Interior view of Livraria Lello. Image by Ivo Rainha.
For a bibliophile, there’s no eye candy quite like a beautiful bookstore.
No matter what genre you gravitate towards, a good bookstore offers endless possibilities, knowledge, and of course, stories, to feed your mind and soul. Ask any book lover, and they’ll tell you that a good bookstore is a sacred place. The bookstores in this article take it to the next level. So sit back and join us as we ogle some of the world’s most beautiful bookstores.
Image by introducingporto.com
1. Livraria Lello in Porto, Portugal
This one will come as no surprise to true bookstore fanatics. Livraria Lello, or Livraria Lello & Irmao, is largely recognized as one of the world’s most beautiful bookstores. Located in Porto, in the northern municipality of Portugal, and founded in 1881, it moved to its current location in 1906. The bookstore is most well-known for its forked staircase and a large stained glass window, which is even thought to have inspired the staircases in J.K. Rowling’s Hogwarts. The exterior of the building, though more discreet than the interior, was designed in both Neo-Gothic and Art Nouveau styles, and features paintings by artist José Bielman.
Image by Bob and Roberta Smith
2. The Honesty Bookshop at Hay Castle in Hay-on-Wye, Wales, UK
The Honesty Bookshop at Hay Castle is just one of the dozens of book shops in Hay-on-Wye, a small town in Wales that’s considered the ‘town of books.’ The Honesty Bookshop is just as it sounds: a jar collects £1 donations as payment for its books, which go towards the restoration of Hay Castle, a Medieval defense structure built in the twelfth century. We’re not sure what’s better, the cheap books or this bookstore’s dreamy backdrop.
3. John K. King Used & Rare Books in Detroit, Michigan, US
From picturesque castle to dilapidated Detroit. This bookstore was established in 1965 and moved to its current location in the old four-storey Advance Glove factory in 1983 when owner John K. King purchased the building. There’s something charming about the rundown, industrial exterior that makes this bookstore all the more intriguing. Besides, who said tumbledown can’t be beautiful?
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4. Boekhandle Dominicanen in Maastricht, Netherlands
Boekhandle Domincanen is a bookshop that’s difficult to ignore. Converted into a bookstore in 2006, the building was originally a Gothic monestary consecrated in 1294. Yep, 1294. The original exterior still stands, including several original elements such as stained glass windows, frescoes, and even a secco depicting St. Thomas Aquinas, created in 1337. Considering the church was once used for bike storage, we really can’t think of a better use than to house “thousands of books in heavenly ambiance,” as the shop’s website puts it. This bookstore really gives heaven a whole new meaning.
Image courtesy of goodreads.com
5. Atlantis Books in Santorini, Greece
Atlantis Books was opened in 2004 after two college juniors vacationing in Greece noticed the lack of bookstores and decided to open one themselves. Situated in Oia, its white exterior is offset by the famously brilliant blue Grecian skies and water. Talk about a book lover’s paradise: all the books you can read and all the ouzo you can drink.
Image by Leandro Neumann Ciuffo
6. El Ateneo Grand Splendid in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Originally housing the Teatro Gran Splendid theatre, which opened in 1919, the building was converted into the El Ateneo Grand Splendid bookstore in the early 2000s. Throughout the renovation process, the cinema seats—an addition of the 1929 renovation—were removed and replaced with bookshelves, and the box seats beside the stage converted into seating for eager readers. Muy bien.
7. Brattle Bookshop in Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Established in 1825, Brattle Bookshop in Boston maintains its status as one of America’s oldest bookstores. What makes Brattle Bookshop particularly beautiful isn’t the large array of antique books, or the giant pencil above the front window—though they certainly help—but rather the open lot beside the shop that’s filled with cart upon cart of books. The building, with its faded façade (which includes portraits of writers like Kafka, Yeats, Toni Morrison, and Dr. Seuss), makes for a deliciously charming industrial space to while the day away.
Image by newgirlintoon.co.uk
8. Barter Books in Alnwick, Northumberland, UK
Located in the historic market town of Alnwick, Barter Books has a particularly unusual location: inside the Alnwick railway station, which opened in 1887. This Victorian building was in use as a railway station until the line closed in 1968, and remained empty until Barter Books opened in 1991. Though the building has certainly been modernized throughout its twenty-seven-year career as a bookstore, many of the original fixtures remain intact, making this bookstore one for the books (ha).
Image by tweenbookworm.blogspot.com
9. The Abbey Bookshop in Paris, France
If you find yourself gravitating towards a humbler kind of beauty, then this is the bookstore for you. Housed in the eighteenth-century Hotel Dubuisson, you won’t find any frescos or sculptures here; the Abbey Bookshop has a simple storefront, consisting of an arched doorway that definitely lets the books do the talking. After moving from Toronto to Paris in 1989, owner Brian Spence has also brought a slice of Canadian literature to the heart of Paris’s Latin Quarter, an area at the center of the old Parisian book trade.
10. Munro’s Books in Victoria, British Columbia
This treasure of a bookstore is based in the city in which Juniper Editing & Creative was born: beautiful Victoria, BC. Situated in the neo-classic building that once housed the Royal Bank of Canada, Munro’s Books is known for its high and beautifully ornate ceilings and large columns that flank the front door. The bookstore was originally founded in 1963 by Alice Munro, the acclaimed Canadian writer and Nobel Prize winning author, and her then-husband Jim and was ranked by National Geographic as the third-best bookstore in the world in 2016. Though the bookstore is now independent from the Munros, it remains an iconic part of Victoria’s culture.
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