10 magical bookstores around the world

A good bookstore is kind of like a good friend - and like friends, some are better than others. From ornate shelves the likes of Joyce and Hemingway would peruse, to intricate modern masterpieces with massive collections, we've compiled ten of the most special bookstores from around the globe that you simply cannot miss.



10 magical bookstores around the world

A good bookstore is kind of like a good friend - and like friends, some are better than others. From ornate shelves the likes of Joyce and Hemingway would peruse, to intricate modern masterpieces with massive collections, we've compiled ten of the most special bookstores from around the globe that you simply cannot miss.


The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles.

Even in this digital era, book lovers will always adore getting lost in a magical bookstore. If you’re dreaming of cosy reading nooks, miles of bookshelves, and dreamy designs, look no further. From a grand old theatre in Buenos Aires, a whimsical gondola in Venice, and the old Parisian haunt of Hemingway, here are 10 of the best bookstores in the world.

Livraria Lello has been a bookstore since 1906.

Livraria Lello

Porto, Portugal

The self-proclaimed ‘most beautiful bookstore in the world’ certainly lives up to the hype. Livraria Lello in Porto is the city’s oldest bookstore and is absolutely dripping in old-world splendour. Opened in 1906, the striking red double helix staircase is the main centrepiece, otherwise known as the ‘stairway to heaven’ for book lovers.

Livraria Lello costs €5 to enter - money well spent when you take in the gorgeous neo-gothic interior.

A staircase fit for a castle...or a bookstore.

This neo-gothic bookstore also features a breathtaking stained glass skylight and bronze reliefs of literary figures, carved into the wooden bookshelves lined with leather-bound books. The bookstore is even rumoured to have inspired J.K. Rowling’s Hogwarts in Harry Potter! So, grab a book and settle in with a coffee or wine at the cosy cafe, and see what you dream up in this magical bookstore.


The El Ateneo Grand Splendid in Buenos Aires is, indeed, splendid.

El Ateneo Grand Splendid

Buenos Aires, Argentina

If you’ve ever dreamed of visiting the library in Beauty and the Beast, El Ateneo Grand Splendid in Buenos Aires comes fairly close. The bookstore was originally a theatre built in 1919, and most of the gorgeous Beaux-Arts décor, including the stage and ornate balconies, has been kept as part of the beautiful bookstore.

You can snuggle up in the club chairs with a coffee and one of over 120,000 books. Or take in the view from the balcony, where you can imagine glamorous Argentines watching tango performances and the country’s first movies with sound. This bookstore is so fancy, you might feel like you need to put on your finest clothes to do some book browsing.

It is not difficult to work out El Ateneo Grand Splendid was originally a theatre.

Take in the intricately designed roof, or any of the 120,000 books.

Boekhandel Dominicanen is a spectacular clash of centuries-old architecture with modernist interior design,

Boekhandel Dominicanen

Maastricht, Netherlands

Prepare to be awed as you walk into Boekhandel Dominicanen in Maastricht. It’s located in a breathtaking Dominican church that’s over 700 years old, so you’ll be standing in an ancient piece of history as you browse the books.

With high ceilings and arched halls, masterfully restored in 2006, this bookstore is simply stunning. You’ll want to spend hours exploring the sleek black shelves or hunkering down in one of the peaceful reading nooks.

The store is a Dominican Church converted into bookstore.


If you were 100 years earlier, you might have bumped into Hemingway or Joyce at Shakespeare and Company, Rue de la Bûcherie, Paris, France.

Shakespeare and Company

Paris, France

As one of the most historical bookstores in the world, Shakespeare and Co. is an oasis for literary lovers. Set in the heart of Paris, the bookstore was opened in 1919 by American expat Sylvia Beach. She lent books to famous author Ernest Hemingway when he couldn’t afford to buy them.

