Hay-on-Wye: the Book Town you must visit once in a lifetime

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On the border between Wales and England there is a small town surrounded by cosy hills that is famous for becoming a role model against the rural flight that followed the Second World War. Here, as in many other parts of Europe, people left the countryside and moved to urban areas in search of a better job and a better life. Hay-on-Wye was a farming village that was becoming a ghost town.
But things went differently thanks to Richard Booth who, after he graduated at the Oxford University, decided to invest the inheritance of an uncle in trying to revive the fortunes of his native town. In the late '60s, he took a trip to the United States and decided to bring back to the UK thousands of volumes he found in the many bookshops that were closing down everywhere in those times. He was than ready to start the project that had been spinning through his mind: he opened his first bookshop of second-hand books in an old fire station and this was only the beginning of an amazing adventure. Mr Booth began to collect all the books that others wanted to get rid of and his collection grew impressively, as well as his reputation. He rented more buildings left empty by those who were gone and kicked off an indirect urban regeneration: Hay-on-Wye was back to life.
Attracted by the novelty, by Mr Booth’s bravery and by the size of his business, people began to flock from every part of the Kingdom.
Some residents, astonished by such a success, decided to follow in his footsteps.
Hay today has just about 1,500 inhabitants, but it counts as many as 26 specialized bookshops (thriller, music, art, cinema, poetry, children, etc.), some of which are extremely peculiar: welcome to the first Book Town of the world.

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Literally, the paradise of books of all kinds: new, second-hand, ancient and rare.
On the streets you can find shelves full of books kept in the open air for the passers-by, sometimes with a sofa next to them to enjoy a good reading and chill out. If you wish, you can buy them putting the money in the designated box (50 cents for a soft cover, 1 pound for a hardcover): these are the "Honesty Shops', as they are based on the trust in the honesty of the book lovers.

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Each bookshop is a world apart, colourful and bizarre, where sometimes you can bump into surreal creatures.
Thanks to this kind of tourism, the town has flourished and become the centre of a thriving cultural and commercial life. Some intellectuals and artists have made it their retreat, for shopkeepers and artisans it is the paradise where multinationals have been banned from.
Today in Hay-on-Wye there are a lot of independent shops, a couple of art galleries, pubs and B&Bs, a post office and a bank, a bike shop and a grocery that sells amazing cheeses, craft shops and a street market that animates the city centre three days a week. Besides being the Book Town, Hay is also becoming the ideal starting point to discover the National Park of Brecon Beacons.

If you want to discover more about the tourism model of Hay-on-Wye, click HERE.


The easiest way to reach Hay-on-Wye is by car. If you prefer to use the public transports, the nearest railway station is in Hereford and from here you can then take the bus (Stagecoach, bus 39)
Detailed information can be found HERE.


At the edge of town, next to the large car parking area, there is the Information Office where you will find the maps of the bookshops, the calendar of the events and all the other information you may need.
Chapel Cottage, Oxford Road, Hay-on-Wye, HR3 5DG
Tel .: +44 (0) 1497 820144

HAY-ON-WHY Tourism Board

Tel.: +44 (0)7375 396748
E-mail: [email protected]


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0 Responses

  1. […] town and is literally reborn thanks to the books. Hay-on-Wye, whose amazing history you can read HERE, was the first Book Town in the world and set the precedent for other brave rural villages that […]

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