People love going into bookstores not only because they can find their favorite pieces of literature, but because bookstores are an adventure in and of themselves. There’s something magical about getting lost in a sea of books, winding through the many aisles of towering shelves, not paying attention to the outside world. Some bookstores also happen to be built with their own unique architectural style, which makes them even more of a wonder.
If you love pretty buildings and the thrill of entering bookstores, you’re in luck. There are plenty of bookstores around the world that are as gorgeous as they are filled with books. Here are eight of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, all worth a visit one day.
1. El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Buenos Aires, Argentina
This gorgeous bookstore in Buenos Aires was formerly a theater from the early 1900s, and it still retains many of its original structures. You can browse books throughout the intact theater boxes while gazing at the frescoed ceilings and red stage curtains that still remain throughout the store.
2. Livraria Lello, Porto, Portugal
The Lello bookshop is one of the oldest bookstores in Portugal, as it first opened in 1906. This Neo-Gothic-style bookshop is filled with grand stairways and intricate carvings on the ceilings and walls. J.K. Rowling was also a regular customer of the store and began writing the first chapters of Harry Potter there.
3. Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice, Italy
Libreria Acqua Alta, or the Library of High Water, is no ordinary bookstore. Instead of shelves, the books are housed in gondolas, canoes, boats, tanks and more. This keeps the books safe should Venice experience any flooding, and it makes for an interesting trip meandering between rooms.
4. Shakespeare & Co., Paris, France
No trip to Paris is complete without visiting Shakespeare & Co., which is not only beautiful, but teeming with historical significance. The original shop doubled as a library, publisher and boarding house for aspiring writers of the time, and it still maintains its old Parisian charm. It also faces the Seine river.
5. The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles, California, USA
Located in a loft in Downtown Los Angeles, The Last Bookstore is the largest bookstore in California. It’s filled with hanging books and book tunnels, as well as different sculptures and paintings to add to the ambiance. You’ll definitely want to get lost in this West Coast staple.
6. Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen, Maastricht, The Netherlands
The Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen is a bookstore built in a 700-year-old former Dominican church, so you can only imagine how grand and spectacular the space is. It’s three stories high, and it’s filled with restored frescoes, vaulted ceilings, and endless bookshelves.
7. Cook & Book, Brussels, Belgium
This restaurant/shop combination is divided into nine different rooms, each with their own selection of books and decor. Each room in Cook & Book has its own interior design and distinct vibe, with the theme of the rooms matching the types of merchandise they carry.
8. Barter Books, Alnwick, England
Barter Books, a popular second-hand bookshop—and one of the largest in Europe—is located in what used to be the Victorian Alnwick railway station. The original waiting rooms still exist, and there are plenty of places to sit and enjoy a book. Give yourself time to wander around, as the store is huge.