Some say that money can't buy happiness. And, we couldn't help but disagree. Money can buy books and books equal all the joy and happiness in the world! As Jhumpa Lahiri said, books can transport you across the world, to any nook and corner that you have longed to visit forever. Books are a beauty that can make your life complete. And Bookstores are magical places that house these beauties!
That's the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.Jhumpa Lahiri
However, do you know what's even better than books? Bookstores. Yes. Our world houses some of the most beautiful bookstores your eyes have ever seen. These bookstores are famous not just for books. They're works of art and architecture, they treasure the literary culture and have some of the most amazing histories attached to them. Every bookstore is a marvel. However, these on our list stand out for their own curious little reasons. Thus, if you ever happen to be in one of these cities, leave everything and head to the bookstore. You will have an experience of a lifetime. And, if you are somebody who loves to seek out quaint bookstores when you travel, definitely add these to your bucket list!
Therefore, from Paris to Buenos Aires, here are the 10 best bookstores that you need to visit atleast once in your lifetime!
There is no friend as loyal as a book.Ernest Hemingway
10 Best Bookstores In The World
- Shakespeare and Company, Paris
- Powell's City of Books, Portland
- El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Buenos Aires
- City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco
- El Pendulo, Mexico City
- Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice
- The Mysterious Bookshop, Manhattan
- Livraria Lello Porto, Portugal
- Honesty Bookshop, Wales
- The Strand, New York City
#1 Best Bookstore In The World: Shakespeare and Company, Paris
Location: 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris, France
Hours Open: 10 AM to 10 PM
Phone: +33 1 43 25 40 93
Shakespeare and Company are undoubtedly one of the most famous independent bookstores in the world. It seems a little weird when you see an all-English bookstore in Paris. However, that is the truth. This bookstore is literally a literary utopia! Shakespeare and Company, founded by Sylvia Beach (later, Whitman) is an iconic bookstore. It used to be the hangout spot for authors like Hemingway, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, James Baldwin, etc. Shakespeare and Company was a bookstore-cum-publishing house. This is the name behind some of the greatest novels the world has ever read including Joyce's Ulysses. It had to be closed during World War II but was quick to reopen again.
Shakespeare and Company are so loved by every bookworm that, every day there is a huge queue outside the door just to get in! It is also said that you are sure to find every book you want there. However, you shouldn't visit this bookstore just for the sake of the books, but for the culture and history attached to it. Shakespeare and Company Bookstore is an unmissable one. Therefore, if you do decide to visit this one, make sure that you have ample time in your hands!
#2 Powell's City of Books, Portland
Location: 1005 W Burnside St, Portland, OR 97209, USA
Hours Open: 9AM to 11AM
Phone: +1 800-878-7323
There is a reason why Powell's is called the City of Books. This is the largest independent bookstore in the world. Established in the 1970s, this legendary bookstore occupies an entire city block. Powell's also boasts of having over 1 million titles. And, this is probably true as their claim is undisputed. Powell's is so huge that a handy store map is available at the counter to help you navigate through the massive bookshelves. This bookstore has numerous rooms, some are color-coded and some host the rare collection. Powell's has a collection of both old and new books. Thus, it is absolutely possible that you will walk out of Powell's with more than you need and all that you didn't need either! Powell's is a must-visit!
#3 El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Buenos Aires
Location: Av. Santa Fe 1860, C1123 CABA, Argentina
Hours Open: 9AM to 12AM
Phone: +54 11 4813-6052
El Ateneo Grand Splendid is less of a bookstore and more of a dream. Initially, El Ateneo Grand Splendid has started out as a stunning theatre in 1919. However, by 2000, it was eventually transformed into an even more stunning bookstore. Trust us on this. El Ateneo Grand Splendid is nothing like your eyes have seen before. The interior is dimly lit and beautifully adorned with the theatre opera boxes and ceiling frescos still intact. The spaces where the audience used to sit have been converted into gigantic bookshelves. This bookstore is absolutely breathtaking and the moment you walk inside, it feels like you are in a book lover's dream! This one is our favorite and definitely a must-visit! We recommend 10/10!
#4 City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco
Location: 261 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA
Hours Open: 10AM to 12AM
Phone: +1 415-362-8193
There is no dearth of amazing bookstores in America, with the Strand Bookstore, Bookcourt and more. However, City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco definitely stands out and has a special place in our hearts. Similar to Shakespeare and Company, this bookstore was a bookshop-cum-publishing house and also the meeting place of the legendary beatniks. Founded in 1953 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, City Lights Books was the first of its kind being the first all-paperback store in the country. In addition, this iconic bookstore gave the voice to the Beat Movement and published Allen Ginsberg's Howl. This is where the beat heroes like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady, and Burroughs used to hangout and exchange their ideas. City Lights specializes in books of the arts, world literature, and progressive politics. Therefore, to date, City Lights is the touchstone for San Francisco's revolutionary counterculture.
Pro Tip: If you happen to visit City Lights Bookstore, make sure to go to the Vesuvio bar. The Vesuvio Bar which is just next door was another iconic spot for the beatniks. This is where they used to come for drinks and hang out all the time! We wouldn't miss this for anything in the world! And, we are sure that you'll love it!
