If there’s a Good Place, it’s full of all the books. We know this. It’s no surprise we can’t think of a more peaceful place we’d like to immerse ourselves in than that of the magical bookstore!
What makes a bookstore magical? The quality, quantity, and diversity of the books, obviously. The architecture and history of the building itself. How pungent the old-book smell is. The overall bookish aesthetic. And SO MANY other factors that affect us, consciously or subconsciously, that we can’t even name! We don’t say this lightly, book nerds: below are some of the best and most epic bookstores IN THE WORLD. Warning: you may not want to go back home after you’ve visited these places. Are you ready?
Around the World in 14 Bookstores
YOU HAVE TO SEE BEFORE YOU DIE
1. The Strand (New York City, USA)
With more than 18 miles of books, this may be the only bookstore you’ll ever need! This iconic store is the last one standing in an area of New York formerly known as Book Row, which at one time housed nearly 50 bookstores. She’s resilient and resourceful! You can buy so many books here, you may need a wheelbarrow to take them home.
2. Librairie Avante-Garde (Nanjing, China)
A former government parking lot and bomb shelter, this underground bookstore is nearly as storied as its bookish contents. Its Nanjing location sits beneath Wutaishan Stadium, nearby to Nanjing University, which the store says is central to its choice of location, as students visit the Librairie like it’s, well, a second library.
3. El Ateneo Grand Splendid (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
Once a glitzy theater where you could dress to the nines and take in a show, El Ateneo Grand Splendid now boasts over 120,000 books, cementing itself as one of the most epic bookstores in the world. Honestly, this store is so fancy that you may still feel the need to put on your best clothes to do some book shopping.
4. Shakespeare and Company (Paris, France)
Think about some of history’s greatest authors, and it’s likely they spent time here. The owner, Sylvia Beach, published “Ulysses” right in the store and closed the shop to Nazis. It doesn’t get more epic than that! You might even become a Tumbleweed, i.e. a visitor that can’t leave and may even spend time living here! And we all know living in a bookstore is #lifegoals.
5. Kitazawa Bookstore (Tokyo, Japan)
In business since 1902, this store was once known as one of the largest foreign-language bookstores in Japan. Although it’s downsized slightly, it’s definitely still worth a trip! And bonus: it’s located in Jimbocho, Tokyo’s literary neighborhood, so the choices of cute bookstores are basically endless. You never know what unexpected treasures you’ll find!
6. Libreria Acqua Alta (Venice, Italy)
We guarantee you’ve never seen anything quite like these boat-themed bookshelves. Books are stored in gondolas here, so you could pick up a book about a boat from inside a boat. Epic. When the boats fill up, books get stacked anywhere else they’ll fit. You’ve never seen anything so charming. Careful not to drop any books into the canals when you leave!
7. Powell’s Books (Portland, Oregon, USA)
Powell’s covers an entire city block and has been a Portland establishment for years. At any given time, the store has about a million (yes, you read that right) books on their shelves, which means you’ll need to give up school and all your hobbies just so you can read them all. It’s been owned for over three generations by a family of book lovers, so any time you visit, it’ll feel like home.
8. Honesty Bookshop (Hay-on-Wye, Wales)
You know what the problem is with most bookshops? The people! Here, you won’t find any staff members or cashiers, just loads of great books. After picking up a dozen or so, just leave your money in the drop box at the front of the store. A bookshop that cares more about the books than it does making money definitely qualifies as epic.
Bonus: Although the town itself only has around 1,000 residents, there are over 40 bookstores. That’s a town that loves its books, and we love it!
9. The Jazzhole (Lagos, Nigera)
A bookstore, music haven, AND beloved by many bibliophiles, including Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie?! This is our kind of party! Art of all kinds is celebrated here, and it lines the walls of this creative haven. One of the owner’s goals with the store is to preserve African culture and history through music and books, which cements its epicness.
10. Chongqing Zhongshuge Bookstore (Chonqing, China)
Honestly, this bookstore is a book lover’s dream. The zigzagging staircases remind us of Hogwarts, except that they’re always in the same place. Virtually every inch of the store is covered with books, and there are also quiet reading nooks where you can curl up and lose yourself in a new story. Warning: you may not want to leave.
11. Cafebrería El Péndulo (Mexico City, Mexico)
The name of this bookstore alone is epic—a mix of coffee shop and library in Spanish! Do we need anything else? Even the scenery inside—most prominently the books, but also the plants and people-watching—is excellent. Make sure to stop at one of their multiple locations, which all share the same multi-level awesomeness.
12. Bart’s Books (Ojai, California, USA)
This unique store boasts itself as the largest independently owned and operated outdoor bookstore in the U.S, and truthfully we can’t say we’ve seen anything quite like it. With almost one million books on the walls, ranging from thirty-five cents to rare books at thousands of dollars, this is a place you’ve got to check out if you’re anywhere near the West Coast.
13. Tehran Book Garden (Tehran, Iran)
Speaking of record-breaking outdoor bookstores… The Tehran Book Garden was recently completed in 2017 at a whopping 65,000 square meters full of books. (That’s meters, not feet!) Wander the great outdoors while soaking in the bookish atmosphere. There’s even a food truck corner! Win-win-win in our book.
14. The Last Bookstore (Los Angeles, USA)
Covering more than 20,000 square feet, this bookshop is one of the largest you’ve ever seen. It’s known for its gravity-defying bookshelves; on the mezzanine level, you’ll find curved shelves that create a tunnel of books. Visiting feels kind of like entering a magical world constructed entirely of books, and honestly, what reader hasn’t imagined that a time or two?
What’s your favorite bookstore in the world? Tell us in the comments!