Here’s a totally underrated attraction in the Twin Cities: Midway Used & Rare Books in St. Paul.
If you’re like me, you might have driven by this University Avenue staple hundreds of times. But if you haven’t been in, well then you’re seriously missing out.
This bookstore is an absolutely treasure trove of old books. It includes everything from commonly used paper to some of the rarest out of print books in the world.
All in all, there’s hundreds of thousands of books, and it’s easily one of the largest bookstores not just in the Twin Cities, but in the entire state of Minnesota.
Allow me to show you around…
A preliminary note for tourists…
For anyone who’s not a local, this tour should come with a disclaimer.
As you might be able to guess from the name, Midway Used & Rarebooks sits in St. Paul’s Midway neighborhood, right on University Ave. For the uninitiated, this area is, umm… not exactly the nicest part the Twin Cities.
I was reminded this at the beginning of my trip, when I pulled into the “parking in the rear” lot behind the bookstore. I was greeted by a rusty, abandoned car in the middle of the lot, and as I made the short walk to the storefront, was almost ran over by an aggressive driver.
The things we’ll do for a good book…
Welcome to One of the Coolest Bookstores in the City [Photo Tour]
From the outside, the bookstore just looks like a treasure trove. It wraps around almost the entire city block and promises three different floors of books:
As you approach the entrance you’re reminded of the store’s impressive history. It was founded in 1965 and remains one of St. Paul’s last independently owned bookstores.
The first thing you’ll notice when you walk into the front room is the sizeable comic book collection. (Admittedly, this picture isn’t great, there’s another rack of comic books to the left and a ton more in the basement.
I heard a rumor that the store holds over 100,000 different books. Walking through the labyrinth aisles, I believe it.
Many of the books are out-of-print and extremely rare.
Even among the newer books, everything is used and reasonably priced.
Eventually I decided to head to the bargain basement, where every book is $2.50
The area is truly a basement. And as expected, it’s packed with books.
Not subject to the $2.50 price tag is the collection of vintage magazines. Many of these iconic pieces date back to the 1920s, and range in price from $2 to over $7 per magazine.
I headed back upstairs, and continued to be amazed by the endless collection of genres.
There was even a whole section of books dedicated to Fabrerge eggs! And not just a book or two… there were rows upon rows of books on these rare eggs. (And plenty more equally quirky subjects, like puppets, coins, dolls, etc.)
The third floor holds… you guessed it… even more books!
The biggest sections on this floor are the endless mystery and horror novels. There’s also a huge selection of biographies and even a discount section in the back.
Caution: Watch your step
Eventually, I got so lost in the maze of books that I took a wrong turn, apparently.
Downstairs, I walked through an open door and quickly found myself in front of the most impressive collection of ancient books I’ve ever personally seen.
Each shelf was meticulously labeled and priced. Entire collections of old hardcovers lined every square inch, many which looked like they popped right out of the library of congress. It was stunning.
I was snapped out of my trance when I heard the loud sound of an unhappy, raised voice bellowing in my direction. And older gentlemen was carrying a pile of books, and he sternly let me know I was in the wrong place.
(Doesn’t every good bookstore come with a gruff old man? Consider it part of the character…)
My bad! The section looked so much like the rest of the store that I suspect it might be an “invite only” area. If so, it’s definitely worth becoming a regular and eventually asking to peek at that amazing collection.
Midway Used & Rare Books is a Treasure in St. Paul
All in all, this place is without question one of the best bookstores in St. Paul. With three stories packed full of books, the sheer size of Midway’s collection is unlike any other, not to mention the number of rare, out-of-print books they sell. It’s truly incredible.
If you’re a Twin Cities book lover, you absolutely need to make Midway Books a must-stop.
- Address: 1579 University Ave W, St Paul, MN 55104
- Website: Midway Books