Since I was little, I’ve always been an avid reader. From picking up YA novels in second grade to studying literature in university, I devoured books within days, even hours, of picking them up. I would beg my parents to take me to bookstores (including Borders, RIP) to spend an afternoon reading in the aisles, before purchasing one (or twenty) books to take home.

Bookstores have fascinated me, beyond just the books themselves. They’re spacious, yet cozy– the silence of wandering the aisles to peruse for a good book makes for an intimate experience, and the details of the store’s layout: comfy seats, regulated temperature, and a coffee bar, are all intended to make us stay and spend countless hours just enjoying the moment. Really, these bookstores know exactly how to suck us in (but I’m not complaining)!

I’ve always enjoyed trips to bookstores for the atmosphere, but it wasn’t until I started traveling that I got introduced to historical and architecturally-renown bookstores. Not only were these places for purchasing books, but they were also absolutely gorgeous. The way I see it, such bookstores not only draw visitors in for their beauty, but also as a way to reflect the love of writing as an artform.

That said, I’d like to share a few I’ve come across on my trips. From elegant to quirky to unexpected, these bookstores are unique to the city they’re in– even if you’re not a bookworm, you can still appreciate just how fascinating the architecture is, and perhaps you’d be inclined to buy a book as a souvenir. Here they are!

5 Beautiful Bookstores in the World

20200229_150744February 2020

1. The Last Bookstore (Los Angeles, California, USA)

Starting off in my hometown, The Last Bookstore is a popular one in Downtown that draws both locals and tourists in. Founded in 2005, this two-story store actually used to be a bank, before being converted to house 300,000+ forms of media (books, magazines, records, etc) for purchase today. It’s become an Instagram hub in the last few years, as it has a few cool visuals made from books (e.g. book tunnel, peep hole, etc) to entice patrons in. Gimmicky as it is, The Last Bookstore makes perusing for books a fun time spent.

February 2016

2. Livraria Lello (Porto, Portugal)

This is probably one of the most-featured bookstores on anyone’s Instagram in the world (and for a good reason)! The exterior is distinctively Art Nouveau, but it’s the interior that blows you away. First thing you see is its serpentine staircase that wraps in and around itself, and the details of the red carpet and golden lighting give off the impression you’re at the opera, instead of a very-classy bookstore. Since 2015, you actually need to pay a fee (€5, although when I went in 2016, it was €3), but it’s worth it given the labor needed to keep this historic store (since 1881) in pristine condition!

20190222_121830February 2019

3. Cărturești Carusel (Bucharest, Romania)

Upon stepping into Cărturești Carusel, you’d think you’re inside a high-end clothing store, with its tall, marble-like pillars and Victorian-style railings. First built in 1903 by wealthy Greek bankers, it later converted into a bookstore in 2015 and has since become a popular tourist spot for its bright, interior design. What amazed me about Cărturești Carusel was just how white and immaculate it was, not to forget the perfect symmetry of the staircases and rails– as if you stepped into a kaleidoscopic mirror. Even if you don’t purchase a book here, it’s still fun to wander the store!

Week 1 Shakespeare and Company librairie 6-29-14July 2014

4. Shakespeare and Company (Paris, France)

Bookstores (or librairies) are abundant in France, but few sell books exclusively in English. In comes Shakespeare and Company, founded by American expat George Whitman in 1951. S&C was found as an expat writer’s store, helping struggling artists with shelter as they wrote their works– in fact, there are beds throughout that 30,000+ patrons have slept in, including those of the Beat generation like Ginsburg and Burroughs having lived there. The store is cramped, yet cozy, and it’s the antique, disorderly mess of books throughout that makes it charming, almost bohemian, for a peek inside.

June 2017

5. Powell’s City of Books (Portland, Oregon, USA)

Founded in 1971, Powell’s Books is a well-known establishment in downtown Portland, and it claims to be the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world. Given how big it is (6300 squared meters), Powell’s has color-coded its rooms for easier access to all sorts of genres and media for patrons to find. The store’s layout reminds me of a contemporary art museum, with its large, spacious rooms and its color-coded system to represent different gallerias to browse through. It is certainly an overwhelming experience, but a thrilling one nevertheless.

…and that’s about it! Granted, there are thousands of beautiful bookstores I have yet to chance up on my travels, not to forget libraries (which will be for another post). I’d love to hear what your favorite bookstores are, as well as your favorite book! Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day! 🙂

— Rebecca

66 thoughts on “5 Beautiful Bookstores in the World

  1. I’ve not been to any of these so it’s great to see them though your post. I also adore books and would love to visit some if not all of them one day. The small town where I live has a lovely independent bookshop with Victorian bay windows. I’m so pleased it’s still there and not been taken over by one of the chains. The town holds a Literature Festival each autumn that attracts big named authors and I always try to get tickets for some of the events if I’m around.

