15 Most Beautiful Bookstores in the World


Letting your interests guide your travels is always a good idea, because it helps you personally engage with your destination. Beer lovers visit breweries and bars, foodies hunt down the best restaurants, and avid readers seek out libraries and bookstores. 

If that last one is you, finding the most beautiful bookstore in the world probably sounds like perfection. The world’s a big place, though, so to help you narrow down where you’ll be jetting off to next, we’ve collected this phenomenal group of the best bookstores in the world. Plan accordingly, bookworms!

El Pendulo Bookstore in Mexico City, Mexico
Nan Palmero / flickr.com (CC BY 2.0)

Cafebrería El Péndulo – Mexico City, Mexico

Not content to create just one beautiful bookshop, the El Péndulo chain has crafted several across Mexico City. These stores are an inviting combination of bookshop, cafe, and restaurant, giving you plenty of reasons to stick around. 

While the Zona Rosa, Roma, and La Condesa stores are all pretty, the Polanco location is typically regarded as the most attractive. All the stores have a healthy balance of wooden furnishings and plant life, but it’s the layout of El Péndulo Polanco, with its large atrium feel and narrow upper walkways, that makes this store especially impressive.

Boekhandel Dominicanen Bookstore in Maastricht, Netherlands
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Boekhandel Dominicanen – Maastricht, Netherlands

If you’re looking for a bookshop in a beautiful setting, this 13th-century church will be hard to beat. That’s where you’ll find Boekhandel Dominicanen in the city of Maastricht. 

This historic Dominican church served various purposes after closing its doors in the 18th century, but bookworms will certainly appreciate its latest role. Operating since 2006, the shop features three-story bookshelves to go with the frescoes across its vaulted ceiling. Besides its wide range of books, the store has a coffee shop in the choir, where you can sit down to read or simply appreciate your surroundings.

Interior of the Carturesti Carusel bookshop, located in the old city center Lipscani, Buacharest, Romania
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Cărturești Carusel – Bucharest, Romania

The Romanian capital of Bucharest certainly has its moments of grandeur. One of the best examples is the Cărturești Carusel, a dazzling bookstore and a must for any Bucharest itinerary.

While it just opened in 2015, Cărturești Carusel wasted no time captivating locals and visitors alike. With metal railings, abundant windows, and curved balconies overlooking the wide-open central foyer, this huge building is a Belle Époque masterpiece that supports Bucharest’s claim as “the Paris of the East.” There’s even a teahouse up on the top floor, giving you somewhere to sit and savor your surroundings.

High angle view of stairs in the bookstore Livraria Lello in Porto, Portugal
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Livraria Lello – Porto, Portugal

It’s easy to see why the Livraria Lello in Porto has become incredibly popular with tourists in recent years. The interior of this century-old bookstore is beyond enchanting, thanks to the elaborate architecture and woodwork throughout. You won’t mind lining up for a visit when you see the majestic curving stairway in the center of the store, leading up to the mezzanine and large skylight. With these sweeping stairs and the ceiling-high bookshelves, the store is famous largely for its resemblance to Hogwarts from Harry Potter. It’s definitely an attraction that needs to be on your Porto itinerary.

The Last Book Store in LA, California, USA
Ingus Kruklitis / shutterstock.com

The Last Bookstore – Los Angeles, California, USA

The lead contender for best bookstore in Los Angeles is the whimsical Last Bookstore downtown. This independent bookstore is found inside a former bank, covering a massive 22,000 square feet that even includes the old bank vault. 

While that scale and setup immediately grab the attention, The Last Bookstore also has a creative flair that has made it instantly memorable since it opened in 2005. You’ll find not only all manner of new and used books here, but also lots of fun corners and character. These special touches include a section of hardbacks categorized by color, a covered tunnel crafted from old books, and a display of books positioned to look like they’re literally flying off the shelves.

Arc N Book Bookstore in Seoul, South Korea
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Arc.N.Book – Seoul, South Korea

Update: Unfortunately, Arc.N.Book is now permanently closed.

It’s always impressive how one clever design concept can elevate an ordinary place into somewhere you absolutely can’t miss. That’s the case with Arc.N.Book in the Euljiro area of Seoul. Although a little overshadowed by the incredible Starfield Library, Arc.N.Book is a fun and memorable place to go book shopping in Seoul. 

The store’s overall decor is very art deco, with its entrance looking more like a classic cinema than a bookstore. Head inside to find quirky touches like a red phone box and a lamppost, but the piece de resistance is its fantastic curved tunnel of books. In case you don’t read Korean, the store sells books in English as well.

Honesty Bookshop in Hay on Wye, Wales, UK
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Hay Castle Bookshop – Hay-on-Wye, Wales, UK

People who love to read are fundamentally honest, right? At least, that’s the attitude of this bookshop in Hay-on-Wye of Wales, which uses the honor system. Rather than dealing with staff (there are none), you simply take the books you want and slip your money into the collection box. Funds from the store go toward the restoration of Hay Castle. 

The small town of Hay-on-Wye has quite a thing for books, with over 40 bookstores despite a population of only about 1,500 people. But it’s the Hay Castle Bookshop that’s truly special, with shelves of books out in the open on the lower garden terrace of the castle. Can’t ask for better scenery than that!

Bookstore Atlantis Books in the village of Oia at the Island Santorini, Greece
Koverninska Olga / shutterstock.com

Atlantis Books – Oia, Santorini, Greece

The Greek island of Santorini is famous for its iconic whitewashed homes that cascade down to the water. But one of its many other attractions is Atlantis Books in the popular coastal town of Oia. This store is a treasure trove of books that just keeps going and going. 

