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Unique Bookshops with Cafes in Canberra

Home > Canberra > Cafes | Literary | Music | Restaurants | Lists
by Sue W (subscribe)
New to Canberra, I love exploring this city and the secrets that it holds with my family.
Published March 6th 2017
Have breakfast at your local bookshop this weekend
Do you love books? Do you prefer new or second hand? For many of us, sifting through a bookshop of new or used books is like tracking down a prized treasure. As you angle your head to the side and read the titles of every book, there is a certain sense of achievement when you can pull out one out and say "Wow!". Perhaps it is a cook book you have always wanted, a novel from your favourite author or a children's book you remember from when you were young - what someone else will pass over, will be your own personal treasure.

Around Canberra there are a wide range of franchised bookshops, however there are two, completely different independent bookshops who have added on a cafe, so browsers can enjoy a coffee amongst the well-loved books. Others have also added live music and events to attract more customers to the literary, artistic environment. If you enjoy real books, coffee and delicious food, then why not give these these unique outlets a try. You are sure to come out with an armful of books and a new appreciation of the modern day bookshop - which now sells breakfast!

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Start your day at Muse - Food, Wine & Books. Source: Muse Facebook


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Muse - Food, Wine & Books, under the East Hotel in Kingston


1/ Muse - Food, Wine & Books is Canberra's newest bookshop cafe and restaurant, located underneath the East Hotel in Kingston. From the front it looks deceptively small and quiet, however when you walk inside there is a lively clink of coffee cups and happy chatter from the diners within. This is a sophisticated and stylish bookshop, with the books on artistic display as soon as you walk in the door, to capture your attention. Take a walk around and explore the new and used books - many with local authors and quirky subjects not seen in mainstream bookshops. If you are after children's picture books in particular, they have an extensive range for various ages. For a reasonably small venue, they have a large amount of events, book launches, wine tastings and talks that happen in this space - see here for their full events list.

Up a step on the next level is the combination cafe, bar and restaurant, which is open early each day for breakfast and late each night (except Sundays) for dinner for their hotel guests and locals nearby. Muse has an extensive Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner Menu, which gives diners the options of "little" or "big" meals, depending on their appetite. See here for details.

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Take a step up for a quality dining experience at Muse, Kingston


2/ Beyond Q is a second hand bookshop and cafe located at the Curtin local shops, south of the city. This outlet is a stark contrast to Muse (above), with a more quirky vibe and basement location. When walking through Curtin local shops you will see a set of stairs leading down to the bookshop cafe and the Nepalese restaurant next door. There is a sign advertising the shop has 4 kilometres of books, so you know you will be there awhile. Downstairs, the shop has narrow entry, however once you get inside there is plenty of room to explore. It is like walking through an old public library and their range is phenomenal.

Inside the self described "bohemian" bookshop, there is also a cosy cafe so book lovers can sit and flick through any number of books while they enjoy their coffee. They have a tasty menu with breakfast items starting at 10am and if you visit on weekends, they will often have musicians in the evenings playing for donations in their buskers buckets. See here for their calendar of events and details.

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4 kilometres of books, cake and live music at Beyond Q. Image: Original photos from Beyond Q Facebook


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Look for this signage and stairs at Curtin shops


For something different - Smiths Alternative is located in the heart of the city in the historic Melbourne Building. This is just a quick mention on this list as it is a well-known Canberra bookshop with cafe - and very unique - but it is no longer known for its books. Confused? Smiths Alternative bookshop opened in 1976 and became well known for its rare, illegal and "politically incorrect" books (of that time), that people couldn't find anywhere else. In 2015, it was bought by the founder of the Canberra Musicians Club and it now has live music there every night of the week. Even though they still call themselves a bookshop, the books have taken a back seat and music, poetry slams, coffee, whisky and vegan cakes have replaced them. See here for details.

With the technology that we now have at our fingertips, the independent bookshop struggles to find customers who want to enjoy an old-school, page-turning book. They now have to diversify into other areas such as music and coffee to survive. So why not support a small business and go "old school" this weekend and try out an independent bookshop with cafe. Whichever one you pick, it is sure to be a unique experience...

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Smiths Alternative Bookshop - without the books! Source: Smiths Alternative Facebook
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Why? Try somewhere new this weekend!
When: Muse - Monday to Friday: 6:30am - 10pm, Saturday: 7am - 10pm, Sunday: 7am - 3pm.
Phone: Muse - 02 6178 0024
Where: Muse - 69 Canberra Ave, Kingston ACT 2603
Cost: Menu items
Your Comment
Nicely written article, congrats on the award
by RC (score: 3|1211) 76 days ago
Foodi Photoh Classie
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