Book capital of the world: Hay on Wye in Wales, UK

Bookshelves of Hay on Wye in Wales. Photo by Gizelle Lau.
Photo by Gizelle Lau.

If you love books, then you’ll love the quirky little town of Hay-on-Wye in Wales – where you’ll find endless bookshelves packed with books, books, and more books.

Known as the Book Capital of the World or the “town of books,” Hay-on-Wye is the town with the most bookstores and second-hand bookstores in the world – something like 30 bookstores in a town of just under 2,000 residents.

There are shelves all over the town – inside the stores, outside the stores, under tents in empty spaces, in garages, in the old Hay-on-Wye castle, against the town walls – that are filled with discount books. 

Quirky bookstores like the “Honesty Bookstore” have shelves full of books with no store clerks, but instead have containers where you can donate or pay for the books a la honour system. 

Specialty bookstores are also popular, like Murder & Mayhem that specializes in detective, horror & crime books; Rose’s Books that specializes in rare and out-of-print children’s and illustrated books; or Marijana Dworski Books that specializes in dictionaries or grammar and linguistics books.

Every summer, UK newspaper The Guardian hosts the annual Hay Festival, a literary festival that draws 80,000 visitors and some of the world’s most famous writers for book signings, readings, concerts, book sales, family activities, comedians, and more.

As if this town couldn’t get any quirkier – enter Richard Booth – the man known to have put Hay-on-Wye on the map from a small market town to a book destination.  As part of a publicity stunt in 1977, he declared himself the King of Hay-on-Wye and declared the town to be a kingdom independent of England. 

For more on visiting Hay-on-Wye, go to:

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