If you love bookstores and have a passion for history, this Bethlehem bookstore is going to be your favorite place on earth.
Officially called the Moravian Book Shop, the Bethlehem bookstore is is the oldest bookstore in the United States and the oldest continually operating bookstore in the entire world!
I was very excited when I discovered it was right across the street from the Historic Hotel Bethlehem, where I spent the night.
If you visit Bethlehem, PA you will be surrounded by history. Take a look inside their legendary bookstore, which is a destination all by itself.
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Believe it or not, this Bethlehem bookstore opened in 1745, four years after Bethlehem, PA’s founding.
It’s not something I really thought about being around in the mid 1700s, but apparently there was an appetite for books even back then.
The Moravian bishop is the one who suggested the settlement would need many new books for its residents. That led to the keeper of the Church’s Crown Inn on the south side of the Lehigh River being appointed to operate the store.
Before the Civil War, in 1856, the Moravian Book Shop moved to Arch Street in Philadelphia. It didn’t last long there, and moved back in 1858.
In 1871 the Moravian Book Shop moved again (for the last time) to the church’s publishing facility near the Central Moravian Church on Main Street, which is its current location.
With the move, the Moravian Book Shop was equipped with a print shop and a lending library. In addition to church publications it sold novels, children’s books, sheet music, office supplies and sporting goods.
The Moravian Book Shop has remained at its current downtown location for the past 150+ years.
Modern Times At The Bethlehem Bookstore
Of course the Moravian Book Shop still carries books, including both adult and children’s titles. It is also home to the Moravian University student bookstore, so carries textbooks as well as a wide variety university and Bethlehem apparel and themed gifts.
I found the bookstore’s local interest section to be really well stocked with titles about the Moravians, Bethlehem Steel and Lehigh Valley. (I wish I had more time to read)!
Their children’s book department is also a very lively place with educational toys and a large variety of Lego products, in addition to books.
The Bethlehem bookstore is a great place to go if you’re looking for traditional Moravian gifts like handmade beeswax candles and paper Moravian star kits.
Perhaps the best time to visit the Moravian Bookstore is during the holiday. Read more about Christmas in Bethlehem!
The store also carries a wide variety of glass Moravian and Bethlehem stars made by local artists, as well as post cards, paintings, vases and ornaments hand-crafted by locals.
Christmas ornaments and décor can be found year round featuring Old World ornaments and local artists. In fact the bookstore had an entire room of Christmas trees and holiday trinkets.
The transition between new and old reminds me of Harrison Brothers Hardware in Huntsville, Al. It’s fun to shop in a store with so much history!
In 2000, USA Today reported the closure of Scotland-based John Smith & Son, which had claimed to be the longest continuously operating bookseller in the world.
The Moravian Book Shop now claims the title, though Smith and Son opened in 1751 and the Bethlehem bookstore opened in 1745, so they were always the oldest.
Food, Beer and Books
In 2020, the owner of the Randevoo Food Truck opened his first first brick and mortar location in the historic Moravian Book Shop.
Randevoo offers unique Asian fusion specialties to compliment the offerings from Lost Tavern Brewing.
Lost Tavern Brewing features 18 beers on tap, including a wide range of locally crafted beer on draft. They also offer options to-go if you’re just stopping by for a quick visit.
You can also find some local wines and nitro coffee on tap at Lost Tavern Brewing.
FAQs About Moravian Book Shop
Where Is The Moravian Book Shop Located?
The address is 428 Main St., Bethlehem
What Are The Book Shop’s Hours?
The Book Shop is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday noon to 5 p.m.
Is Food Served At The Bethlehem Bookstore?
Yes, you can grab a bite to eat Randevoo operating out of the book shop.
Can I Grab A Coffee, Beer Or Wine?
Yes, coffee, beer and wine are available, thanks to a partnership with Lost Tavern Brewing.
Bookstore Speakeasy In Bethlehem
Some people get confused because there is a restaurant called the Bookstore Speakeasy in Bethlehem, but it is not part of the Moravian Book Shop.
This unique restaurant is fashioned after the “secret bars” that were popular during the Prohibition era. They are only open Thursday through Sunday, so I missed getting to experience their specially crafted cocktails.
According to their website, they use “laborious and time-honored techniques from the past” with the finest liquors available for their drinks. You can sip your drink while listening to live jazz from the 1920s.
Sounds like fun! You are also invited to dress like it’s the roaring 20’s.
The Bookstore Speakeasy is located at 336 Adams Street in Bethlehem.
Things To Do Nearby
Right across the street is the Blacksmith Shop, and even in December, I got to see the blacksmith busy at work. It’s wonderful to get to witness this demonstration in a very historic building.
The historic Bethlehem Visitor Center is right down the street. They have a nice gift shop, information, and all kinds of tours of the city.
I also recommend the Moravian Museum of Bethlehem to get a better understanding of Bethlehem’s founding. It’s an amazing story.
Where To Stay In Bethlehem
I stayed at the Hotel Bethlehem and can’t recommend it enough. It is a destination all by itself.
Ready to book a room at the Hotel Bethlehem?
Pro Tip: Bethlehem is close to Philadelphia so if you’re visiting the many landmarks and museums in Philly, take a road trip to Bethlehem to shop and explore.
Wrap-Up Of The Bethlehem Bookstore
In addition to its own rich history of bookselling for almost three centuries, the Moravian Book Shop is also conveniently located near many other popular attractions in Bethlehem, PA, including shops, restaurants and museums.
The Book Shop is an iconic institution that has served the community for more than 275 years, and now serves as a connection to the Moravian heritage and traditions through the books and gifts it makes available.
Whether you’re a local resident or a visitor, and whether your looking for a gift, a book, or a beer, Moravian Book Shop in Bethlehem is the perfect destination.