Who doesn’t love a good book? For millennia we have been reading the thoughts and stories of authors from around the world. From their humble beginnings as etchings in tablets to the first book ever printed in 1455, it is estimated that there have been well over 130 million different books printed.
Books allow us to escape our everyday lives in order to live out our dreams and fantasies as well as learn and grow as an individual. The only thing that may be better than a good book is travelling the world to see the stunning destinations they often depict with your own eyes. We've combined two of our greatest loves, books and travel, to bring you the world’s most beautiful bookstores you must visit at some point during your lifetime.
Be sure to take a page out of the smart traveller’s handbook and cover yourself with quality travel insurance to ensure your travel story has a happy ending.
Water and books don’t usually mix well, but that is a different story when it comes to Venice’s Libreria Acqua Alta. Hidden among the maze of alleys and canals you will discover this little gem of a bookstore. It may not be the most splendid of bookstores, but what it lacks in opulence it more than makes up for with character.
Explore stacks upon stacks of books that seem to be arranged in no particular order. You will find books placed in bathtubs, rowboats, gondolas, and basically anything that floats since the store often floods.
The smell of new and used books combines with a bit of dust and maybe a few cats that roam the store, all of which add to the experience. It may be hard to manoeuvre your way through the tight aisles of books, but a visit to this bookstore is a must when in Venice.
A city filled with hundreds of bookstores, Buenos Aires is said to have more bookstores per capita than any other city in the world. It’s most impressive, the El Ateneo Grand Splendid. Once a theater that sat over a 1,000 people, it later became a popular cinema. Most recently it has been transformed into one of the world’s most beautiful bookstores.
Visitors can now read books in the lavish theatre boxes and take to the original stage where there now stands a glorious cafe. It is quite easy to get lost in the numerous levels and sections which offer an almost incomprehensible amount of books. Where once visitors came to the theatre to enjoy lovely tango performances, they can now discover books on the subject set to the tune of a live piano.
Once touted as the world’s largest bookstore, Foyles offers 5 floors of books across 50 departments. The company offers 7 store locations around England including the flagship store on London’s Charing Cross Road which houses over 200,000 different titles. If lined up, the books on offer would reach a distance of nearly 7km!
Founded in 1903, the company now employs over 80 book experts to help you with any questions you may have. Discover your literary favourites alongside new discoveries and give them a read in their stunning naturally lit atrium.
The Folio Society, a London based publisher, once offered an equally exceptional bookstore in London but sadly closed its doors recently. Thankfully you can still acquire their exquisitely illustrated hardback and folio editions of some of your most beloved classic fiction, non-fiction, and children’s books. Many have specially designed bindings and slipcases and can be purchased at stores such as Harrods and Hatchards.
Imagine a bookstore so large that it covers an entire city block. Labelled as the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world, Powell’s City of Books contains over a million books that are organised into more than 3,500 sections. So enormous is the bookstore that they provide maps that direct you through the colour coded rooms which are spread out over 1.6 acres of space.
In addition to its main giant bookstore, you can also find several smaller stores scattered around Portland, Oregon. Between all its stores, you are almost certain to find that book you are looking for no matter how rare it may be. The company is said to purchase around 3,000 used books a day, so new stock is always arriving. They also offer to print on-demand books via a machine called an Espresso Book Machine!
A bookstore so incredible it had the power to inspire JK Rowling and her writings. She and many other authors were frequent visitors to Livaria Lello, one of Portugal’s oldest bookstores. The store contains elegant staircases and stained glass windows with two levels of books.
It is like a library you’d expect to see in a movie and you’ll feel like a celebrity as you walk up the bright red steps to reach the second floor where you will find a lovely coffee shop to read a book and relax. Although you will mostly find books written in Portuguese, there are some English books available for purchase as well.
Disclaimer: This list is just a scratch on the surface of amazing bookstores around the world, and it was really hard to cull it to just five so please don't be too dismayed if your favourite isn't here!