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Are you curious about the best bookstores in the world? Then look no further, literary traveler! You’ve about to embark on a global bookstore itinerary.
We all know major corporations such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble dominate the book industry. And, if you’re like me, this undeniable fact makes you a little sad. So, for this post, I asked several travel bloggers for their opinions on the best bookstores in the world.
Boy, oh, boy, do I have a lot of new places added to my literary bucket list, haha! I need to revisit some of these cities just to see the bookstores littered throughout this post.
And, of course, feel free to share your neighborhood’s adorable corner bookshop in the comments section.
1. Strand Bookstore, New York City, USA
I absolutely love the Strand Bookstore located in East Village, Manhattan. The Strand opened in 1927 and remains a family-run business til this day, which is super cool for anyone who supports independent bookstores. The Strand Bookstore has over 2.5 million books in inventory, which means you can find anything you want to read. Any. Thing. Probably the coolest thing about the Strand Bookstore is its rare book collection on the third floor. Take the elevator, and browse the available titles. I saw a beautiful old collection of the complete works of William Shakespeare and nearly fainted from sheer joy!
The Strand Bookstore also hosts a variety of events throughout the year so make sure to check the calendar on the website ahead of your visit to New York City. At the end of the day, visiting the Strand Bookstore should be on your list of things to do in New York City. Happy reading!
— Rachel Elizabeth at Blond Wayfarer
2. Good Old Books, Leland, MI, USA
On the shores of Lake Michigan, just two blocks from a charming, historic fishing village known simply as Fishtown, lies a cozy, hidden gem bookstore that’s run from the inside of someone’s home rather than a big, commercial space. Good Old Books sells rare and used books, and owners George and Merry Ball exude the kind of glowing charm that can only be found in individuals who are voracious lovers of reading. The shop carries many signed, first-edition copies of Pulitzer Prize novels as well as multiple collections of beautifully-worn copies of books printed in the early 1800s. At the time of my visit, a glass case housing the rarest and most valuable titles showcased a 1902 first U.S. edition printing of Sherlock Holmes: The Hound of the Baskervilles, priced at $675: the most expensive novel in the entire store. My absolute favorite book, however, was a hundred-year-old copy of Poems of E.A. Poe that carried a fore-edge painting along its side. The hidden painting was only visible if you fanned the pages, and when you closed the book, it disappeared completely. To me, this place was more than a bookstore—It was magic.
— Jillian Michelle at Adventure Dragon
3. House of Books, St. Petersburg, Russia
The House of Books in St.Petersburg is one of the most beautiful buildings of the 20th century and the main city bookstore. The building was designed for the Russian branch of Singer Sewing Machines company, why it is also known as Singer House. The original idea was to build a skyscraper similar to the Singer Building – the headquarters of the company in New York, but according to the city height restrictions buildings couldn’t be higher than the Winter Palace, the official residence of the Russian royal family. The restriction was fulfilled and the building itself is lower than the palace. The House is crowned with a glass tower with a glass globe sculpture, the tower became a symbol of the company in Russia. After the Revolution in 1919 the building was granted to the city’s biggest publishing company, Petrograd State Publishing House and since then has been known as the House of Books, the biggest bookstore in the city. There are all sorts of books here including city guides and photo albums in different languages. On the second floor there is a nice coffee shop where you can enjoy good coffee and a beautiful view on the Nevsky prospect (tha main city avenue) and the Kazan cathedral.
— Campbell and Alya at Stingy Nomads
4. Shakespeare & Co., Paris, France
I’m a certified book nerd, so wherever I travel I always seek out bookstores full of character. One of my favorites is also one of the World’s best bookstores. Shakespeare & Company in Paris, France is a magnet for authors and tourists alike. Located across the Seine from Notre Dame Cathedral, Shakespeare & Company will bring hearts to your eyes. The original Shakespeare & Company was run by Sylvia Beach and was a hub for some of the best literary authors of the time, Hemingway, Joyce, and Pound. It sadly closed during World War II.
The current Shakespeare & Company opened in the early 1950’s by American George Whitman, but pays homage to the previous bookstore. Browse second-hand books in cases out front before you wander into the maze of towering bookshelves within. Breathe in the rich smell of books as you make your way up to the most magical room in Shakespeare & Company. Toted as Sylvia Plath’s reading room, this modest room with old, tattered sofas, books from her personal library, a resident feline, and a desk you can’t help but be drawn to. A simple desk with a dusty black typewriter with an inspiring view over Paris.
— Stephanie at The World As I See It
5. Powell’s, Portland, OR, USA
A visit to the world’s biggest independent bookstore is one of the things you absolutely must do in Portland. Spanning a full downtown city block and four floors, Powell’s Books has its own map to guide visitors through miles of shelves in nine color-coded rooms (plus the Rare Book Room, a tiny world of gems that is every book lover’s heaven). Resist the urge to follow the map and get lost instead in the giant, crowded, and awesome world of books.
The bookstore is as integral to Portland as the Keep Portland Weird slogan: every guidebook lists Powell’s as one of the city’s top attractions, it’s a hub of literary events and educational activities, and a local weekly alt magazine declared it as one of the best places to find a romantic partner or to make out in the city.
— Peter at Where is Your Toothbrush?
