Travel

25 of the Best Bookstores in the World

Put down the Kindle and revel in the joys of the printed word with these incredible bookstores.

With online books seemingly the way of the future, the brick and mortar bookstores are sadly reducing in popularity. But it’s crucial not to overestimate the importance of a good bookstore – they’re monuments to literature, act as community centres and places to learn, browse and discover all in one. From an underground carpark in Nanjing, to a converted theatre in Buenos Aires, take a look at some of the best bookshops from around the world. They’ll no doubt encourage readers to put down the technology and enjoy the pleasures of a real page turner.

1. Livraria Lello, Porto, Portugal

This bookstore with a neo-gothic facade and heavily decorated walls should seem familiar to Harry Potter fans as it has been featured several times in the film series.

livraria lello bookstore in portugual

2. Cook & Book, Brussels, Belgium

Don’t let the name confused you, Cook & Book does not specialise in cook books, but is rather a unique combination of food and books with its very own in-house restaurant.

Cook & book store in brussels

Cook & book store in brussels

3. Ateneo Grand Splendid, Buenos Aires, Argentina

This renovated movie theatre is now home to a variety of books while still keeping it’s 1920s glamour. Painted ceilings, crimson stage curtains and theatre boxes for reading rooms, it’s said that over a million people visit this wondrous bookstore each year.

ateneo-grand-splendid-argentina

4. Daunt Books, London, UK

One of London’s most treasured independent bookstores, the incredible mezzanine at Daunt Books sees walls lined with books giving it an air of academia.

daunt-bookstore-london

5. Librería el Péndulo

Sip on a mojitio and enjoy the live music or stand-up comedy at this cafe meets bookstore in Mexico. Make sure you give the sand-filled pendulum a push and create your own pattern.

Cafebrería el Péndulo

6. Bookstore Dominicanen, Maastricht, Holland

This 700-year-old Catholic church turned bookstore is on a whole other level as it houses a massive three-storey bookshelf with staircases, elevators and walkways.

polare-holland-maastricht

7. Shakespeare and Company, Paris, France

Perhaps the most well-known bookstore in France, Shakespeare and Company sits on the left bank of Paris in the shadows of Notre Dame, with narrow hallways completely lined with books a favourite among city dwellers and tourists alike.

inside of shakespeare and company in paris

shakespeare and company shop front in Paris

8. Librairie Avant-Garde, Nanjing, China

Spread over almost 400 square meters in a huge parking lot, this space was once used as a bomb shelter.

librairie avant garde nanjing china

9. Livraria da Vila, São Paulo, Brazil

livraria da vila sao paulo brazil

10. Bookabar Bookshop, Rome, Italy

The largest inter-disciplinary exhibition area in central Rome, Bookabar has three large rooms; two devoted to books, catalogues, DVDs and CDs, and a third which contains a stylish museum store.

bookabar bookshop rome

11. John K. King Used & Rare Books, Michigan, United States 

In an abandoned glove factory in Detroit’s industrial wasteland, this bookstore stores over one million books.

rare and used book store in michigan

 12. Barter Books, Alnwick, England

Converted from an old train station, Bart Books made headlines in 2001 when the owner discovered an old World War II poster with the slogan, “Keep Calm and Carry On”. The simple design since turning into an universal sensation.

Inside of Barter Books in England

13. Atlantis Books, Santorini, Greece

Once a neglected old village house, Atlantis Books hosts festivals and sunset readings on their sea-view terrace and even has their own publishing house in the back room.

atlantis-books-santorini

14. Bart’s Bookstore, California, United States

With such a large collection, Richard Bartinsdale built rows of bookcases in 1964 on a California sidewalk for passers-by to browse through. Bart’s has since become the largest outdoor bookstores in the world.

Bart's bookstore in California

15. Librairie des Colonnes, Tanger, Morocco

librairies des colonnes morocco

Photograph: @tissthereader

16. Ler Devagar, Lisbon, Portugal

Previously a factory built in 1864 to manufacture thread and fabric, the state of the art modern bookstore occupies multiple levels.

ler devagar bookstore in portugal

17. Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice, Italy

One for the cat lovers, 70-year-old Venetian and owner, Luis Frizzio, has many cats who love to roam the books of this shop.

inside of bookshop in venice

18. Plural Bookshop, Bratislava, Slovakia

plural-bookshop

19. Le Bal Des Ardents, Lyon, France

French for ‘the burning ball’, this small bookstore in France is home to a unique arch entrance.

inside hallways with books

20. Librairie Ptyx, Brussels, Belgium

Known for its dictionary-esque facade, Libraririe Ptyx has a wide range of literature that encourages conversation and the exchanging of views.

ptyx bookshop in brussels

21. Livraria Cultura, Sao Paulo, Brazil

inside of bookstore in brazil

22. Brattle Bookshop, Boston, United States

One of the largest antiquarian book shops in the country, Brattle Bookshop was founded in 1825. The store got its name from Brattle Street in Boston, where it originally was located. Today is stands on West Street in downtown Boston.

Brattle-Book-Shop

23. Powell’s Books, Portland, United States

outside of powell's books in portland

24. Bookworm Bookshop, Beijing, China

bookworm in Beijing with lanterns

25. The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles, United States

This huge bookstore is home to high ceilings, stately pillars and this unique book tunnel, all making for a wild reading experience.

wall of books curved to create ceiling

Photography from Lifehack.org and The Guardian
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