pendulo Pin

For further reading (of course, what else?), I highly recommend Northern Lauren’s literary tours of Roma and Condesa, and the Historical Centre, as well as her list of must-read books about Mexico.

That Vancouver Lifestyle: One Week in Vancouver, City of Hipsters

Vancouver lifestyle - one week in the city blog cover

This past July, I spent one week in Vancouver, getting a little taste of Canada and visiting fellow ACLE alumna/travel blogger The Global Shuffle. But, the city wasn’t quite what I expected. This is the story of how I learnt to put down my old faithful Lonely Planet, stopped sightseeing and starting experiencing what can only be described as the Vancouver lifestyle:

One Week in Vancouver: City Sightseeing vs the Vancouver Lifestyle

Lonely Planet had never disappointed me until I spent one week in Vancouver this summer.

I’ve clung to the pages of my beloved LPs for years, like a travel comfort blanket. From my five-years-out-of-date copy of Southeast Asia on a Shoestring, to library-stolen Japan guides, to my dear beloved dogeared guide to Italy, guidebooks in general are special to me. Read more

A Tale of Two Earthquakes in Mexico City

earthquakes in mexico city cover

So, in my short time in Mexico I have managed to survive not one, but two major earthquakes in Mexico City. Of course, there have always been earthquakes in Mexico City and in Mexico in general, but these were some of the biggest that the country has seen. This is the story about what happened to me during and after both of these huge earthquakes in Mexico City.

Before I start, if you are looking for practical advice about what to do during earthquakes in Mexico City, then please read Northern Lauren’s The Anxious Girl’s Guide to Earthquake Etiquette. The first part is tongue-in-cheek (and a hilarious read), but there’s also some important and practical information about what to do during earthquakes at the end. Read more

My Favourite Quotes from Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I’ve been quiet for a few months on this blog. This has been partly an intentional break and partly because I’ve struggled to find the right words to articulate the reasons behind my hiatus. However, if there are any words that can best describe the tumultuous swinging between wanderlust and a craving for home that I’ve been feeling, they can be found in quotes from Wild by Cheryl Strayed.

Ironically, I read Strayed’s travel memoir in my hometown, rather than on the road. Yet, in six months of hibernation back on British soil, I found that I couldn’t concentrate on reading Wild when I was sitting still. Instead, I turned the pages on trains and buses.

It was as if I needed to be in transit for the journey to resonate.

It seems apt that now that I’ve left home once again for the next adventure (more on this to come), that the time is ripe to share some of my favourite passages and quotes from Wild on this blog. Read more

The Best Buddha Quotes About Life

Buddha Statue

Who else loves a good Buddha quote? *Raises hand* Yup, sometimes I just need a little pick-me-up from the B. Man. So, if you’re like me, then please enjoy this little compilation of the best Buddha quotes about life that have finally pulled me out of my blog slump.

After #40days40blogs I kinda burnt out on blog writing. My week off turned into two… or maybe three… and then four. I’ve still been working on here behind the scenes, polishing up content and improving the site in general. But, I’ll admit that I’ve been putting off the actual writing for a while.

Then, last week was the ole Buddha’s Birthday, a public holiday in Hong Kong, though sadly not back here in the UK (Corbyn, add it to the list?). I found myself getting sucked down the rabbit hole of Pinterest ‘Buddha Quote’ pins with equal amounts of procrastination and (p)inspiration…

Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.

Buddha Quote Peace- Young Buddhist Monk With Umbrella Read more

Blog Number 40: The #40Days40Blogs Challenge Finale!

Blog Number 40 - Cover

…Aaaaaaaaaand blog number 40! Yay! Although there were times I thought this day would never come, Easter is finally here and I am finally writing and hitting Publish on blog number 40 of my #40Days40Blogs challenge.

It’s been a bit insane, but all worth it in the end. Of everything that I’ve even given up for Lent, ‘being unproductive’ was definitely the toughest. Just in case you missed a few, for blog number 40 I’ve included a roundup of everything I’ve written as part of my #40Days40Blogs challenge:

Travel Catch-ups

Blog Number 40 - Laos

One great thing about challenging myself with #40days40blogs is that it gave me the kick up the butt I needed to finally post all my stuff about my trip around Southeast Asia. I had loads of notes and thoughts lying around, but I just needed the time and dedication to edit and publish. Read more

Things I Learnt From Writing 40 Blogs in 40 Days

40 blogs in 40 days - Cover

Say it with me! One more blog! One more blog! ONE MORE BLOG! That’s right. This blog is number 39, which means that it’s the penultimate blog of my #40days40blogs challenge! It’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride, but here is what I have learnt from writing 40 blogs in 40 days…

1. 40 is a really, really, really large number.

