One of the most unique places I ever visited in Nanjing was the bookstore Librairie Avant-Garde. Located next to Wutaishan Stadium, the bookstore is within short walking distance of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, and was always a fun place to visit for a short study break, or to sit and read for hours.
The first time I ever went to Avant-Garde, my friend and I actually walked by it about two times before we finally found the entrance. The fact that this bookstore used to be an old underground car park adds to the difficulty of finding it, but also enhances the overall uniqueness of the store. When you first walk through the entrance, it is somewhat unassuming. You see a variety of different postcards for sale, and some unique artwork, but it isn’t until you walk up a rather steep incline that you see how vast extraordinary the bookstore truly is.
As an avid reader, I found Avant-Garde to be a quiet slice of paradise in an otherwise huge city teeming with traffic, bicycles and pedestrians. There was one particular section of the bookstore which I thoroughly enjoyed. It contained practically all of the classic novels of Western literature, from Pride and Prejudice to almost anything ever written by Charles Dickens, but it included both the English and Chinese versions of the novel. If you are trying to find materials to practice your Chinese by reading a book you might be a bit more familiar with, then Avant-Garde is the place to go.
Aside from my favorite section of the bookstore, Avant-Garde also includes a coffee shop, sections on almost every topic imaginable, and couches where you can simply sit, read and not be bothered. Another section of the store includes a creative workshop where you can find designs made by local artists. It seems that Avant-Garde has a little bit of everything to appeal to almost anyone. If you are looking for a unique way to spend an afternoon in Nanjing, then you won’t want to miss out on this bookstore which is unlike any other I’ve ever visited. It’s so big that you can’t really appreciate all there is to see in just one visit. It’s a place you’ll want to go to again and again.