My Favourite Bookstores From Around the World

By Kate Arnold

My Favourite Bookstore from Around the World

Bookstores are magical. They are some of my favourite places and when I’m travelling I often seek out famous or infamous bookstores. Here are some of my favourites from my travels.

The Strand | New York

This one might just be my favourite on this list of favourites. The Strand is located in the East Village of Manhattan and was opened in 1927. On my trip to New York visited The Strand twice and spend over an hour there each time looking at shelf upon shelf of books deciding what to take home with me. This iconic bookstore is known for having ’18 Miles of Books’ within its many levels and also sells a wide range book-related merchandise. The New York Times dubbed The Strand ‘the undisputed king of the city’s independent bookstores’ and truer words have never been written. The Strand sells new and used books and well as rare and out-of-print editions. 

Shakespeare and Company | Paris

Shakespeare and Company has a long history in Paris, the first shop opening in 1919 and became a gathering place for aspiring writers of the time such as Earnest Hemingway and James Joyce. The store closed in 1941 during the German occupation of Paris and was never reopened. In 1951 another bookstore by the name of Le Mistral was opened but it was renamed Shakespeare and Company in 1964 on the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth. To this day the store remains open of the east bank of the river Seine in Paris. My favourite thing about Shakespeare and Company is that it continues to be a refuge for writers and artists. They offer a place to sleep at the bookstore in exchange for helping out at the shop. Their motto, ‘be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise’ holds true and they continue to host these ‘Tumbleweeds’ (as the guests came to be known). It’s a dream of mine to one day sleep amount the shelves of Shakespeare and Company and a Tumbleweed. 

Waterstones | Amsterdam

Waterstones is known for being a UK based bookstore chain but the Amsterdam location stole my heart. This bookstore is four floors of shelves full of books, in both English and Dutch. The quiet atmosphere of this Waterstones feels like that of a library and there are seating areas so that you can read a chapter and see if the book is for you. Like The Strand, you’ll find a range of book-related merchandise, such as tote bags, stationary and bookmarks.

Gay’s The Word | London

Gay’s the Word is a bookstore in the Bloomsbury district of London that sells queer fiction and non fiction. They hosts events for those in the LGBTQIA+ community such as a Lesbian Discussion Group every Wednesday evening and TransLondon meetings on the third Tuesday of every month. This is the first and last surviving bookstore in the UK that is dedicated to selling exclusively queer literature.

Embiggen Books | Melbourne

If you want to buy a beautiful book and get a latte in the same place Embiggen Books is where you need to go. This gem is hidden away on Little Londsdale Street in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD, not far from the Victoria State Library. This bookstore has a vintage vibe and, to complete you book searching experience, there is a coffee cart in the store that will serve you a great Melbourne quality coffee.

Where is your favourite bookstore? Is it one that you’ve found while travelling or one that you love in your home town? Have you been to any of the bookstores I’ve mentioned above or would you like to? Are there any Tumbleweeds out there? I’d love to hear about your experience!

Carols By Candlelight | Melbourne

By Kate Arnold

Vision Australia’s Carols By Candlelight is an annual concert in the heart of Melbourne, just a short walk across the Yarra from Flinders Street Station, which raises money for the charity Vision Australia. All proceeds of ticket sales directly support children who are blind or have low-vision. It’s a magical evening for friends and families to enjoy and get into the Christmas spirit.

One of my favourite Christmas traditions is watching Carols By Candlelight on TV with my mum, grandma and my sisters. We crack open some white wine and buy nice cheeses and sing along to the whole show. Last year we went to Carols at the Sidney Myer Musical Bowl for the first time and here’s our experience and what we would do differently next time.

Get There EARLY

Every one knows this (theoretically WE knew this), but let me say it loud and clear for everyone in the back: Get. There. Early. The event starts at 8pm but you want to be getting there at 6:00 at the latest if you want to get great seating. We bought general admission lawn seats (the cheapest you could buy) so we weren’t expecting great views, but the only seats we could get were at the very back of the lawn and we arrived around 6:30 – 6:45. People camp out all day to get the best lawn seats so just be aware that that’s what you’re competing with.

Bring Blankets

I know, I know. Christmas is in the summertime in Australia but last year we were freezing. You can buy blankets at the event but they sell out pretty quickly and cost unspeakable amounts of money. You’ll want a picnic blanket to sit on (and some pillows because after a while the grass doesn’t feel so soft anymore) and fold up chairs are a good idea for any older family members you are bringing with you. 

Airport-like Security

It didn’t occur to us that there would be airport grade security to get into an event like this but of course there has to be. This means longer lines to get in, longer waiting times and bag searches. You are allowed to bring in bottled water that’s in a sealed plastic container (not environmentally friendly but a safety precaution). You are not allowed to bring in alcohol or any other drinks that are not in sealed containers (like the iced tea I’d made and sadly had to tip out onto the grass). You can buy alcohol at stands around the venue but it will cost you a pretty penny. 

Bring Food

Bring a picnic. Likewise with the alcohol you will be able to buy food like hot chips, burgers and other carnival foods but it’s damn expensive. We brought cheeses and crackers as well as homemade gingerbread biscuits and other finger food. Remember that the event goes over dinner time and you’ll be there pretty late so bring something substantial to eat so that you don’t end up spending hundreds on chips and sausage rolls and the food carts.

Consider Going to the Rehearsal

If you’ve already got Christmas Eve plans and you’re still interested in the event or you don’t want to shell out the money for the tickets then you should consider going to the rehearsal night on the 23rd of December. Tickets only cost $25 for adult and $15 for children. Unfortunately because the tickets are so cheap the rehearsal sells out fast – faster than the actual event – and there are none left for this year’s Carols By Candlelight rehearsal but you should definitely keep it in mind for next year. 

