From fighting dragons to navigating the world of an awkward fashion editor’s assistant, books have the power to transport us to another world. But what about the places that house those books? All over the world there are unique and fascinating bookstores with their own story to tell. Discover the most beautiful bookstores in the world, and pick up a rare or exciting book along the way.
1. El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Buenos Aires
Found in Recoleta, arguably the most fashionable neighbourhood in Buenos Aires, is El Ateneo Grand Splendid. Dubbed the most beautiful bookstore in the world by National Geographic, El Ateneo Grand Splendid, truly is splendid.
When it first opened in 1919, the theatre was known for its tango, ballet, and opera performances. It was considered the beacon of porteño culture. Saved from demolition, in 2000, the theatre swapped ballerinas for books. Now, there are more than 120,000 books to peruse at El Ateneo Grand Splendid, with a small selection in English.
Make sure you don’t leave without enjoying an El Submarino (Argentinian hot chocolate) from the bookstore coffee bar.
2. Daunt Books Marylebone, London
London is full of great bookstores. But there’s a reason Daunt Books Marylebone is a favourite among travellers and instagrammers.
In the 1990’s, former banker, James Daunt opened his first flagship store ‘Daunt Books’. The Edwardian building he chose for the flagship store, was originally built in 1910 and served as the bookstore of Francis Edwards. It’s considered to be one of the first custom-built bookstores in the world.
Set over two floors, are shelves and shelves of books lit through an abundance of skylights. The huge stained-glass window makes this bookstore even more magical. And because the bookstore specialises in travel books, expect to find its oak wood shelves stocked with phrase books, memoirs and fiction books. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to browse.
3. Albertine Books, NYC
A bookstore in a mansion? Now we’re talking.
Found inside the historic Payne Whitney mansion, Albertine Books is NYC only French and English dedicated bookstore. Since 1952, the Italian renaissance mansion has been the home of Cultural Services of the French Embassy. And in 2014, Albertine Books was born. There are over 14,000 contemporary and classic titles from 30 French-speaking countries.
The stunning interior design, particularly the hand-painted mural of constellations, stars, and planets on the ceiling, is breathtaking. It’s almost impossible to fight the urge to lie down and stare at the ceiling. Luckily there are lounge chairs to recline in with a book and a view of the stars.
4. Cafebrería El Péndulo, Mexico City
Cafebreria el Pendulo is by far the coolest bookstore chain in Mexico City. Anyone with a love of books, plants and cafe culture will be in paradise. Cafebreria el Pendulo is found in plenty of locations throughout Mexico City. But for the most beautiful go to the Polanco, Roma, or newly opened San Angel store.
Cafebreria el Pendulo isn’t a standard bookstore and cafe fusion. At the two-level Polanco store (the most popular), the books almost reach the ceiling. There are plants cascading down the shelves and a spiral staircase takes you to the second level. With a table dining, a cafe and bar available, it’s easy to spend a whole day here. And when live music is playing, you may never want to leave.
5. Assouline Boutique, NYC
This iconic publishing company has been producing luxuriously bound, limited edition books for over 25 years. There are Assouline boutiques all around the world, with their most recent opening at The Four Seasons New York.
Assouline founders Martine and Prosper Assouline have selected an exclusive range of special editions of new and vintages books, crafted bookends, and even vintage Murano glass for the boutique, which overlooks the cosmopolitan 58th Street. Anyone wanting to add a rare item to their personal collection or find a truly unique gift, must go to Assouline.
Not going to NYC anytime soon? No problem. Assouline has boutiques spanning from London to Lima.
6. Boekhandel Dominicanen, Maastricht
Boekhandel Dominicanen is set in a Gothic monastery church situated in the centre of Maastricht, Netherlands. The church was built in the 13th century. Over the years, it has been used for many different purposes, including a stable, a bike shed, exhibition space and a party hall. Following a large-scale restoration (2005) the church became a bookshop.
Boekhandel Dominicanen received approximately 700,000 visitors per year. Their collection of new and pre-loved books in English, French, Spanish, German and Italian combined with a stunning location, make this a must-visit bookshop when in the Netherlands. Boekhandel Dominicanean also hosts more than 150 events each year, from exhibitions, readings and workshops to debates and interviews.
It’s easy to spend a whole day here, especially with the on-site coffee shop boasting the ‘best coffee in town’.
7. Kay Craddock, Melbourne
Antique is chic. And antiquarian bookseller Kay Craddock knows it.
The history of this Melbourne bookstore is almost as fascinating as the books it holds. More than 50 years ago, Kay’s mother Muriel Craddock went to an auction. When a desperate auctioneer selling a box of books announced, “will no one give me a pound?”, Muriel did. And so, she began snapping up bargains at book auctions and bazaars. Finally realising it was either time to open a bookshop or stop buying books, Muriel along with her husband Les and daughter Kay opted to open a bookshop. The store is now run by Kay and resides on Collins St in Melbourne.
The range of antiquarian and second-hand titles can date as far back as the fifteenth century. So, if you’re on the lookout for a rare or historic book, you just might find it at Kay Craddock Antiquarian Bookseller.
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