Atlantis is basically the bookstore of Oia, so finding it isn’t hard. From the main street, you’ll enter a cavelike Cycladic house, where new and used books fill every crevice and even spill out onto the rooftop patio. In a nod to its American owners and the many tourists who pass through, the store offers books in a wide range of languages.

Famous bookstore in Venice "Libreria Acqua Alta"
Ihor Serdyukov / shutterstock.com

Libreria Acqua Alta – Venice, Italy

A beloved fixture of Venice is Libreria Acqua Alta, a bookshop hidden among the canals of the Castello district. What makes it so special is how it addressed a truly Venetian problem – flooding. Libreria Acqua Alta uses gondolas, bathtubs, and towering stacks to protect its collection of vintage books, postcards, maps, and magazines from water damage. 

The store makes a strong impression right away with walls of books outside its entrance. There’s even a makeshift staircase of ruined books, leading to a little terrace with nice canal views. It’s really everything you could want from a bookstore in Venice.

The famous El Ateneo Grand Splendid, a bookshop set in a 100-year-old theater in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
R.M. Nunes / shutterstock.com

El Ateneo Grand Splendid – Buenos Aires, Argentina

When it comes to outright splendor, it’s hard to find a grander bookstore than the El Ateneo Grand Splendid in Buenos Aires. Set inside a spacious former theater and cinema, this Argentinian bookstore is an absolute showstopper. All the details from the store’s past are preserved, including the red stage curtains, theater boxes, and special auditorium lighting. 

Opened in 2000, El Ateneo Grand Splendid saved the building from demolition and created a truly epic bookstore in the process. Inside are over 120,000 books, comfy chairs, and even a cafe and bar on a stage, complete with a piano for live music.

Shakespeare and Company, the famous English-language bookstores in Paris, France
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Shakespeare and Company – Paris, France

Sleeping in a bookstore is surely a fantasy of many book lovers, but at Shakespeare and Company on Paris’ Left Bank, it actually has happened quite a lot over the years. When this English-language bookshop opened in 1951, it went by the name Le Mistral. That changed in 1964, when it was renamed as an homage to the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth – and to a local bookstore of the same name that was forced to close in 1941 during the war. 

The older store was a haven for aspiring writers like Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce, and its successor has embraced this history by allowing aspiring writers, actors, and artists to sleep inside the store. Its story and ethos, combined with its bohemian ambiance, make this bookstore one of a kind.

City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco California, USA
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City Lights – San Francisco, California, USA

To see one of the best bookstores in San Francisco, you need only look at City Lights in North Beach. In business since 1963, this local icon is perhaps most famous for its role in publishing the then-controversial Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg. It was also the first all-paperback bookstore in the U.S. and has long focused on world literature, the arts, and progressive politics. It’s easy to see why the San Francisco Board of Supervisors recognized it as an official historic landmark in 2001. 

From the outside, the store may seem unassuming. Inside, however, you’ll find three floors with one room after another, full to the brim with books, including an impressive collection of rare books.

Hatchards Bookstore in London, UK
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Hatchards – London, England, UK

While there are several historic bookshops on this list, none can quite compete with Hatchards of London. This Piccadilly bookstore dates back to 1797, making it the oldest in the city and one of the oldest in the country. For two centuries, Hatchards has been a go-to for all walks of life, including the British royal family on occasion. It bears a distinguished shopfront with flags flying and the royal coat of arms over the door. 

Inside, you’ll find five stories of neatly ordered books on display. Look out for details such as old photographs of the store and a portrait of founder John Hatchard.

Strand Bookstore in NYC, New York, USA
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Strand Bookstore – New York City, New York, USA

Widely considered the best bookstore in New York City, the Strand should definitely be a stop for any bibliophile visiting New York. Since opening in 1927, this store has become famous in Manhattan for its slogan boasting “18 miles of books,” though it’s said to be more like 23 miles these days. 

Rather tragically, this independent bookstore is the last of nearly 50 shops that earned this part of New York the name “Book Row.” While it may not be as conventionally beautiful as other shops on this list, the Strand’s endless rows of bookshelves will make any avid reader’s eyes light up. The prettiest section is the Rare Book Room, where the walls are lined with leather-bound books and fairy lights are strung up overhead. This is an excellent room for quiet reading when it’s not being used for events.

Powell's Books In the city of Portland, Oregon.
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Powell’s City of Books – Portland, Oregon, USA

There are large bookstores, and then there’s Powell’s City of Books in Portland. This independent bookstore actually occupies an entire city block, which was an old car dealership before the store’s founding in 1971. It proudly claims to be the largest store of its kind in the world today. 

If an endless sea of books sounds like your idea of the best bookstore in the United States, then Powell’s is where it’s at. To help you navigate its selection of over 1 million titles, the store is divided into nine color-coded rooms and more than 3,500 sections. You’re bound to find whatever you want here – if you look long enough.

That just about sums up the world’s best and most beautiful bookstores. Now that you’ve read the list, we’re sure you’ll quickly move some of these cities to the top of your travel plans.



  • I love the Strand but not sure how it made the list.

  • Mumblecore Dumbledore

    JK Rowling has never stepped foot in Livraria Lello, nor had she even heard of it before people started making that spurious claim. She clarified this in a tweet a couple years back.

    There’s an industrious trend in Porto to make way-too-literal associations between some of the gothic elements of the city and the writing of an author wo spent two years there in the 90s. Only a few of the claims are true. And most lack what they also fail to give Rowling credit for: imagination.

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