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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31 comments on “The World’s Best Bookstores”
I am going to Santorini in a week! I will definitely have to check out this book store – I’ve saved it for later so I can remember! So fun!
Hope you love it Meghan, Santorini is just so beautiful! xx
This. Was. Awesome. As a huge bookworm myself, I often create itineraries based off of bookstores to visit ????
You and me both Bri – let me know if you have any other bookstore recommendations I should add to my list! xx
These all sound incredible! I haven’t been to any of them but I’ll put them on my list
Let me know if you make it to any of them Alice! xx
This is my kind of post! 😉 I love finding those amazing bookstores while traveling, too. (Give me a good bookstore and coffee shop, and I’m set.) One of my favorites is The Strand in NYC. Thankfully, my husband humored me and was patient while I browsed, but I could seriously have stayed for hours. Also, have you read the blog Eat This Poem? They have literary guides to a bunch of cities in the US and around the world.
A great bookstore-cum-coffee shop really is the best combination. I’m yet to go to NYC but The Strand will be my first stop when I make it there. I’ve never heard of Eat This Poem but it sounds *amazing* – will check it out now! xx
I love this list. I actually have the tote from shakespeare and co. In Paris. Love that place. Such an inspiration for writing. Also am going to Greece in May and will happily check out the one in Santorini. Thanks!!
Hope you have the best time in Greece Kelly! xx
I last went to Santorini over 30 years ago, and if that lovely bookshop had been in Oia then, you’d never have prised me out of it… I do wish I had access to a decent bookshop here, but our last secondhand book shop has just closed, and all we have left is one tiny QBD outlet in the shopping centre. Sigh… Amazon it is, then.
My friend certainly struggled to get me out of Atlantis! Always frustrating when bookshops close, but as you said – at least there’s Amazon! xx
Oh wow! Atlantis books looks stunning! 😮
I also never knew about the one in Amsterdam – I live just an hour or two away from it! I am definitely adding it to my list of things to see this year! xx
Atlantis Books really is unbelievably beautiful – a must visit for any booklover! xx
Wonderful list, thank you for sharing! During the hustle and bustle of traveling, it is so nice to just sit in a quiet area and read, will have to check these places out when I make it down to those cities!
It certainly is Diana – let me know if you visit any lovely bookstores I should add to the list! xx
I love meeting fellow bookworms and such a great idea, finding great bookstores all over the world. I know of a great one in Asheville, NC in the USA! It’s called Battery Park Book Exchange. You can bring your dog and there is a champagne bar. What more do you need?
Books, bubbles and dogs – can’t think of a better combination Cherene! xx
I LOVE this post and will use it as a guide for my future travels! I have visited Powell’s in Portland, OR and Shakespeare & Company in Paris! DREAMS.COME.TRUE!!
I’ll have to add Powell’s in Portland to my list Maegan – it looks wonderful! And isn’t Shakespeare & Company just glorious? xx
darling you don’t know how this post made me happy. i love bookstores and the bookworm in me is currently doing a happy dance! i especially love the fact that these are places in my bucket list!
Always love hearing from a fellow bookworm – let me know as and when you get around to visiting any of them! xx
Cool list of bookstores! I agree that bookstores are a cool places to be – especially those that were converted from previous usages of buildings (such as the church you mentioned). Same with libraries. Thanks for sharing!
Totally agree Charmaine! Adore libraries and bookstores that have been converted from other buildings xx
Nice post! I never knew about ‘Waanders The Broeren’ in Zwolle and ‘Boekhandel Dominican’ in Maastricht. I love reading and since I am Dutch, I will definitely visit them soon!
I hope you love them Daphne – nothing better than finding a new – and beautiful – bookstore! xx
So many people recommended Atlantis Books in Santorini to me! I was just in Oia recently but I think it was closed because it was very low season still. I’ll have to go back! These places sound heavenly.
Oh Atlantis Books really is absolutely beautiful – I had to be dragged out of there when I visited Santorini a few years ago. If you do go back you must pay it a visit xx
That bookstore in Amsterdam looks surreal 😮 it’s so beautiful! I live in Paris but I had never heard about Shakespear and Company – I will have to check it out! Bookstores are always so lovely!