The new buzzword among South African city travellers is ‘book safari’. It’s not just about hunting down the book you’re looking for, it’s also about the ambience of the ‘hunting grounds’ – like vibey Long Street in Cape Town, where discovering good books is only part of the experience.

Did you know?

Many of Cape Town's prime museums, including the Iziko Museums' South African Museum and the South African National Art Gallery, are within easy walking distance of Long Street.

Embarking on a Long Street book safari in the heart of Cape Town is a bit like going shopping for a wand in Diagon Alley, Harry Potter author JK Rowling’s fabulous, riotous, quasi-Victorian side street.

You know the wand (or, in this case, the book) is lurking there somewhere, amid the clutter of colour, traders, late-night mojito bars, tattoo parlours, lunch counters, samoosa dens, craft emporia and backpackers’ palaces.

And the fun of it all is in finding it.

There’s nothing like a good old Long Street book safari, which takes you deep into the worlds of Clarke’s Bookshop, Tommy’s and Select Books, just a short hop from the historic Long Street Baths.

At Clarke’s, for instance, you move from new offerings on the ground floor to an upstairs cave of collector’s literature. The owners travel regularly through southern Africa and keep local authors and customers happy with their stock.

Tommy’s also caters for the internet set, while Select Books takes visitors on a long journey from archaeology to zoology, with many stops en route – which include subjects such as hunting, mining, military, travel, trees, sport and the social life of early Cape Town.

The owners and managers of the book shops in Long Street live their literature and are only too happy to take the time to talk books.

Long Street book safari veterans generally stay somewhere on the street – such as an upmarket backpackers' establishment or one of the innovative new hotels like the Grand Daddy (with a retro trailer park on its roof) – and dedicate at least a day to one shop.

That way they can scour the myriad shelves, discuss prices, place orders and indulge themselves in the many pleasures of what people are calling 'Cape Town’s own little Bourbon Street'.

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