“You see, bookshops are dreams built of wood and paper. They are time travel and escape and knowledge and power. They are, simply put, the best of places.” (The Bookshop Book, Jen Campbell). Here are some of the most iconic bookshops from around the world which will entice you to have them in your tour diaries.
Ler Devagar, Lisbon
Ler Devagar, which literally means “read slowly” in Portuguese is a haven for bookworms. From the wall to wall books, a bike suspended from the ceiling to spaces set aside for thought provoking art, an art gallery and a cosy café, this bookshop provides quite the eclectic atmosphere! The bookshop is spread across two floors and has a vast collection of art and culture books as well as books written in foreign languages. The bookshop also hosts a range of cultural activities and transforms into a market fair every Sunday.
B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, Bath
Mr. B’s Emporium is a bright and relaxing place which was named UK’s Independent Bookshop of the Year for the second time in 2011. The bookshop has cream shelves that are packed with books across three floors and several quirky features that include toilets papered in book reviews! An interesting feature of this bookshop is their “Bibliotherapy Room” which has several cosy armchairs, a fireplace, rotating thematic book displays and free tea and coffee!
Librarie Avant Garde, Nanjing
The bookshop is located right next to the Nanjing University and was previously used as a government car park and before that, a bomb shelter! Because of this, the bookshop has an underground entrance which can be reached by following a yellow striped road. The main hall of the bookshop is used as a forum for concerts and talks and the pillars in the store are etched with famous verses and poems. Moreover, the cashier is built from old books and the owner’s favourite artworks hang from the ceiling! Since the owner views his shop as a sort of public library, there are two long tables reading tables and about 300 seats as well as a homey coffee shop are available for readers!
El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Buenos Aires
This spectacular bookshop is set in a former theatre and has retained its original frescoed ceilings, ornate theatre boxes, rounded balconies, detailed trimmings and the red stage curtains. To fully bask in the grandeur, one can listen to piano music and sip coffee on the very stage that Argentinean stars of tango once performed.
Shakespeare and Company, Paris
Shakespeare and Company is an independent bookshop situated on Paris’s Left Bank. The store was originally opened by American Sylvia Beach and was even featured in Ernest Hemingway’s memoir “A Movable Feast”! The store closed during World War II and was reopened by George Whitman in 1951. In front of the shop, bookstands surround an ornate drinking fountain and sometimes there are readings held outside as well.
Bart’s Books, Ojai, California
Bart’s Books is one like no other since it is the largest independently owned and operated outdoor bookstore in the USA. Bart’s Books still keeps the honour system of payment which the original owner had started by placing coffee cans atop book cases and people would leave the payment in these cans after selecting a couple of titles.
Cook and Book, Brussels
Cook and Book is a bookshop the size of a supermarket and is divided into eight spaces and one music section, with each having its own atmosphere and matching lunch or dinner space! From and All American Airstream Caravan to the inside of a greenhouse, each space is uniquely decorated. Not to mention, that there are several books that hang from the ceiling!
Carturesti Carusel, Bucharest
Carturesti Carusel which literally means “Carousel of Light” is a breath-taking bookstore that was opened in 2015 inside a restored 19th century building. The store spans across six floors and features books, albums and DVDs. On the top floor, you can find a bistro and the main floor and basement feature an art gallery and media space which is used for cultural events and concerts.
Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice
Libreria Acqua Alta has come up with the perfect solution to the constant flooding by keeping its books in bathtubs and gondolas! The store is comprised of a number of rooms which are stuffed with books- both new and used. Some books, which are not for sale, have also become a part of the furniture as they are used to cover the walls of the outer courtyard.
Livraria Lello & Irmao, Portugal
The store has an excellent neo-gothic façade and is often considered to be one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world! In the front of the store, there are two figures painted by Jose Bielman which symbolise Science and Art. Features to behold are the marvellous stairway and the stained glass ceiling. This store which has been open since 1906, has been the place of inspiration for several acclaimed authors!