Get in the Christmas Spirt

Carols is really a magical experience because it brings families and friends together at a time of giving. It’s a great activity to get you into a festive mood before the big day. There are so many wonderful Christmas carols all about loving one another and isn’t that what Christmas is really all about? 

Carols By Candlelight is a great Christmastime activity to do with your family, if you are in Melbourne I would highly recommend going at least once. This year I’m happy to be watching Carols from my living room again but I’m so glad that we went last year and I would definitely go again in the future. Tickets are still available for Carols By Candlelight here.

Don’t forget to check out Laura’s Christmas Guide to Melbourne where she tells you all about Carols as well as other great things you can do in the holiday season like watching Christmas Movies at the Moonlight Cinema and visiting the famous Myers Christmas Windows on Bourke Street and going to the Summer Night Markets at the Queen Vic Markets.

What are your Christmas traditions? I’d love to hear about them in the comments. Have you been to Carols By Candlelight in Melbourne at the Sidney Myer Musical Bowl or do you watch it on TV every year like we do? Let me know.

Happy Holidays!

10 Free Things to do in Melbourne

By Kate Arnold


Visiting Melbourne can be kind of expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. There’s plenty of free things you can do if you are on a budget. Here’s 10 free things to add to your to do list if you’re travelling in Melbourne.

1. Take a Tour of the Street Art

Melbourne is renown for it’s graffiti and street art culture, so while you’re in the city you’d be remiss is you didn’t seek any out. Hosier Lane is the most famous graffiti street, which you find off Flinders Lane. Continue on to AC/DC Lane and Union Lane to see more incredible street art.

2. Say Hi to the Penguins on St. Kilda Pier

On a sunny day the St. Kilda beaches are full of swimmers, sunbathers and kite-surfers. Take a towel and a book and spend a chilled day reading on the sand, or bring your swimmers and take a dip in the sea if it’s a warm enough day. But don’t go away when the sun goes down; at sunset you’ll see the fairy penguins returning to land.

3. Jump on the City Circle Tram

Trams in Melbourne are a way of life for locals but the City Circle Tram (route 35) is completely free and audio guide will tell you all about the sites that you pass on your commute. You’ll see places such as Federation Square, Melbourne Aquarium, Docklands, Parliament House, the Princess Theatre and the City Museum as you travel in on of Melbourne’s classic W-Class trams. The City Circle runs in both directions every 12 minutes from 10 am – 6 pm Sunday to Wednesday and from 10 am – 9 pm from Thursday to Saturday.

4. Hang Out at the State Library of Victoria

Libraries are a great place to take a breather (and charge your phone!) while travelling. If you’re desperate for some free wifi and somewhere to sit in peace and quite you’ll find it at SLV. The library has some of Melbourne’s most famous architecture is a free exhibition of full of old books and texts that is always available to visit.

5. Have a Picnic at the Royal Botanical Gardens

The Royal Botanical Gardens are the perfect place to spend a leisurely afternoon. Take some lunch for a picnic or take advantage of the free walking tours that are held everyday. These tours begin at 10:30 am and 2 pm and each run for about an hour and a half. A guide will talk you through the different types of flora and fauna in the gardens while you take a stroll though the park.

6. Pay Your Respects at the Shrine of Remembrance

While you’re at the Royal Botanical Gardens you might as well look in at the Shrine of Remembrance, where you’ll find a memorial to the Victorian soldiers who fought in World War I, relics from the war and the eternal flame, which has been burning since 1954 when it was lit by the Queen to commemorate those who perished in World War II. From the Shrine you’ll see stunning views of Melbourne skyline

7. National Gallery of Victoria International

On your way back to the city from the Shrine of Remembrance you’ll pass the NGV International, where their ongoing collection of international art at the Ian Potter Centre is always free to visit. You’ll find a range of names that you recognise such as Picasso and Monet on as you wander around the gallery. NGV International is also the home of the worlds largest stained glass ceiling, where you will find people lying on the floor to get a good view.

8. Head to Spleen Bar on Burke Street for a Free Comedy Show

Every Monday night Spleen Bar holds free comedy nights (though a gold coin donation is appreciated). Some of Melbourne’s best comedians, such as Wil Anderson, Claire Hooper,  Tom Ballard, Frank Woodley, Sammy J and Josh Thomas have performed at Spleen. Grab a drink and get ready for some laughs

9. Trivia Night at Common Man at South Wharf

Tuesday night is Trivia Night at Common Man, which is free to enter, grab some friends to form a team and test your knowledge. Drink specials are also on offer as well as $10 pizzas to complete your bargain evening.

10. Check Out a Market

Melbourne is full of markets that you can take a stroll through, the most famous being the Queen Victoria Markets, where you will find gadgets, clothing and toys as well as food and fresh fruit and vegetables. The Camberwell Markets are on every Sunday mornings and though they do require a gold coin donation for entry, you’ll find secondhand and vintage clothes, jewellery, shoes, books and other bric-a-brac. The Rose Street Artists’ Market in Fitzroy is full of local artwork. There’s also Esplanade Market in St Kilda and the Sister’s Market in Brunswick. A trip to any one of these markets would be a great excuse to get out of the CBD and check out one of these ultra hip suburbs.

Spending a day in Melbourne doesn’t have to be expensive. There’s so much to do in this city that doesn’t cost a cent. If you check out any of these places, let us know! What’s your favourite free thing to do in your city? Don’t forget to check out Laura’s article on free things you can do in New York City!