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Wandering Through the Second Hand Bookstores of San Jose

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There are few things as pleasurable as wandering around a city. Even if you’ve lived in the same place for years, it is always refreshing to go around the town and explore the urban landscape. Every location, every building has a story to tell and all it takes is a light stroll to listen to what it has to say.

There are great urban landmarks and neighborhoods in San José. Barrio Escalante, Rohrmoser and Aranjuez are filled with gorgeous buildings and monuments. However, there are also places of great beauty which are hidden in different corners of the capital.

One of those are the second-hand bookstores of San José, a city that is a source of inspiration for the makers of your handicraft gifts.

Urban drawings

The Unit’s illustrations capture perfectly what it feels like to wander around the capital.

Why Visit Bookstores

Books seldom make a bad present. Even if the person doesn’t enjoy reading, there are always one or two books that would be attractive. The world of reading is open to anyone. But books don’t come by themselves. Bookstores and libraries are not only havens for readers, they are great places to find new stories.

Bookstores are the perfect place to go when you want to discover a new universe through a book. They are magical spots where knowledge can be shared and transmitted. At a bookstore, especially a second-hand bookstore, you have the opportunity of exploring an entire new world through your senses.

And we’re not only talking about the smell of old books. Second-hand bookstores in San José are little time capsules: here, time seems to stop or at least slow down considerably. These are places of great cultural importance, as the owners have assisted millions of people in their search for new readings and new visions of the world.  

The King of Second Hand Bookstores: El Erial

This bookstore is a little jewel for those who love books: located in the heart of San José, it opened its doors in 1943, in the middle of the Second World War, when bringing books from Europe was an almost impossible task. El Erial is, in fact, the oldest used bookstore in the country: to walk through its aisles is to visit a little piece of Costa Rica's history..

Its original owner, Carlos Valverde, wanted to find a way to exchange the books that already existed in the capital. This is the reason this historical bookstore was opened. As a matter of fact, it currently bears the motto: "Stronghold of Cultural Enrichment". 

Its current owner, Manuel López, makes the book selection and is in charge of buying, selling and exchanging books. He’s also keen in recommending new readings: you can choose from a variety of 15,000 books. You can move around the shelves through hundreds of topics, either classic or contemporary.

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An Oasis When Exploring San José

Mora Books, owned by Darren Mora, this unique and quirky bookstore has been an icon for book lovers since it was established in 1991. What bookworm hasn't spent hours searching for treasure amidst the chaos of its mountains of titles? 

However, at Mora Books you have to go with time: time to search, talk and get lost among its collection of books. To visit it is to enter an oasis, outside the hustle and bustle of the capital, where time stands still. It is also an excellent option to find used books in English and other languages (especially German and French), old magazines, classic comics, records and vinyls. 

More Than Books: Librería Libro Azul

This bookstore is not only a place to buy books: antiques, acetates and other relics can also be exchanged, giving the establishment its museum feel. The navigation of the bookstore is easy since it is a clean and organized space, where finding new authors or works is easy and pleasant.  

Its owner, Mariano Víquez, is an attentive bookseller who is always willing to talk and charm customers with his good treatment and humanity. You can also talk to him and ask him to recommend a "jewel" or a collection book from his selection of more than 25,000 books. 

Expo 10, an Cultural Landmark

Its humble exterior hides a wide variety of used books, including an impressive collection of National Geographic magazines and vinyls. Its vast collection of books stacked on shelves, close together, makes it certain that you'll never, ever know about all the books that inhabit those halls. Its owner, Ronald Chinchilla, is one of the attractions of the place: he knows his maze inside out.

Local Keeps is the best Costa Rica Online Shopping place to find quality and impactful handcrafted gifts. And if you want to buy great books online, navigate our Books category or write to us at if you have any questions!

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