Beautiful bookstores that are sure to inspire both booklovers and non-bookworms alike
Like museums are an essential pitstop for culture aficionados, so is the bookstore for book lovers when they step into a foreign country. More than just brick-and-mortar booksellers, these shops have evolved to appeal to user experiences, inspired by the literary romance of being suspended in time burrowed in the familiarity of books, but in a far-off land. You need not be a bookworm when you visit these double-duty time capsules that are prepared to blow your imagination.
1. Libreria El Pendulo, Mexico City
Of Mexican bookstore Pendulo’s six outlets, this branch in Polanco is by far the finest. This 22-year-old bookstore spans shelves that rise as high as two storeys, in a brightly lit, vast space with a refreshing touch of foliage, scattered with lush green plants and trees throughout the floor plan. Make full use of the bookstore’s ambiance by enjoying a meal at the café with book in hand, or simply stay for the live classical music.
2. Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice, Italy
A few steps away from the tourist-mobbed St Mark’s Square is a charming, and some might say, one of the most original libraries in the world. The bookstore/library concept overflows with a vast collection of books both old and new, displayed in a special spectacle of boats, gondolas, tanks and canoes, or any nook and cranny, really. You’ll be amused with fixtures like old encyclopaedias stacked as suitcases or books as wallpaper lining the courtyards.
3. Livraria Lello e Irmao, Porto, Portugal
You’d be forgiven if, for one second, you thought you stepped into a church instead of a bookstore when you enter livraria Lello. Opened since 1906, this magnificent bookstore preserves an interior of art nouveau, featuring an exquisite, curved staircase that stretches throughout the store, a stained glass ceiling and carved wood panels. The windows are painted with figures representing “science” and “art”, and beautiful plant and geometric motifs. It’s no wonder this bookstore has consistently ranked one of the world’s most stunning bookstores.
4. Shakespeare and Company, Paris, France
Adding to the character of the quintessential Parisian scene of the river Seine is the world’s most famous independent bookstores. It’s every bit a literary utopia, starting from its green and yellow façade, rustic signage and weatherworn book shelves with yellowed, pre-loved volumes. It’s also a rare English-language bookshop in Paris, pulling in swarms of tourists eager to explore the tiny mazes that lead into quirky rooms lined with old and new books in the midst of old, fraying chairs and blurred, antique mirrors. The air is thick with spirits of authorts past, having been used as residence of over 30,000 traveling writers in the past.
5. Polare, Maastricht, Holland
For a bookshop that also has an online store presence, this Polare bookstore’s 18th century gothic outpost is a startling contrast as is its magnificent interior. In 2007, the former Dominican church was restored, but partially maintained its original, primordial elements, but infused with a modern minimalist interior. The result: a timeless space of vaulted ceilings, frescoes and intricate details as a fitting backdrop while you leaf through endless rows of books.
6. El Ateneo, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Once a grand theatre that echoed with the lively performances of famous shows and plays, and later on converted into a movie theatre, the now repurposed bookstore, is a sight to behold. It sets the stage for a richer literary experience with its original architecture details of dazzling frescos, elegant theatre boxes and a red stage with plush, velvety curtains. In place of cinema seating are bookshelves, and patrons are welcome to peruse a book in one of the cushioned balcony chairs, or to simply people watch as they while the time away.
7. Bart’s Books, Ojai, California
The open concept of this outdoor bookstore beckons both book lovers and curious passers-by’s to trudge among mazes of bookshelves or simply to enjoy the artsy space, as locals do. You can find rare first editions and a huge volume of new books at this sidewalk attraction, and should some spontaneous book shopping strike your fancy at odd hours of the day; you can shop in accordance to the ‘honour system’ of dropping money for your purchase in the coin box.
8. Atlantis Books, Oia, Greece
If you ever do tire of reading sunsets from the cliffs of Santorini, make your way to the charming literary haven of Atlantis Books that’s located in a basement of one of the white houses in this scenic village. It’s become more of a landmark than a bookstore now – tourists are eager to snap photos of the shop with a quirky character, but traveling bibliophiles still use it as a hang out, participating in festivals and sunset reading to the views of the open sea.