Books

The World's Most Beautiful Bookstores

From an opulent bookshop in a repurposed theater to a charmingly weathered store on a canal.
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You don't have to be an avid reader to enjoy walking the aisles of a bookstore, though it helps to have a healthy appreciation of the written word. Even as the way we read becomes increasingly digitized, there's no replacement for the pleasure of getting lost in a temple to knowledge, especially when it happens to be a feast for the eyes. Read on for 14 shops that are just that.

Cook & Book in Brussels


This bookshop in Brussels features an eye-catching installation of tomes that seem to be flying like birds from the ceiling—and that's just one facet of its exuberant design. Visitors will also find a vintage Fiat 500 parked in the café and Union Jack lamps in the English section.

 

Assouline in London


Assouline's London flagship bills itself as a "concept store for culture" and the richly decorated bookshop certainly embodies that categorization. In addition to purchasing rare first editions and leather-bound volumes, visitors can have tea or cocktails in the Swan Bar or personalize their favorite works with bespoke bindery.

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The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles


This cavernous bookstore occupies a former bank in downtown L.A., and the old vault door serves as a portal to the crime and mystery section. Unsurprisingly, its incredible curved installation of books is like catnip for Instagrammers.

 

Shakespeare & Company in Paris


The famed bookshop opposite Notre Dame has been a literary hub for Paris's expat community since it opened in 1951. It is inspired by Sylvia Beach's original shop of the same name, the one that let Hemingway borrow books when he had no money. Inside, paperbacks fill the space floor-to-ceiling while plush armchairs provide a welcoming respite for bibliophiles.

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Rizzoli in New York City


Though Rizzoli lost its original home in Midtown, the renowned publishing house and bookstore set up a beautiful new shop in NoMad. It retained the old shop's cherry wood bookcases and brass and iron chandeliers, but added a new whimsical mural by Fornasetti Milano depicting Italian cities and hot air balloons floating in the clouds, zodiac figures, and Fornasetti's iconic newspaper fragments.

 

Livraria Lello in Porto, Portugal


Established in 1906, this architectural masterpiece has become one of Porto's most famous sites. The elegantly curved staircase looks like something out of a novel—a fitting tribute to the literary classics housed in the neo-Gothic stunner.

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Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice


Only in Venice could you find a weathered old bookshop right on a canal with the "fire escape" leading straight into the water. A nautical theme pervades the shop, with a gondola overflowing with books, antique ship's helm, and other charming touches.

 

El Ateneo Grand Splendid in Buenos Aires


An ornate theater dating back to 1919, El Ateneo Grand Splendid in fashionable Recoleta certainly lives up to its name. Bookshelves stand where the audience once sat, but the building retains its frescoed ceiling, curved balconies, gilded boxes, and red curtained stage (now home to a café).

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Daikanyama T-Site in Tokyo


Part of the massive Tetsuya chain of bookstores, this store in Tokyo's hip Daikanyama neighborhood features a modern façade, a garden, and sleek interiors selling books, magazines, CDs, DVDs, and stationery. There's also a plush café and lounge.

 

10 Corso Como in Milan


The über-chic concept shop founded in 1990 by Carla Sozzani (sister of the late Franca Sozzani) is still one of Milan's must-visit boutiques. Here, in a converted garage, art, culture, and commerce collide, especially in the bookshop, which sells art, fashion, and design reads.

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Cafebrería El Péndulo in Mexico City


El Péndulo has six locations in Mexico City, but the one in Polanco is the most beautiful. The airy shop sports a very green design—literally. There's a curved green staircase, plants, and trees hanging over the shelves.

 

Boekhandel Dominicanen in Maastricht, Netherlands


This stunning bookstore in a 13th-century Gothic monastery welcomes 700,000 visitors per year to the small city of Maastricht near the Belgian border. A steel book tower in the nave offers amazing views of the church's restored frescoes and stained-glass windows.

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Ben McNally Books in Toronto


Hailed as Toronto's most beautiful bookstore, Ben McNally Books resembles a private club for bibliophiles, with columns, chandeliers, and leather armchairs. Marrying a fellow book lover? The Financial District stunner even hosts weddings, on occasion.

 

Atlantis Books in Santorini


This little shop on the Greek island of Santorini might just be the bookshop with the world's best view. The whitewashed building has become a magnet for literary-minded travelers since it was opened in 2002 by a group of British expats.

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This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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Laura Itzkowitz
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