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    1. It’s all the more important to support local businesses, including the independent bookstores out there (given these tough times). An independent bookstore with Victorian bay windows sounds especially lovely!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. These are beautiful bookstores! I want to visit Powell’s Books in Portland the next time I visit! Before our dinner at Le Petit Paris in May, my family and I took a few snapshots in the book tunnel at The Last Bookstore – that one was cute and quirky! I agree, Shakespeare and Company in Paris is a must-see. (Did you happen to see their cat?) It’s hard to say what my favorite book is, but in general, the type of book I like is reference books, like dictionaries, almanacs, and style guides. 📚

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    1. I did not see the cat at S&C, but I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled for it the next time I visit! Style guides are a great genre: my personal favorite types of books would have to be general fiction and poetry!

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    1. I Google-searched A Room of One’s Own, and it looks incredible (not to forget such a cool and unique name)! Its focus on feminist and LGBTQ genres are right up my alley– definitely bookmarking this for my next trip to Madison (whenever that is)!

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  3. Snap! I could happily while away an afternoon browsing in a bookshop (Toppings is my favourite bookshop in Edinburgh). These are all beautiful bookshops in their own way ☺️ I don’t know if it’s always been that way, but when I visited Livraria Lello the entry price was knocked off the price of a book if you bought one whilst there.

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    1. Yes, I recall the entry price at Livraria Lello could be exchanged for a purchase! And there are way too many great bookstores out there that sometimes we forget that there are also wonderful ones closer to home (Edinburgh for you)! 😊

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  4. Such a wonderful list of many amazing bookstores, Rebecca! As an avid reader myself, I can appreciate a good independent bookstore, and I always manage to walk away with more than one book. We never made it to the iconic Shakespeare and Company Bookstore while visiting Paris but I was in awe of Livraria Lello – the bookstore is quite beautiful, no doubt about it, but there is now a 5 euro charge to enter the store, which I assume is to manage traffic. You can then use your entry fee as a credit on your purchase. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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  5. Those sure do look like some wonderful bookstores to get lost in. It’s not a small independent bookstore, but I used to really love browsing around the Gilbert Joseph/Jeune when I lived on the Boulevard Saint-Michel! Too bad they had to close one of the locations… It’s also not a bookstore per se, but I also recently went to le marché du livre next to the parc Georges Brassens that was pretty cool.

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    1. I perused the books at Gilbert Jeune a few times when I studied abroad. It’s a lovely bookstore! I’ve seen a few marchés du livre on my strolls throughout the city, but never really stopped to check them out. Definitely missing out!

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  6. Bookstores and libraries are definitely great places to browse around in cities when travelling…also makes for a lovely break. I must say I was disappointed with the one in Porto mainly because it was sooooo overrun with tourists when we visited that it wasn’t very enjoyable.

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    1. Unfortunately, Livraria Lello is insanely popular due to social media. Crowded as it is, it still remains a beautiful place. Maybe there are slower times in the day to go in with less people, who knows? 😊

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  7. Great list! I love the atmosphere of bookstores and I *always* end up buying something! Shakespeare and Company is such a pretty one, inside and out, but the one that I really want to check out is The Last Bookstore, it seems so impressive!

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  8. With you completely on the love for bookstores and books though I haven’t had much time to read lately and due to our nomadic existence we often opt for digital books. I would love to visit each of these unique bookstores, the Porto one especially. I do love second hand bookshops, The Black Gull in Camden Town (where I bought Sladja a preloved copy of Monica Ali’s “Brick Lane”) and The Old Pier Bookshop in Morecambe.

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    1. Likewise! With long work hours and constant fatigue, I don’t have the energy or discipline to read as much as I did when I was younger. Still actively my best to return to that, though! Secondhand bookstores are great, as they repurpose used books with (hopefully) a loving owner!

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  9. I let out a small squeal when I saw The Shakespeare and Co. Bookshop! I went there a few years ago and it’s so beautiful.
    I have saved the others on your list for my future travels, thank you for sharing! 📖📚❤️

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  10. This is a good list, thank you Rebecca. Reading is my favorite pasttime, and lately I’ve been catching up on my books that’s why it’s the last thing I do before bedtime. I’ve only been to Powell, and I would love to see the bookstores you shared.

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    1. Excellent! Bookstores are definitely a lovely and peaceful place to pass time in. I’m sure with all of the books you’ve bought on your travels, you have quite the queue to keep you busy! 😁

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    1. The “Before” series are some of my favorite films of all time. Especially the first one, as it really portrays the young and wistful nature of 20-somethings trying to figure out relationships and life. But “Before Sunset” is a good one: not only is it set in beautiful Paris, but it also portrays 30-somethings, an age demographic that’s creeping up towards me, minus the kids and divorce part, haha. And the shots along the Seine are gorgeous (heard it was filmed in one of the hottest recorded summers in France’s history). The last film came out in 2013, and so far each film has been released nine years apart– looks like Linklater needs to do one this year (although from the looks of it, it’s not happening 😞). This is turning out to be a long response to your comment, but I love the “Before” series way too much! 😆

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      1. On that trip where we went to the bookstore, we also went to the cafe that Celine and Jesse went to after they left the bookstore. It was surreal! Next time I want to find more of the spots they appeared in in the movie.
        I kinda hoped they would do another one, too. Has it really been nine years since Before Midnight?! Time for a persuasive letter to Richard!

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