40 blogs in 40 days - #40Days40Blogs
Blog 1: #40Days40Blogs | This Lent, I’m Giving Up Being Unproductive

OK, duh. But, writing my first post about committing myself to this challenge and creating a cute little hashtag for myself made #40days40blogs seem like a great idea at the time. I’d given up chocolate for Lent before and it was fine. 40 days is long, but it’s doable, right?

Skip forward a couple of weeks and I’m realising that writing 40 blogs in 40 days means dedicating three or more hours every day to writing a decent post (and it’s mostly more). That’s a minimum of 120 hours. That’s at least five whole days I’ve spent on WordPress. Read more

What Are Beg-Packers & Are They Really That Bad?

Beg-packers - backpacks

Beg-packers are everywhere in the media at the moment. They’ve been around for a while, but a rise in numbers (and a rise in blatant insensitivity) are getting people really mad. So, what are beg-packers, why are they asking for money and are they wrong to do so?

Here are a few answers to those questions and my own personal opinion, which argues that beg-packing is pretty ridiculous, but it isn’t all bad (read first before you get angry at me too).

What are beg-packers?

Beg-packers - begging
By @Joop_nl via Twitter

Beg-packers are Western (majority white) tourists who are asking others to fund their travelling. Beg-packers are raising this money through crowdfunding websites such as fundmytravel.com, hawking postcards or busking on the street, and in some cases, just begging for money. Read more

Chasing Home | A Few Thoughts On Being Between Places

Chasing Home - Cover

Hey guys. So, I recently participated in the World Nomads Travel Writer Scholarship programme, where I wrote a piece on the theme ‘a place that is unfamiliar to me’. Devastatingly, I didn’t win the scholarship (next year, perhaps?), so here is my entry published here instead, entitled Chasing Home:

Chasing Home: Big Buddha, Hong Kong
Chasing Home: Big Buddha, Hong Kong

When I first arrived in Hong Kong, I described the city as a sensory overload.

Fresh durian and fermented bean curd in the steaming streets of Mong Kok. Strobing neon signs on Nathan Road. Soup noodles slipping from chopsticks held between clumsy fingers. The telltale salty tang of MSG. Tonal Chinese languages with staccato one-syllable words.

I loved it.

Chasing Home: City Lights, Hong Kong
Chasing Home: City Lights, Hong Kong

The longer I spent in the city, the more it felt like home. Weekends spent hiking in the New Territories or lapping up the sun on the trio of Tai Long Wan beaches. Evenings spent in TST or Central or Wan Chai, drinking overpriced cocktails in tiny bars or sitting on the waterfront with cheap beers from 7-Eleven.

Summers were coated in a thick layer of smothering humidity, while winters sparkled in red and gold, auspicious signs for the coming Lunar New Year. The sunlight was thick and creamy like milk tea in the day, then deep orange like the peel of a mandarin in the evening. Read more

A Day in Oxford City Told Through Oxford Dictionary Definitions

Oxford City - Oxford Dictionary: Oxfordian

Dictionary: A book or electronic resource that lists the words of a language (typically in alphabetical order) and gives their meaning. Inspired by a long (and sunny!) weekend in the home of Oxford University, here is a day in Oxford city as told through Oxford Dictionary definitions…

Oxford City - Oxford Dictionary: Muggle
Oxford City – Oxford Dictionary: Muggle

Muggle: A person who is not conversant with a particular activity or skill. Can often be found touristing around Harry Potter filming locations in Oxford.

1990s: from mug + -le; used in the Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling to mean ‘a person without magical powers’.

‘she’s a muggle: no IT background, understanding, or aptitude at all’

Oxford City - Oxford Dictionary: Ashmolean Museum
Oxford City – Oxford Dictionary: Ashmolean Museum

Ashmolean Museum: A museum of art and antiquities in Oxford. It opened in 1683 and was the first public institution of its kind in England.

‘no, despite the empty tables you may not have a drink in the Ashmolean Museum Restaurant because of some vague excuse about an event or maybe allude to how it’s members only, but probably we’re just a bit snobby.’ Read more

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