12 Bookstores You Have to Visit Around the World

Even if you don't need a new book to read, the stores themselves are magical.

December 13, 2017 5:00 am

In the age of digital subscriptions and e-readers, it is sometimes easy to forget how satisfying opening a new (or old) book can be. And besides just the books themselves, bookstores offer a sanctuary for those hoping to escape the busy world and see another side of a city. Check out some of the most magical bookstores around the world.

Wigtown, Scotland: The Book Shop

Books on display inside The Book Shop, the largest second hand store in the country on November 9, 2017 in Wigtown, Scotland. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Getty Images

The Book Shop is the largest second-hand store in Scotland. Located in Wigtown — which has had official ‘book town’ status since 1998 — The Book Shop stocks over one hundred thousand books covering almost every subject you could think of.

San Francisco, California: City Lights

City Lights in San Francisco (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)
Getty Images

The City Lights Bookstore was founded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter Martin in 1953. The neighborhood was also the birthplace of the Beat Generation, and it was City Lights was the hangout of the Beat Generation writers and artists. Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg frequented the shop.

Los Angeles, California: The Last Bookstore

The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles (Flickr)

The Last Bookstore is California’s largest used and new book and record store. It is still pretty new, having started in 2005 in a downtown Los Angeles loft. The place is filled with stacks and stacks of books, some arranged in fun art installations, like the one seen above.

Mexico City, Mexico: El Péndulo

El Péndulo in Mexico City (Chasingtheturtle.wordpress.com)

El Péndulo is a two-story cafe-bookstore that also kind of looks like a forest, with plants seeming to peek out from around all the books. There is table dining on the ground floor, and more casual sofas for reading (and a bar) on the second floor. The wooden floors and endless books will make it easy to spend hours here.

Tokyo, Japan: Yaguchi Shoten

Yaguchi Shoten in Toyko (Wikimedia Commons)

This bookstore is one of the oldest on the list. It was started in 1918 and is located in the “booktown” of Jimbocho in Tokyo. It specializes in film, theater, and entertainment.

Lima, Peru: Librería El Virrey

Librería El Virrey in Lima, Peru (Pinterest)

Founded 40 years ago, the store is famous for its books but also its space and furniture.

Buenos Aires, Argentina: El Ateneo

El Ateneo in Buenos Aires, Argentina (Carla Wosniak, Flickr)

This bookstore was built as the Teatro Grand Splendid in 1919, then became a cinema in 1929. El Ateneo has frescoed ceilings, ornate carvings, stage curtains and you can sit in theater boxes while your browse.

Venice, Italy: Libreria Acqua Alta
Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice, Italy (a2zphoto, Flickr)

This canalside shop is regularly flooded, but it doesn’t stop the rubber boot-wearing owner. He just moves the books to bathtubs and higher shelves. It is described as a “high water bookshop” and even stray cats use it to avoid the rising tides.

Porto, Portugal: Livraria Lello

Livraria Lello in Porto, Portugal (ThalesEGO, Flickr)

The bookstore was originally the Chardon Library. It has a huge, curving staircase with ornate wooden carvings, as well as wall panels and columns. There are stunning stained glass windows and a skylight, so definitely worth the visit, even if you don’t purchase anything.

Nanjing, China: Librairie Avant-Garde

Librairie Avant-Garde in Nanjing, China (Blaine O’Neill, Flickr)
Blaine O'Neill

Librairie Avant-Garde was built inside a former government car park that had also previously been a bomb shelter. It is now known as China’s “most beautiful bookshop” and visitors follow the yellow striped lines into the 4,000 square meters of underground space.

Paris, France: Shakespeare & Company

Shakespeare & Company in Paris (esartee, Flickr)

This bookstore was named after one the famous one frequented by Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, and James Joyce during the 1920s, but now is equally legendary. It was opened in 1951 by American George Whitman and has become an iconic gathering place for Beat Generation writers like Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs.

Marrakesh, Morocco: Jardin Majorelle 

Jardin Majorelle  in Marrakesh, Morocco (Matt Kieffer, Flickr)

Nestled in the stunning Majorelle Gardens, the museum bookstore is the go-to for coffee-table books about all things Moroccan, but it is also just a gorgeous pit-stop. There is a small café as well, and a selection of antique photograph reprints that are available for purchase.

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