8 Stunning Bookstores Worth Visiting Around the World

Shao Feng

Not Just Fiction: Real-Life Bookstores Worth Visiting Books have always had the ability to transport readers, whisking them away to faraway lands. Bookstores are often the inspiration for this magic, allowing readers to scan the shelves in pursuit of their next escape. Some bookstores are taking this to the next level, making the store itself the destination—through architecture, decor and even optical illusions. Cozy up and plot your next getaway at these unique bookstores around the world.


1. Housing Works Bookstore Cafe & Bar
New York, New York

Kate Glicksberg

Housing Works Bookstore is one of the most quintessentially New York bookshops, second only to the Strand. Part of a non-profit chain donating its proceeds to combat AIDS and homelessness, the spiral staircases leading to a second floor balcony of books gives the feeling of an old-school library in the heart of New York's chic SoHo district.

2. El Ateneo Grand Splendid
Buenos Aires, Argentina

Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty

This 1919 theater-turned-cinema-turned-bookstore epitomizes the connection between the performing arts and books. It retains the frescoed ceiling, ornate trim, and velvet curtains of the former theater, and books line the walls, including where the audience once sat in box seats.

3. Librairie des Colonnes
Tangier, Morocco

Frederic Reglain/Alamy

Tangier was the home of many famed writers of the '50s and '60s, and Librairie des Colonnes was a regular haunt of Paul Bowles, William S. Burroughs, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, and others. The bookstore still mostly features titles in French but it also houses Spanish, English, and, increasingly, more Arabic works, and even publishes its own books.

4. Word on the Water
London, England

In Pictures Ltd./Corbis/Getty

This floating bookstore in the Regents Canal is known as "The London Bookbarge." Formerly mobile, it has now found a permanent home where visitors can browse year round, warm up by a wood-burning fire in the winter and enjoy music and poetry performances on the rooftop stage in the summer.

5. Boekhandel Dominicanen
Maastricht, Netherlands

Etienne van Sloun

This 13th-century church was given new life in 2006 as a bookstore. Visitors can browse for books on the three-story shelving island in the middle of the cathedral or simply enjoy the vaulted ceilings covered in murals and illuminated by stained-glass windows.

6. Libreria Acqua Alta
Venice, Italy


To protect its books from water damage due to flooding from Venice's canals, this unique store keeps its books in a variety of waterproof containers such as vintage bathtubs and even a gondola. The bookstore—which features mainly secondhand and out-of-print titles—is jam-packed with floor-to-ceiling eclectic decor and even houses a few stray cats.

7. Zhongshuge Bookstore
Hangzhou, China

Shao Feng

Each location of this Chinese chain is architecturally unique, but the location in Hangzhou stands apart. Stairs and seats built into round bookshelves combined with mirrored ceilings give the optical illusion of never-ending books. Other optical illusions include a tunnel of books and what appears to be an unending roller coaster of books in the children's book room.

8. Kay Craddock Antiquarian Bookseller
Melbourne, Australia

Courtesy of Kay Craddock

Located inside a Gothic church, this shop sells only antique and secondhand books. Visitors can search for the quirky collection of owl figurines scattered throughout or they can peruse the shelves to find classics—such as a Jane Austen collection printed in 1833 selling for $15,000.