10 Beautiful Bookstores Around the World
Bibliophiles rejoice! These bookstores open up a world of beauty both for book lovers or those simply just looking for something new to add to their travel bucket list. While international travel is on hold for now, it doesn't mean that we can stop planning our next destination.
If you already have stunning these libraries and Instagrammable museums on your travel list, consider adding these beautiful bookstores and immerse yourself in the wonderful world of books. From a whimsical bookstore next to a canal in Venice to a former warehouse transformed as a bookstore in South Korea—these are our list of beautiful bookstores around the world that you should visit at least once in your lifetime.
1/10 Libreria Acqua Alta, Italy
Located in the beautiful city of Venice, Libreria Acqua Alta or "book store of high water" in English is somewhat what you would expect to see in a city that has no roads, just canals. This bookstore featured a number of walls stacked with books, magazines, maps and other decorations. If you're worried that the books might get wet from the constant flooding in the city, instead of shelves, the books are placed inside bathtubs, waterproof boxes and even in a gondola—which makes for a picturesque sight.
Once you step inside the bookstore, you will feel a whimsical atmosphere, all amplified by the aesthetics emitting wanderlust vibes. If that's not enough to convince you, a stray cat frequents the bookstore which you can visit and say hello to.
Libreria Acqua Alta, 5173 Calle Lunga, 5176/B, Venice, Italy
2/10 Shakespeare & Company, France
Shakespeare & Company is perhaps one of the most famous bookstores in the world and for the right reasons—it's been the meeting place for writers and readers since it's opening in 1951. Any bibliophile must know (or has been) this legendary bookstore. Located in the heart of Paris just opposite Notre Dame, Shakespeare & Company offers a rich collection of books from the world's most famous authors.
See a piece of history from generations of notable literary figures from Voltaire to Ernest Hemingway from this bookstore.
Shakespeare & Company, 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, Paris, Île-de-France, 75005, shakespeareandcompany.com
(Related: Meet the Family Behind Legendary Luxury Coffee Table Books Publisher, Assouline)
3/10 Book and Bed, Japan
Book and Bed in Japan prides itself as an "accommodation bookshop"—a place to read and buy books that also moonlights as a hostel fit for 30 guests. This fusion-styled bookstore offers a selection of 1,700 books in both Japanese and English. Those on the hunt for Japanese literature will also find English translations available. The rooms are merged within the bookstore, with beds placed behind bookshelves.
Besides the shelves, you can also find books hanging from the ceiling. Book and Bed is the ultimate wonderland for book lovers who want to read until they fall asleep.
Book and Bed, various locations across Japan, bookandbedtokyo.com
(Related: Tatler Reading List: 6 Singapore Literary Insiders Share Their Favourite Books)
4/10 Livraria Lello, Portugal
A list of the world's most beautiful bookstore isn't complete without mentioning Livraria Lello in Portugal. The historical bookstore is a rumoured inspiration for Harry Potter as J.K. Rowling frequented the bookstore when she lived in the city from 1991–1993.
Located in Porto, a coastal city that features cobblestone streets and a medieval centre, Livraria Lello's neo-Gothic building leaves many in awe. The stained-glass ceiling, ornate wood carvings, ladders and rails certainly look like it's straight out of a scene from Harry Potter.
Livraria Lello, S.A., Rua das Carmelitas, 144 4050-161, Porto, Portual, livrarialello.pt
(Related: A New Harry Potter Exhibition World Tour is Set to Begin in 2022)
5/10 El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Argentina
Formerly a performing arts theatre, then a cinema and now transformed into a bookstore, El Ateneo Grand Splendid has a long history since its inception in 1919. Proving itself deserving of such a grand title, this bookstore retains the original frescoed ceiling, theatre boxes, balconies, ornate trimmings and red stage curtains during its days as a theatre and cinema. The interiors are simply stunning just as architects Peró and Torres Armengol envisioned.
A visit to El Ateneo Grand Splendid is befitting of its name—full of splendour, amongst books, sipping coffee while live piano music serenades you in the background.
El Ateneo Grand Splendid, 1860 Ave. Santa Fe, Buenos Aires, Argentina
6/10 Leakey's Bookshop in Inverness, Scotland
Leakey's Bookshop in Inverness is a literary lover's haven. Once a Gaelic church in Scotland, the bookstore is now filled with almost 100,000 books with much of the original church's framework still intact. An additional iron spiral staircase was constructed to connect the second floor of the bookstore.
Apart from the books, patrons visit often for its antique prints and maps located on the second floor. A variety of books on Scottish history, novels and poetry are also housed here. On a cold day, you can take shelter next to the open log fire with a book at hand.
Leakey's Bookshop in Inverness, Church Street, Inverness IV1 1EY, United Kingdom, facebook.com/LeakeysBookshop
7/10 Bart's Books, United States
So far, we have bookstores housed inside former theatres and churches but what about an outdoor bookstore? Bart's Books is perhaps the world's largest outdoor bookstore. Located amongst the serene and naturalistic landscape of Ojai Valley, Bart's Books houses over 130,000 used new books ranging from rare gems to classic titles.
What's more, the staff working at the bookstore themselves are certified book lovers so you know you can always get a good recommendation. Reading a book under the sun in California? Count me in.
Bart's Books, 302 W Matilija Street, Ojai, California, 93023, bartsbooksojai.com
8/10 Cafebrería El Péndulo, Mexico
Sometimes a bookstore, sometimes a cafe and sometimes a garden too. Welcome to Cafebrería El Péndulo in Mexico. This eye-candy of a bookstore is filled with wooden floors, balconies and living plants giving its visitors a true home feeling. While the bookstore has a number of locations, no matter which you visit, each one is just as stunning.
Other than the books, you're likely to find designer items related to Mexican culture and literary-inspired memorabilia such as a William Shakespeare plush doll. Dig through the treasure trove of books here, get a coffee or simply admire the plants.
Cafebrería El Péndulo, various locations across Mexico, pendulo.com
9/10 Yangzhou Zhongshuge, China
Make sure your jaw doesn't stop at the breathtaking sight of Yangzhou Zhongshuge's underground tunnel-like room that's complete with a reflective floor that mimics the surface of the water. This beautiful bookstore in China is designed by Li Xiang of interior-design firm, XL-Muse with rooms dominated by moody lighting for a relaxing atmosphere.
The curved pillars that arch upwards create an illusion of endless mirror tunnels that just makes for a stunning picture and place to buy books. Your kids will love the children's space which if filled with more colourful tones and starry lights twinkling against the dark ceiling.
Yangzhou Zhongshuge, 9th Alley, Guangling Qu, Yangzhou Shi, Jiangsu Sheng, China
10/10 Seoul Book Bogo, South Korea
If you're a K-drama fan, you might recognise Seoul Book Bogo from the hit drama, Hotel Del Luna. Previously a warehouse, now converted into a bookstore, Seoul Book Dogo also just opened its doors in 2019 to become Seoul's first second-hand bookstore.
In fact, the Seoul Metropolitan Government revamped the space to specifically house second-hand books from other old bookstores in the city. Other than being a treasure trove full of used books, you can also find titles that you can't easily get elsewhere such as those by independent publishers and personal collections donated by celebrities.
Seoul Book Bogo, 1 Ogeum-ro, Sincheon-dong, Songpa-gu, Seoul, South Korea, seoulbookbogo.kr