6. Books Actually, Singapore
When I was visiting Singapore, I randomly stumbled upon the bookstore, BooksActually. I like it from a first sight, and especially the book machine in front of the store from where you can buy a mystery book for 19 SGD – would you dare? I haven’t seen such a thing before, but personally, I find it pretty cool.
The bookstore has a great selection of books and there is also s souvenir shop in the back of it where you can find many cool things. If you’re looking for a unique gift for a friend, that’s the place to go to. On top of that, some cats live there too.
BooksActually is a little independent bookstore with local, classic and contemporary literature, located in the Tiong Bahru neighborhood. Don’t miss out to check it out when you’re exploring the buzzing Singapore!
— Bilyana at Owl Over the World
7. Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice, Italy
This beautiful bookstore stores its books in rowboats, bathtubs, and even one stunning Venetian gondola… all to protect them from the high water (or in Italian, “acqua alta”) that floods into Venice each year.
The haphazard storage of the books (and the resident cats, of course, because what bookstore doesn’t need cats?) creates a beautiful space that feels like a treasure hunt, and my heart beats a little faster each time I go inside.
If you’re looking for beautiful Venetian views, Libreria Acqua Alta has those as well! On the back porch you’ll find a staircase made entirely out of books (mostly old encyclopedias), and if you climb it you’ll be rewarded with views of one of Venice’s canals.
If you’re a book lover, absolutely don’t miss Libreria Acqua Alta while in Venice–from one bibliophile to another, you’re sure to love it.
— Jeremy and Kate at Our Escape Clause
8. Book in Bar, Aix-en-Provence, France
The Book in Bar is everything a good bookstore should be. Cosy, intimate, inviting, and a place you can while away hours with a good book in hand. Although it has an English theme (and name), this French bookstore is very much international in nature. Its ceiling-high shelves are stocked with books written in over 15 languages!
Located just off Aix-en-Provence’s most famous boulevard – Cours Mirabeau – the Book in Bar bookstore is set within the historical centre of Aix, just opposite the Hôtel de Caumont arts centre. There’s nothing flashy or prestigious about this bookstore – it’s unpretentious in its presentation. But it has the old-world charm that will remind you of any good English bookstore.
Although you could easily spend hours browsing the shelves of carefully curated books, Book in Bar is also a popular meeting place, working space, café, and it has a small kids corner for young readers. Expats from all over the world – and locals alike – flock here for language exchanges, author events, and for the unique selection of fiction and non-fiction in their own language. It’s very much a haven for book lovers.
— Nadine Maffre at Le Long Weekend
9. Garden District Book Store, New Orleans, USA
The Garden District bookstore in New Orleans is my favorite bookstore to visit when traveling to the city. Usually, I always make a trip to this bookstore whenever I’m in New Orleans for the weekend. Located in the famous Garden District, this bookstore is a great addition to the nearby attractions of the above-ground tombs in the Lafayette cemetery, the majestic Antebellum mansions, and the vintage St. Charles Avenue Streetcar.
The Garden District Bookshop itself is located in a historic building known as the Rink. The shop is airy, open, and beautifully arranged. This independent bookstore has many signed and first editions for sale. It also frequently hosts book signings and readings by famous authors including New Orleans author Anne Rice. They also feature a lot of work by local authors. I especially like their vast collection of Louisiana culture based books for babies and toddlers including Cajun Cinderella, and others.
— Ketki Sharangpani at Dotted Globe
10. Livraria Lello, Porto, Portugal
Livraria Lello in Porto, Portugal, is one of the most beautiful bookshops we’ve visited on our travels. A Porto staple since 1881, it’s also believed to have provided JK Rowling with inspiration for her incredible depictions in the Harry Potter series of books.
Livraria Lello is warm and welcoming. Tables piled high with great reads surround a grand red staircase and colourful sunlight fills the store through the stained glass skylight. Classic books sit among new releases and collectors editions are kept safe in a special room. It is easy to imagine curling up with a good book in one of its cosy corners!
Harry Potter fans flock to Liveraria Lello in search of the spot that inspired JK Rowling. She spent hours in its second-floor café and has paid tribute to the inspirations of Porto saying ‘in those first weeks in Portugal I wrote what has become my favourite chapter in the Philosopher’s Stone, The Mirror of Erised’.
If you plan on visiting Livraria Lello on your travels make sure to reserve a ticket. The bookstore is now so popular that the owners have had to implement a ticketing system to help manage the crowds!
— Elaine and Dave at Show Them The Globe
11. Ler Devagar, Lisbon, Portugal
One of my favourite bookshops in Lisbon (and in the world) has to be Ler Devagar. Situated in Alcântara’s hipster LX Factory, this former factory building has been lovingly converted into one of Lisbon’s largest bookshops. These premises were once a printing press, and many of the machines are now a feature within this bookshop. It’s one of those bookshops that you just can’t help taking a photo of.
The bookshop mainly has Portuguese-language books, although it does have an ever-growing section of English books as well as books in other languages like Spanish and French. There’s usually also a table highlighting books about Lisbon, book fiction and non-fiction, which can be a great source of inspiration for your trip. The cafe in the back is one of my favourite places to grab a coffee or glass of wine in Lisbon, either to catch up on e-mails or to enjoy my latest purchase.
— James from Portugal List
What do you think are the best bookstores in the world? Why do you love your neighborhood bookshop so much? Share all your bookish thoughts in the comments!