Bookstores, Bars, Baristas: The Bibliophile’s Tour of DC

By Anna Yallouris, Host Committee Member

If you are looking for a local bookstore or a quiet cafe to read or get some work done during the conference, DC has no shortage of independent bookstores and bookish destinations. Browse used and rare books, enjoy literary themed craft cocktails, cozy up with a cup of coffee and a good read, or dine at one of DC’s neighborhood bookstore cafes. The city offers a wide range of new and used bookstores in addition to literary themed bars, restaurants, and cafes worth checking out during your stay.  Below are a few popular spots and a list of additional bookstores to explore if you have extra time. Happy Reading!

Politics and Prose Bookstore and Coffeehouse

Politics and Prose is a spacious independent bookstore located in Upper Northwest, about a 10 minute ride from the conference.  P&P has a large selection of books, holds author events regularly, and offers a range of classes and programs. Be sure to check out their schedule of events during your visit.  In addition to the bookstore, The Den Coffeehouse and Wine Bar is located on the basement level of the bookstore.  The Den serves breakfast, lunch and dinner – stop by for a glass of wine, light fare or enjoy a cup of coffee or latte from one of the talented baristas.  The space can fill up quickly especially on the weekends, but is a nice treat after browsing the bookshelves.

P&P recently opened another location at the Wharf, D.C’s Southwest Waterfront.  Although it is much smaller, they too have author events, and it is a beautiful location surrounded by restaurants, shops, and a waterfront view.


Politics and Prose at the Wharf

Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe

If you don’t have time for multiple bookstore stops, Kramerbooks is the most conveniently located to the conference and is well worth a trip. Located in DuPont Circle, Kramerbooks is about a 6 minute ride from the conference hotel and is one stop away from Woodley Park metro on the red line, just outside the north exit of Dupont Circle metro station. Opened in 1976, Kramerbooks is DC’s first bookstore/cafe. It is a lively atmosphere complete with a bar, restaurant and newly expanded store that holds a number of book-related events. Dine at the Afterwords Cafe  and check out their full service bar for a “Gin of Gatbsy” or “Lord of the Pimms”. Happy hour specials are offered daily, and the late night menu is open until 1 AM on the weekdays and 3 AM on the weekends.



The Potter’s House

Another bookstore/cafe, The Potter’s House is also conveniently located near the conference in Adams Morgan and is about a 20 minute walk from Woodley Park metro or a quick drive. A nonprofit cafe, bookstore, and event space that specializes in social movements, cultural studies, and spiritual movements, they host author events and the cafe serves breakfast all day long.

Petworth Citizen & Reading Room

Although this is not a bookstore, The Reading Room is one of my favorite spots in the city. This book speakeasy of sorts is easy to miss, hidden in the back of Petworth Citizen, and features literary themed cocktails.  It is an intimate library setting with very limited seating where you will find yourself surrounded by books. Each weekend, the Reading Room’s bartender, Chantal Tseng, creates a limited-edition menu based on an author, book or literary theme. This weekly series of creative Literary Cocktails offers a unique experience for book lovers and cocktail connoisseurs.

The Reading Room is only open Friday and Saturday evenings starting at 7PM and I recommend arriving early, as it will get crowded quickly.  Otherwise, be prepared to wait at Petworth Citizen’s main bar or enjoy a meal beforehand which is not a bad option either: the food and drinks are great.

Just next door to Petworth Citizen you can stop by Upshur Street Books: a fun bookstore that has quirky books, and focuses on promoting DC culture and serving the community through books.


The Reading Room

Additional bookstores to explore:

Second story books: DuPont Circle collection of out-of-print, used and rare books. Within walking distance from Kramerbooks.

Busboys and Poets: Multiple locations (flagship location is  at 14th & V St NW in the U Street Corridor) – named after American poet Langston Hughes, who worked as a busboy at the Wardman Park Hotel.  A community gathering place that includes a restaurant and bookstore. Busboys and Poets promotes cultural, political and historical awareness, and is deeply committed to showcasing books and authors who have contributed to social justice . Diverse selection of books, author events and good food!

Capitol Hill Books: Used bookstore located near Eastern Market.

Riverby Books: A cozy used bookstore on Capitol Hill.

The Lantern Bookshop: Georgetown used bookshop – buy 4 books, get the 5th free!

Bridge Street Books: Georgetown bookstore (new books).

Idle Time Books: Used books, newspapers, records and CDs in the heart of Adams Morgan.