Whenever I go abroad, there are few things I like better than hunting out a new, local bookstore. From multi-floored stores with endless rows of books offering every genre imaginable, to hidden havens of dog-eared tales nestled among crooked shelves, there’s a faint magic in discovering a city’s literary hideaway.
Whether a dedicated bookworm or someone with an eye for aesthetic architecture, there’s an abundance of monuments to literature all over the world that entice visitors far and wide. And so, with the help of Karen from Wanderlustingk and Melissa from Wanderful Traveler we’ve compiled a list of some of the world’s best bookstores, from the Netherlands to Santorini to Los Angeles and beyond. If we’ve left off your favourite, be sure to add to the collection in the comments below.
Just over an hour train ride from Amsterdam is one of the Netherland’s most beautiful bookstores. Waanders The Broeren is a 15th century church converted into a 21st century bookstore and cafe. The beautiful ceiling paintings, curved arches, stained glass windows and functioning pipe organ remain untouched in the repurposing of the cathedral. Designer BK Architecten elegantly added three levels of retail space to the side wings of the church, carefully designing it to preserve the church’s cultural heritage while complementing the original architecture and interior. Visitors can while away an afternoon browsing their selection of books and novelty items, before enjoying a drink and delicious meal in the cafe nestled in the heart of the cathedral.
When it comes to the world’s best bookstores, California’s largest, The Last Bookstore, is a clear contender. Born in a downtown Los Angeles loft it’s a literary treasure trove of bookish delights and offers visitors a softly lit labyrinthine collection of books and records complete with hanging tomes and nooks and crannies boasting books in abundance. With over 100,000 used books for sale, it’s an endless source of joy for any one with a keen interest in reading.
A charming city approximately 2.5 hours from Amsterdam, Maastricht boasts a beautiful bookstore called Boekhandel Dominican, tucked away within a 12th century church. The ceiling is beautifully ornate and while the book selection is mostly in Dutch, they also offer carefully selected English literature. And as the church continues to be be restored; so too will the beauty of this bookstore increase. A must-visit for bookworms the world over, while the city itself is one of the Nertherland’s hidden gems, Boekhandel Dominican alone makes it well worth a visit.
A Parisian institute to rival the city’s famous tower is the much loved bookstore Shakespeare & Company. Arguably one of the world’s most famous bookshops, it occupies a prime piece of real estate facing the Seine in Paris and attracts book lovers in their droves. Steeped in history, the location of the bookstore is Paris at its very best. A peddler of both new and second-hand books, an antiquarian bookseller, and an iconic spot for tourists and locals alike, Shakespeare & Company – is an oasis of undiscovered tales, and everything a bookshop should be.
While Santorini is beloved by many for its multicoloured cliffs, drifts of whitewashed buildings and blue-domed rooftops, its biggest attraction for those with bookish tendencies, and undoubtedly one of the world’s best bookstores, is the beautiful Atlantis Books. An absolute dream of a bookstore, it’s nestled down a bustling street in Oia; with an outdoor stairwell, sleeping cat and Tenesse Williams quote leading you to its entrance. Inside: a haven of the unknown and unread; cubby holes of Greek History, hand-written recommendations; a shelf of first editions priced in their thousands.
While Sydney may be better known for its endless stretches of sand, it also offers book lovers a myriad of shops to chose from, including Bondi Beach’s beloved Gertrude & Alice. Named after American writers Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, the bookstore-cum-coffee shop is as beloved for its famous honey-infused Chai Tea as it is for its collection of both new and second-hand books. The warmly-lit interior is inviting, the smell of coffee enticing; the books stacked ceiling high. Whether you’re after a specific title, or happy to browse, Gertrude & Alice offers the perfect environment to do so. Every nook and cranny is filled with books, while tables are chairs are dotted throughout, affording their customers a corner in which to curl up and read over a Moroccan Mint Tea.
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