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Best Bookstores In The World

best bookstores around the world

The best bookstores around the world are magic. They’re wrapped in warmth and wonder at every twist and turn. They’re spaces that feel homey and awe-inspiring.

These bookstores are fun and whimsical and carry diverse collections of books. And if I could afford to take them (in their entirety) home, I probably would.

Here are our top picks for the best bookstores around the world!

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Livraria Lello, Portugal

best bookstores in the world : Livraria Lello, Portugal

It’s easy to see how the rumor that Livraria Lello inspired Harry Potter got started. Even though J.K. Rowling herself has never been to this Porto bookstore (her exact words, “I never visited this bookshop in Oporto. Never even knew of its existence! It’s beautiful and I wish I *had* visited it, but it has nothing to do with Hogwarts!”), I can imagine her (and Harry and Ron and Hermione) right here in this little Portuguese book shop.

The vivid red staircase, single-lit shelves of books, and intricate ceiling details inspire the same sense of wonder and excitement as any fantasy novel. So unsurprisingly, Livraria Lello is one of the most popular bookstores around the world. You’ll want to reserve a ticket online in advance to enter (as admission is between five to fifteen euros).

Most of the books housed here are in Portuguese (but you’ll find a few in French and Spanish as well).

Best Designed Bookstores

Cafebrería El Péndulo, Mexico City

Cook And Book, Belgium

Zhongshuge Bookstore, China

Libreria Acqua Alta, Italy

best bookstores in the world : Libreria Acqua Alta, Italy

Designed to work with Venice’s waterways, Libreria Acqua Alta is a stunning store where books are piled in bathtubs and a gondola and waterproof bins instead of shelves (though there are several of those too).

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Out back, you’ll find a stack of damaged books repurposed into a staircase. These titles, like a majority of those in the store, are in Italian.

The bookstore itself sits between a cramped space. But there’s a certain peace (charm, even) to the madness. It’s the notes of calm, novelty of raised books, and only-in-Venice aesthetics that makes Libreria Acqua Alta easily one of the best bookstores around the world!

Unique Bookstores To Know

Word on the Water, England

Montague Book Mill, USA

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, USA

Boekhandel Dominicanen, Netherlands

Welcoming over half-a-million book lovers and curious tourists each year, Boekhandel Dominicanen is one of the most popular bookstores around the world.

Situated inside a former Gothic Monastery in Maastricht, Boekhandel Dominicanen has been many things over the years – a stable, a party hall, a Dominican Church. Today, it’s a modern bookstore under hallowed old-world halls. And the selection, which spans 50,000 books, takes a while to see.

You’ll find titles in a variety of languages – Dutch, English, German, French, Spanish. It’s easy to get lost under the tomes of words and tower of stone.

Best Bookstores In Historic Buildings

Leakey’s Bookshop, Scotland

El Ateneo, Argentina

Munro’s Books, Canada

BARTER BOOKS, ENGLAND

Fjærland, Norway

best bookstores in the world : Fjærland, Norway is a booktown but I still wanted to include it on this list

Fjærland is a bit of an exception on this list of best bookstores. It’s a town in Norway but it’s a book town, one of few in the world.

It’s a bit hard to reach but dedicated book lovers need to add this tiny village to their travel bucket list.

Books are everywhere in Fjærland. They’re in the local hotel, Hotel Mundal (which also has a book room). They’re also in old cow sheds and stables and ferry waiting rooms. Books build character atop Fjærland’s abandoned (and active) buildings.

Best Book Towns To Know

Hay-on-Wye, Wales

Óbidos, Portugal

Bredevoort, Netherlands

Daunt Books, England

best bookstores in the world : Daunt Books, England

Few bookstores are as well-loved as Daunt Books. It’s a London chain that specializes in travel books (honestly, their travel book collection is so incredible, we want it all).

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The Marylebone branch draws the biggest crowds and for good reason. It’s one of the oldest bookshops, Edwardian in style. The skylight, which seeps natural light onto the mezzanine, brightens up the space. Daunt Books is equal parts chic and old-world. It’s the kind of place you can linger in for long hours.

Daunt hosts books from many countries. It also carries guidebooks and travel memoirs. It’s a bookstore for travel lovers and book lovers. And that niche alone makes it one of the best bookstores around the world (in our unabashedly biased opinion).

Best Niche Bookstores To Know

Bridge Street Books, USA (Politics)

The Sleuth of Baker Street, Canada (MYSTERY)

Grolier, USA (Poetry)

Shakespeare And Company, France

best bookstores in the world : Shakespeare And Company, France

Shakespeare And Company‘s long-winded past makes it one of the most interesting bookstores around the world. I mean, there are entire books dedicated to the history of Shakespeare And Company and even more dedicated to the feelings this bookstore evokes.

Walk past the shabby chic entrance and you’ll be met with a maze of English-language books. It’s touristy but worth a visit as so many literary giants have graced this space (Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Julio Cortázar).

When in Paris, Shakespeare And Company is a must for any book lover.

Best Bookstores For Literary Impact

The Strand, USA

Prairie Lights bookstore, USA

Books & Books, USA

Cărturești Carusel, Romania

best bookstores in the world : Carturesti Carusel Romania

Cărturești Carusel started out as a bank in the 19th century. But it’s hard to imagine that it’s been anything but a local Bucharest bookshop.

