7 Of The World’s Most Beautiful Bookstores

There’s something magical about a bookstore, and we can’t help but feel our souls soaring the second we step foot inside a bookshop.

It’s as if anything is possible when you’re in one. You could discover a new world, learn about a different culture, travel to a distant land, laugh, cry, fall in love. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of our favourite things to do when travelling is sniff out each city’s best bookstore, and these are some of the most beautiful from countries all around the world.

1. Livraria Lello, Porto

The curving banisters, the gold shelves, the wooden details… Take one look at this gorgeous store in the Portuguese city of Porto and you can see why it was rumoured to be a major inspiration for JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. (The author was a frequent customer when she lived in the area teaching English in her youth.)

But aside from its inspirational properties, Livraria Lello is also deeply historical. It’s one of the oldest bookstores in Portugal, designed in the gothic style in 1906. If you really want to soak in the atmosphere head to the café on the second floor, where you can have a tea and watch the people perusing the shelves around you.

2. Persephone books, London

Small, but perfectly formed, this little treasure box of a bookstore in London’s Bloomsbury is an ode to female authors. Specialising in out-of-print writers from the 20s and 30s, their selection is always impeccable and presented in their trademark dove grey covers.

This is a fantastic place to buy presents for the bookish people in your life. Each title comes with individually designed colourful end papers and a write up from the staff detailing to whom this particular book might appeal.

Best of all it’s a calm, hidden little oasis where staff members are only too happy to let you browse for hours. But be warned: It’s not possible to leave this place empty handed.

3. Shakespeare and Company, Paris

Want to browse the same shelves that Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound perused? You need to head to Shakespeare and Company, a tiny little bookshop tucked into the Saint Germain district in Paris.

It’s poky and windy, with shelves packed to the bursting with books, but what you’ll get from a visit here is history and knowledge. Staff members are experts in their particular fields and only too eager to help you find the perfect book to read on your holiday.

If you want to stay longer, you can. A writer-in-resident program is offered to those who need an affordable room in the city of light. All you have to do in return is work in the bookshop for a few days. What a tough job, right?

4. Barts Books, Ojai California

Opened in 1964, Barts Books began when owner Richard Bartinsdale became overwhelmed by his personal collection of titles and placed them on shelves outside his home for people to browse at their leisure.

Today, it’s the largest outdoor bookshop in the world and one of the most serene, peaceful places to sit back with a new novel and read.

5. Daunt books, London

If you asked us to describe our perfect bookstore it would probably be this historic, classically designed shop in central London. Dark panelled wood, curved windows and balconied shelves make for one of the most aesthetically soothing book shopping experiences in the world.

The sheer size of this store also makes it worth a visit. Spread over several floors customers are able to browse everything from new release fiction and non fiction to history, philosophy, poetry and foreign language titles. There’s something for everyone at this shop.

6. Cărturești Carusel, Bucharest

Once upon a time this light-filled building was the private bank for financier Nicolas Chrissoveloni and his family. But in Romania’s communist period in the late ‘40s it was transformed into a department store.

It wasn’t until 1990 when Nicolas’ heir Jean took control of the building again that it was restored to its former glory where, since 2015, it has been this breathtaking six story book store.

7. Tsutaya, Tokyo

No trip to Tokyo is complete without a visit to Tsutaya, the fashion and art bookstore in the heart of the Daikanyama district. It’s here, in a minimal, Scandinavian-inspired building, that you’ll get one of the most extensive collections of collectible books on subjects of design, style, architecture, photographer and more that the world has ever seen.

Like all good bookstores Tsutaya has a stellar café too, and since the Daikanyama district is one of the best-dressed and most chic in all of Japan, settle in with a matcha latte for some truly epic people watching.

Enjoyed this? Read the insider's guide to Tokyo.

 

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