Jerry Seinfeld once famously said that bookstores are one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking.
He was absolutely right, of course – bookstores have always had the status of a sort of intellectual Mecca.
What people often forget about them though, is that they can also be incredibly cool places to visit.
The world is littered with bookstores that deserve a place on any travel checklist, whether you’re an avid reader or not.'A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking.' - Jerry SeinfeldClick To Tweet
It might seem like a fool’s errand to try and narrow them all down to just the best 15 – but more fool us, because that’s exactly what we’ve attempted.
So have a browse through our handpicked selection of some of the most beautiful, quirky or otherwise impressive bookstores that planet Earth has to offer.
And be sure to let us know your own favourites in the comments below: with such a tight shortlist, there are plenty more exceptional bookstores that fully deserve a shout-out!
As if Paris wasn’t already appealing enough, right?
English-language bookstore Shakespeare and Company has been plying its trade by the banks of the Seine since 1951, delighting French and international readers alike.
Since then its established itself as a literary hotspot of the French capital, selling books both new and old and welcoming visitors to its free reading library.
Film fans may even recognise the store from movies such as Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset or Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris – adding some extra Hollywood glamour to an already alluring location.
Location: Paris, France.
Don’t worry, there will definitely be more bookstores – mostly because venues like The Last Bookstore in downtown LA keep customers coming back!
California’s largest new and used book and record store contains over 250,000 books, including a Rare Book Annex and thousands of graphic novels.
It’s a fantastic venue, with a jam-packed calendar of literary, musical and theatrical events, often with big-name guests and speakers.
Put simply, The Last Bookstore strikes the perfect balance between being a retail outlet and a very cool place to hangout.
Location: Los Angeles, United States.
Portugal’s historic bookstore, Livraria Lello, is a sight to behold.
Opened in 1906 (and with roots stretching back even further than that), the stunning venue is one of the country’s oldest.
Worth visiting for the architecture alone, the Livraria Lello also has a rich literary history – including, more recently, serving as an inspiration to a certain J.K. Rowling during her time spent in Porto.
Location: Porto, Portugal.
Bookstore/cafe combinations are a common occurrence nowadays, but there are arguably few better than Cafebreria el Pendulo.
The Mexico City chain houses its books in gorgeous surroundings that also play host to live music, comedy and poetry readings.
There’s quite the selection of wares too: alongside the vast selection of English and Spanish titles sits an array of CDs, DVDs, journals, stationary and other souvenirs.
And on your way out, feel free to give a little shove to the giant sand-filled pendulum after which Cafebreria is named!
Location: Mexico City, Mexico.
18 miles of books.
That’s the slogan of this giant, independent bookstore in NYC – home to a collection of over 2.5 million titles spread over its four floors.
The Strand Bookstore has thrived by fostering a great community atmosphere, no doubt a result of it being a family run business spanning three generations.
In addition to its main Broadway location, the Strand also has kiosks in Central Park and Times Square, making this a genuine Manhattan institution.
Location: New York City, United States.
Opening a bookstore on a Greek Island would be a dream come true for many a book lover.
Well, that dream became a reality for this group of young friends when they opened up Atlantis Books in Oia, Santorini in 2004.
Housed in the basement of one of Santorini’s signature white houses, Atlantis is an oasis for readers on this remote Mediterranean island.
Since its inception, the store has become a vital part of the Oia community, even hosting its own arts and literature festival!
Location: Santorini, Greece.
Lovers of rare books will be spellbound by this bookstore in the Spanish capital.
Libreria Bardon is one of Spain’s oldest and most renowned antiquarian bookstores, founded in 1947 by its namesake, Luis Bardon Lopez.
Since then its become a must-visit location for collectors of ancient or rare books, who come from all over the world to peruse its collection of over 50,000 copies.
It’s no wonder the store has become known as ‘The Library for Bibliophiles‘.
Location: Madrid, Spain.
Ever been to an outdoor bookstore, where some books are available for sale 24 hours a day?
That’s exactly what you’ll find at Bart’s Books of Ojai, California – the largest outdoor, independent book outlet in the United States.
Visitors can purchase ‘thirty-five cent specials’ at all hours via a coinbox on the store’s outer walls, but the collection also extends to valuable first-prints, and everything in-between!
Without a doubt, Bart’s is one of the most distinctive and charming bookstores you’re ever likely to visit.
Location: California, United States.
From an outdoor bookstore to a floating one…
Word on the Water is London’s only bookbarge. Moored at Granary Square, the 100 year old vessel sells quality second-hand and new books.
Saved from closure in 2015 after losing its previous home on Regent’s Canal, the floating bookstore is now more popular than ever.
Let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to attend a poetry slam on a floating roof stage?
Location: London, United Kingdom.
All your cultural needs housed in one convenient location!
Beginning as a bookstore and art gallery in 1990, the 10 Corso Como complex in Milan has since grown to include spaces for fashion, design, music, dining and more.
The bookshop at the heart of it all is exceptional too, featuring countless publications on art, architecture, design and photography, among others.
Location: Milan, Italy.
Slovakia might not be the first destination that springs to mind for a literary travel-list, but perhaps it should be…
The country’s largest internet bookstore, Martinus, also operates a growing chain of physical stores that are well worth a visit.
These colourful outlets make browsing the shelves a joyful experience (even more so than usual), and its encouraging to see an online provider put such care into physical locations too.
So you can go ahead and add Bratislava to your bookstore itinerary now!
Location: Bratislava, Slovakia.
Keeping books inexpensive and freely available is an absolutely vital cause.
That’s what the good folks at the One Dollar Book Swap in Dayton, Ohio do everyday – sorting through thousands of used books and selling them on for the low price of $1.
Their family-friendly book warehouse is like a huge literary treasure hunt, with tonnes of great titles to be found among the salvage.
As the name suggests, they also do trade-ins, so you can leave your own used books for others to discover while picking up some new ones!
Location: Ohio, United States.
This internationally-owned store is a book lovers paradise located in the heart of Amsterdam.
Opened in 1972, the American Book Center has built its reputation on its eclectic selection of material, and some incredibly knowledgeable staff.
All ABC staff have a say in sourcing stock for the shelves, which means they know their selection intimately and can guide customers with ease.
It’s a fiercely unique store with an always-welcoming atmosphere, and you’d be well-served (literally!) to stop by on your book-hunting travels.
Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands.
You’d expect a bestselling author to know a thing or two about selling books, right?
Such is the case with award-winning writer Ann Patchett, who co-founded Nashville’s Parnassus Books with publisher Karen Hayes in 2010.
This is another beautiful store with a charming, traditional atmosphere – helped no small amount by the fact that they count four dogs among their part-time staff!
More than that though, Parnassus is now the literary center of the Nashville community: providing a meeting spot for local authors and readers who you’d be wise to join.
Location: Tennessee, United States.
The most breathtaking bookstore in all of China is located in an underground parking lot.
The huge Librairie Avant Garde in Nanjing provides a massive range of humanities and social science books to its many annual visitors.
You’d do well to concentrate on the books themselves though: the store has been repeatedly rated as one of the most beautiful in the world, making it a cultural icon of the city.
Hours could easily be spent uncovering all of the little quirks of the Avant Garde’s 4000 sq meter space – and we dare say you wouldn’t regret a single minute of it.
Location: Nanjing, China.
You’ve seen the best bookstores, but what about the world’s finest libraries, book festivals or writing competitions?
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Did your favourite bookstore make the list? Are there any glaring omissions for us to include next time? Let us know in the comments below!
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