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22 most beautiful bookshops in the world

Discover some of the best bookstores from around the world that will inspire your next trip.

Bookshops are among some of the most inspiring places in the world. In amongst shelves of books, under dimmed lights, you can relax and let your imagination take flight. Here are some of the most interesting ones from around the world.

1. Livraria Ler DevagarLisbon, Portugal

This is an incredible modern bookshop located in a former industrial textile warehouse. The building also houses advertising agencies, designer shops and art galleries. You can enjoy a coffee and admire the quirky surroundings, such as the sculpture of a woman on a flying bicycle. On Sundays it turns into a market selling antiques and crafts. What more could you possibly ask for?

2. Barter Books – Alnwick, United Kingdom

Located in a Victorian train station in a small village in England, this second-hand bookshop (where you can trade books as well as buy them), is one of the largest of its kind and was opened in 1991. The shop’s claim to fame is that it rediscovered the Second World War ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ posters in an old box of books and now you see that iconic slogan everywhere!

Photo by Dave Morris on Flickr

3. Librería Acqua AltaVenice, Italy

A shop like this could only exist in Venice. Among the hundreds of thousands of books there are many hidden gems, but to find them you’ll have to look inside boats, bathtubs and even a gondola (when in Venice…yes?). Its owner, Luis Frizzio, is a 70 year old Venetian who loves to meet his customers. The shop overlooks one of Venice’s famous canals and is home to several cats – could this place be any more amazing!?

Photo by Aubrey Dunnuck on Flickr

4. Cook and BookBrussels, Belgium

Cook and Book is an interesting (and beautiful) combination of bookshop and restaurant. Situated in the heart of Brussels, this place is the size of a supermarket and is split into eight rooms as well as a music section, each with a different design and dining-area attached. From a vintage Fiat 500 in the cookery section, to a caravan in the travel section, to the 800 books hanging from the ceiling in the fiction section, you’ll like it so much that you won’t want to leave!

5. Atlantis BooksSantorini, Greece

Silhouetted against the blue skies of the Greek islands, Atlantis Books has just celebrated its 10th year as a project that was started by the group of friends from Cyprus, England and the United States. If you go to Santorini, cool off in this idyllic location, pick up a book and be inspired for your next adventure.

6. Livraria Lello e IrmaoPorto, Portugal

The building itself is a work of art and is packed full of history. It was founded in 1869 and has been named one of the most beautiful book shops in the world, but is perhaps more famous for being the location of several scenes in the Harry Potter films. What is most impressive about this building is the beautiful wooden staircase and the stained-glass windows in the ceiling that reflect around the room.

Photo by Javier Caro on Flickr

7. Ateneo Grand SplendidBuenos Aires, Argentina

This is possibly the only bookshop in the world that is inside a theatre. There are rows of bookshelves between the painted dome and the original balconies – they’ve even kept the original velvet curtain. The stage has also been converted into a restaurant that has a pianist who adds a touch of music to the theatrical atmosphere. There is nowhere quite like this place.

Photo by Longhorndave on Flickr

8. The Last BookstoreLos Angeles, United States

This piece of paradise is southern California’s largest independent bookshop, situated in a former bank that’s architecture has been preserved. Its marble columns and giant doors sit amongst hundreds of thousands of books. Besides attending its organised events, concerts and markets, we recommend you lose yourself in the labyrinth of dollar books.

9. Shakespeare and CoParis, France

These days, this place is as much of a tourist attraction as it is a bookshop. Next to Notre Dame Cathedral, this cramped and chaotic place (especially when it is full of tourists) is incredibly seductive. Upstairs, they house travellers who work in the book shop for a few hours each day and below is a wishing well that many throw their coins into.

10. Librería El PénduloMexico City, Mexico

This café/bookshop managed to combine books and coffee with style – without compromising on quality. As well as browsing the shelves you can have breakfast, lunch or dinner while enjoying live music, poetry and stand-up comedy – you could easily stay here for hours.

11. Librería BardónMadrid, Spain

Founded in 1947, this shop is an iconic space in the heart of the city where you can find real literary gems. Step across the threshold and smell the aroma of old books that are just waiting to be discovered.

12. The BookwormBeijing, China

This is the main English bookshop in the city and it has become a centre for cultural activity. With over 16,000 titles, rooting between the shelves is a pleasure. And when you are tired you can take a break in its wonderful restaurant.

13. Librairie des ColonnesTangier, Morocco

This place may be small but it’s packed full of French charm. Behind the glass window and red columns hides a unique place full of English, French and Castilian books from authors such as Beckett, Marguerite and Yourcenar. The owners Pierre Bergé and Simon-Pierre Hamelin organise all kinds of events such as book signings, film screenings and musical evenings. After a day in amongst the chaos of Tangiers, come here and enjoy this calm oasis.

14. Scarthin Books – Peak District, United Kingdom

At the edge of a lake in the village of Cromford, (Derbyshire) you’ll find Scarthin Books, that claims to be the most charming bookseller in the UK – and they are absolutely right. Full of shelves overflowing with new and second hand books, it is a little paradise lost in the English countryside. Enter through the doors and discover another world.

15. Librería AltaÏrBarcelona, Spain

The largest travel specialist in Europe and possibly one of the most beautiful bookshops too. They are located next to the university and for decades have been inspiring travellers to start their next adventure. Take a guidebook, sit on a couch underneath the ornate iron columns and let your imagination take flight.

16. Bart’s Books – Ojai, California, United States

Founded in 1964 by Richard Bartinsdale, Bart’s is one of the largest outdoor bookshops in the world and is open almost every day. Some shelves face the streets, others to a courtyard where the sun shines and customers can pay by putting money into a coin box after hours.

17. Livraria Da Vila, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Modern and sleek, this bookshop is located in a two story building that was designed by architect Isay Weinfeld. Every corner of this magical place invites you to read and explore. Although it isn’t exactly big, it is bright and airy.

18. Words on the Water, London, United Kingdom

What could be cooler than a floating bookstore? This alternative library travels between Camden Lock and London Paddington. It is an amazing place and is usually organized around cultural events, recitals and concerts. If the weather is nice, sit on the grass along the canal and leaf through one of the books. This must certainly be one of the most relaxing places in London.

19. Books Actually, Singapore

This independent bookshop is worth a visit or two even if you don’t buy anything. Opened in 2005, they have become one of the most beautiful places of the city, full of nooks and crannies that excite the imagination.

20. American Book Center, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Do not be fooled by his stern facade, the American Book Center in Amsterdam is so ethereal that it is out of this world. Without being too cluttered, this space is unique and has soul. Inside there are even tree trunks that pay a heartfelt tribute to the origins of the paper.

21. The Strand Books, New York, United States

Maybe it’s not the most stylish bookstore in the world, but the Strand Bookstore in New York is certainly iconic. At number 828 Broadway Street in the East Village, their slogan is ’18 miles of books’ and when you arrive you will see why. It’s huge and there is a vast selection of titles (over two million). If that’s not enough, it is where Patti Smith used to work.

More: 10 best places to shop in New York

22. Polare Maastricht, Maastricht, Netherlands

Although currently closed, Polare Maastricht (formerly Selexyz Dominicanen) has been named in more than one occasion as the most beautiful bookshop in the world. Where else could you immerse yourself in books inside a cathedral with over 700 years of history? Renovated and perfectly preserved, this temple to literature was truly incredible. Hopefully it will reopen soon!

Photo by Bert Kaufmann on Flickr

More: Travels through words: 10 books that inspire journeys

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Translated from the original article by Patricia Cuni

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