#5 El Pendulo, Mexico City
Location: Alejandro Dumas 81, Polanco, Polanco IV Secc, 11560 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Hours Open: 8AM to 11PM
Phone: +52 55 5280 4111
If you are a budding writer who needs a quiet and pretty place to work amidst books, then this is perfect for you. Or, if you are someone who just needs a good cafe, this is perfect for you. And, if you are an avid reader who would love to spend hours in a bookstore, then this is perfect for you. Or, if you just need a chill place to hang out with friends, then yes, this is perfect for you too! In short, El Pendulo is perfect for everyone. El Pendulo is a sensational chain of cafe-cum-bookstores in Mexico. It has its outlets spread all over the country. Each location is gorgeous and sticks to the original theme which is lush greenery and books! Besides, each outlet has a great selection of books, DVDs and Vinyl Records.
El Pendulo also hosts live performances regularly. Shows like live music, standup comedy, book launches, and poetry readings are a regular feature. Therefore, El Pendulo is a great space to read, work or hang out with friends. You wouldn't want to miss this one surely!
Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.Mark Twain
#6 Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice
Location: Calle Lunga Santa Maria Formosa, 5176b, 30122 Venezia VE, Italy
Hours Open: 9:15AM to 7:45PM
Phone: +39 041 296 0841
Venice is an enchanting city, and Libreria Acqua Alta is no less. Libreria Acqua Alta is one of the most unique bookstores the world has seen. It is nestled in the corner of a tiny and quiet side street in Venice. Founded in 2004, this quaint place is a bookstore in a canal. Yes, you heard it right. This bookstore features classic American and Italian volumes packed in a traditional Venetian gondola boat. This quirky bookstore is modeled this way to protect the books from acqua alta (Venetian floods/high water). Libreria is also called a floating bookstore because all the books are kept in bathtubs, canals or gondolas. This bookstore is one of a kind! If you happen to visit this place, make sure to have a look at their postcard collection!
#7 The Mysterious Bookshop, Manhattan
Location: 1099, 58 Warren St, New York, NY 10007, United States
Hours Open: 11AM to 7PM
Phone: +1 212-587-1011
Here is yet another quirky bookstore in Manhattan, United States. Founded and curated by mystery author Otto Penzler, the Mysterious Bookshop is entirely mystery-themed. This bookshop doesn't focus on numbers or quantity. Instead, it focused on depth. This is probably the largest mystery book archive in the world. The Mysterious Bookshop has a massive floor-to-ceiling collection of old and new crime and suspense titles. In addition, this unique bookstore claims to have the largest Sherlock Holmes collection in the world, and every thriller, crime and detective novel you can think of. Therefore, if you are a fan of the mystery and the dark, you have found your perfect place!
#8 Livraria Lello Porto, Portugal
Location: R. das Carmelitas 144, 4050-161 Porto, Portugal
Hours Open: 9:30AM to 8PM
Phone: +351 22 200 2037
The Livraria Lello Porto in Portugal is yet another grand bookstore. Thus, this place is every book lover's dream! This bookstore has that old world charm with its opulent grandeur, hued glass skylight and grand staircase to heaven. This is the bookstore that served as the inspiration for J.K Rowling's vision of Hogwarts. Walking into this bookstore feels like walking into a castle. Livraria Lello Porto is over 100 years and is a famous tourist attraction in Portugal. If you like books and architecture, you will love Livraria Lello Porto!
#9 Honesty Bookshop, Wales
Location, Hours Open and Phone are not available. You can check out Book Patrol for contact and other information.
Honesty Bookshop is not your regular bookshop. It is a book town. Yes, the entire little town of Hay-on-Wye is a single bookstore with its alleys and streets split up as bookshelves. Honesty Bookshop is truly a dream! It has over fifty small bookshops and every book is priced at one euro. However, the major attraction is not the bookshop but for the annual Hay-on-Wye literary festival. This festival attracts tourists from across the globe and is a great place to hang out and meet fellow bookworms. Therefore, this one is not just a bookstore, it is a huge outdoor expanse filled with books.
#10 The Strand, New York City
Location: 828 Broadway, New York, NY 10003, USA
Hours Open: 9:30 AM to 10:30 PM
Phone: +1 212-473-1452
An article on the best bookstores in the world is incomplete without this one. Yet another bookstore in the States, The Strand is probably the most famous. Founded by Benjamin Bass in 1927, The Strand was part of the infamous Book Row. However, today it is the only one in business among the other bookstores in the Book Row. The Strand is an independent bookstore with about 19 miles of books. Their "books by foot" sale is iconic and every year tourists flock here just to attend that. Besides, The Strand has a remarkable and enormous collection of new, old and rare books. Thus, if you are a true bibliophile, this one is a must-visit!
Books are a uniquely portable magic.Stephen King
If you liked this article, check out our other articles on books: https://www.thebestofeverything.org/best-books-of-all-time-must-read-before-you-die/