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.

19 thoughts on “The Best Mexico City Bookstores for Books in English

  1. I love books! And libraries! And bookstores! hahaha. I could spend hours just wandering around and browsing through books. LOL. El Pendulo in Condesa looks cozy. Are all these bookstores up and running now? Oh, and I’m in love with ‘crumply paper smell’, too. I would spend a couple of minutes smelling my book collection! 😛

  2. This post is so unique to me, I don’t see many posts about bookstores! Can’t believe Lonely Planet! I rely on LP so much! This is quite the deceit!

  3. That’s one thing the US is sorely missing these days: book stores! I went to a handful of grocery stores last month looking for a magazine issue I had written for, and I couldn’t find it anywhere…made me realize how much I miss brick-and-mortar book stores!

  4. I think it’s a great idea to share bookstores where you can get books in English. With the focus on convenience these day, I find myself going fewer times to the bookstores and buying the Kindle versions online. But being in a bookstore has its own charm and the joy of opening books, feeling its pages and deciding which one to buy like no other. One of my favourite bookstores that I have seen in my travels are the Atlantis Books in Oia and Shakespeare & Co in Paris.

  5. I feel you! I think I spend all my money in travels and books… but both are great investments! I’ll make sure to visit El Pendulo if I ever find myself in Mexico City. Thanks for sharing!

  6. This is awesome! I always have trouble finding English bookstores when I travel, so this is super helpful. Now to make my way over to Mexico City again… 🙂

  7. Wow this is amazing.
    I am headed to Mexico City in December and I’ll be looking out for this book store. Looks so rustic and cozy as well. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Haha I love this post! Very honest and helpful. El Pendulo looks really cute, there’s not much better than combining delicious coffee with a cozy book ;). I live in Austria now and whenever I travel to an English-speaking country, I’m always relieved to be able to go to any bookstore and find books in English!! I could really use a post like this about Vienna 😉 haha

  9. I love books and bookstores. When I pass by one, even in the most foreign cities, I can’t help but to have a peak. This list is amazing, perfect for picking up some new books during travels. Thanks for sharing!

  10. What a niche and interesting article. Great go-to for when I head to Mexico to get some great reads. I actually enjoy being around all the books too. Thanks for sharing!

  11. I love browsing through bookstores and I love Mexico City so I loved this post! Had no idea there were so many English bookstores so I will have to check some of these whenever I get back over there!!

  12. That’s a very cool addiction! I bet it’s fascinating to see what bookstores are like in other countries. I went to one in Tokyo once where they wrapped every book in beautiful paper – it was lovely!

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