Cărturești Carusel is stunning – multiple floors high, open and airy with tall white columns and swirling staircases. I’m convinced heaven occasionally goes by this name – Carousel Of Light.

The bookstore itself is washed in a mix of natural and ambient ceiling lights. It’s filled with Romanian stories (though there are a few books in English too) and has the kind of architectural magic every book lover dreams of.

Prettiest Bookstores To Know

Atlantis Books, Greece

The Last Bookstore, USA

Albertine, USA

Open House Central Embassy, Thailand

best bookstores in the world : Open House Thailand

Open House is luxurious. It’s a modern Thai bookstore that seamlessly flits between this-and-that – restaurants, bars, a co-working space. Open House is a meld of practicality and entertainment, lined with books throughout.

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The layout is a floodgate for light. And the bookstore itself cubbies an oasis, perched 50 meters above Bangkok. You could easily spend a whole day here on a loop – work, eat, browse, read, repeat.

Best Literary Staycations

Book And Bed, JAPAN

Heathman Hotel, USA

Library Hotel, USA

BookXcess, Malaysia

best bookstores in the world : BookXcess Malaysia

With wide and tall swaths of face-out book covers, BookXcess is a feast for the eyes. It’s a sensory overwhelm of pages and titles and colors.

The variety of children’s books alone makes it worth a visit. And the aesthetics? An added bonus.

Here are the locations to note: Sunway Big Box Retail Park, Sunsuria Forum, Tropicana Gardens Mall.

Best Bookstore Chains

Waterstones, UK

Half Price Books, USA

Chapters Indigo, Canada

Bart’s Books, USA

Bart's Books is one of the best bookstores in the US

Bart’s Books is hands-down one of the best bookstores in the US. It’s a California gem, mostly outdoors (so you can still browse books after hours and pay via a slot in the door).

Honestly, I wish I could drive to California just to see Bart’s Books. The red bookshelves are staggered beneath tall palms and (mostly) sunny Ojai days. They contain over 100,000 titles (ranging from penny paperbacks to antiquarian finds), making Bart’s the largest outdoor bookstore in the world.

Best Outdoor Bookstores

Brattle Book Shop, USA

bouquinistes, France

Bazaar Book Stalls, Pakistan And India

Anticus, USA

Anticus is one of the best bookstores in the US

With rooms of bronze sculpture displays, hung-up oil paintings, and waist-height shelves of books, Anticus has made its mark as one of the best bookstores around the world. It’s for artists and travelers and book lovers alike.

When I first visited Anticus, it was a little away from Arizona’s top tourist spots (in Kierland Commons). Now, it’s in Old Town Scottsdale (so there’s no excuse not to visit whilst here).

The staff is lovely. And the art is museum-level. For the most part, Anticus’ style is richly Southwestern. But I love the Seussian illustrations as well.

Best Bookstores For Art Lovers

Die Muschel Book & Art Shop, Namibia

Fully Booked (Bonifacio High Street), Philippines

Printed Matter, USA

Lemuria, USA

Lemuria is one of the best bookstores in the USA

Lemuria is one of the coziest bookstores I’ve ever visited. And considering how much I’ve raved about this Mississippi shop on the blog (here and here and here), it’s no surprise that Lemuria is on this list of best bookstores in the world.

If you’re traveling through the Deep South, stop by. Lemuria is situated inside a multi-story building that doesn’t seem like much from the outside but trust me, this bookstore is pure magic. It’s the kind of place that makes you feel instantly at home. There are books aplenty, old and new. And there’s a diverse collection of works by local authors to boot.

Lemuria is everything an independent bookstore should be.

Best Cozy Bookstores To Know

Atta Galatta, India

 Libreria Wilborada 1047, Colombia

Books Actually, Singapore
sincerely anshula

Did you enjoy this post on the best bookstores in the world? What are your favorite bookstores around the world? I’m always looking for new inspiration (and bookstores to add to my bucket list) so please share your favorites down below!

6 Comments

  • Avatar
    Rita
    January 13, 2021 at 2:35 PM

    Can I add to this list of best bookstores?

    – Powell’s Bookstore in Portland, Oregon
    – Fullers Bookshop, Tasmania
    – Mál og Menning, Iceland

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Anshula Varma
      January 27, 2021 at 7:46 PM

      How did I forget to include Powell’s on this list (*face palm*)? Thank you so much for the recommendations! Also, the fact that Mál og Menning has a wall of Lonely Planet books is just everything (*wishes I could move in here*). xx – Anshula

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Maya
    January 13, 2021 at 3:28 PM

    Love this list! My picks for best bookstores are The Potter’s House in D.C. and Book Escape in Baltimore.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Anshula Varma
      January 27, 2021 at 7:51 PM

      Love these recs! I’ve been itching to go back to DMV area and check out some of the bookstores there after reading Ibi Zoboi’s Pride. Thank you! xx – Anshula

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Erika
    January 26, 2021 at 9:58 AM

    Can I add one more to your list?

    -Livraria Ateneo, in Buenos Aires (Argentina). It was an antique theater that was transformed in a bookstore…The place were it was the theater stage it´s the coffee shop for the clients… It´s just beautiful!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Anshula Varma
      January 27, 2021 at 7:43 PM

      Yes! You can absolutely add to the list. This bookstore sounds amazing (adding it to my bookstore bucket list). I just poked through pictures and it looks stunning! I love how they kept the character of the theater intact. xx – Anshula

      Reply

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