In the 1920s, the bookstore became a popular hangout for writers including James Joyce, Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound, but was forced to close in 1941 during the German occupation of Paris. It never opened again in the original location, but in 1951, George Whitman opened the bookstore at a second location overlooking the Seine. The current bookstore pays homage to the original Shakespeare and Co.

Today the shop is active as ever and holds regular readings, workshops and an annual festival with some of the world’s best contemporary writers.


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Greenery, design and literature - in equal measure - at Cafebrería el péndulo.

Image: Nan Palmero

El Pendulo

Mexico City, Mexico

A true feast for the eyes, El Pendulo is utterly magical and one of the best bookshops in the world. You’ll enter a dreamscape where lush trees hang over bookshelves and plants are dotted all over the space. Even the handrails look like winding green vines.

Every detail in this bookstore is designed to make you feel like you’ve stepped into a paradise of books. Enjoy a coffee in the café beneath the thick trees and check out the Polanco branch, where a striking curving staircase leads up to a mezzanine lined wall-to-wall with books. Stunning!

A gondola as a bookshelf? This is Venice, after all.

Libreria Acqua Alta

Venice, Italy

A wonderland of books in Venice, this unique bookstore may be the only one in the world to use bathtubs and gondolas as bookshelves. Libreria Acqua Alta is famed for its old stonewalls and charming hodgepodge rooms filled with books, along with gorgeous views of the centuries-old Venetian canals.

It’s also home to many adorable cats, so you can kick back with a novel and watch the gondolas pass by, with friendly cats curled up at your feet.


The Last Book Store, Los Angeles.

The Last Bookstore

Los Angeles, United States

One of the most magical bookstores in Los Angeles, The Last Bookstore covers more than 1,850 square metres and even has gravity-defying bookshelves. On the mezzanine level, you’ll find the famous tunnel of books where you’ll feel like you’re entering a fairytale world made entirely from books.

With grand marble columns lining its hall, you’ll definitely want to whip out your camera here, before settling in to explore the huge labyrinth of books. You’ll find everything from fantasy titles to LA-centric literature, and a whole crime and mystery section set over the threshold of a former vault.

A vault containing crime and mystery (obviously) at The Last Book Store, Los Angeles.

Atlantis Books - grab a read for those lazy days on the beach in Santorini.

Atlantis Books

Santorini, Greece

This dreamy bookstore is set in a white-washed home in Santorini beside the glittering ocean. Atlantis Books is owned by American Craig Walzer, who set up the bookstore with his friend, Oliver Wise, when they were holidaying in Santorini and couldn’t find good books in English in the local bookshops.

They built the bookshelves and handpicked all the books that line the shop, and you can find rare treasures like the first edition of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. There’s also poetry, biographies, short-story collections and philosophical volumes, and the shop hosts many events from dance parties to book readings. Don’t forget to head up to the terrace for beautiful views over the sea.


A modern, architecturally-pleasing literature labyrinth at Chongqing Zhongshuge Bookstore.

Chongqing Zhongshuge Bookstore

Chonqing, China

Set in Chongqing City and designed by architectural firm X+living, Chongqing Zhongshuge Bookstore has gone above and beyond to create an architectural masterpiece that is a book lover’s dream.

Featuring an M.C Escher-style bookshelf staircase that zig-zags around mirrored ceilings, lampshade-shaped bookshelves, and a whimsical children’s reading room, this is one bookstore you’ll never want to leave. And with plenty of quiet reading hallways and nooks, you can enjoy this experience in comfort for hours.

Strand Bookstore in the last man standing on Book Row.

Strand Bookstore

New York, United States

Opened in 1927, the Strand Bookstore is Manhattan’s most famous bookstore, renowned for its “18 miles of books”. It’s one of the oldest family-run bookstores in the United States, set in an area of New York formerly known as Book Row, which once housed nearly 50 bookstores.

The Strand is now the last one standing. You’ll still find countless rows of books with everything from children’s stories to fiction novels and banned books. The famous musician Patti Smith used to work here.

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