The Yangzhou branch of Zhongshuge bookstores.
The Yangzhou branch of Zhongshuge bookstores.
Image: Shao Feng/ X+Living

1. YANGZHOU ZHONGSHUGE BOOKSTORE, China

Only one of the magnificent bookstores created by architectural design studio X+Living, the Zhongshuge bookstore in Yangzhou, east China, deserves a place on the list of bookshop wonders. The entrance is a tunnel of books created by black mirrored flooring and arched shelves and the dramatic 1 000 m² space includes a reading room and a children’s section perfect for smaller, more adventurous bookworms.

2. EL ATENEO GRAND SPLENDID, Buenos Aires

National Geographic recently described El Ateneo Grand Splendid in Buenos Aires, Argentina, as the “world's most beautiful bookstore”. It is housed in a converted theatre which was built in 1919 and still oozes splendour. Grab a cappuccino and a delicious alfajor filled with dulce de leche on what was once the stage and sit back with a book of your choice.

3. LIVRARIA LELLO, Porto

Opened in 1906 and restored in 2016, this bookshop in Porto, Portugal, welcomes readers with a Gothic façade, a distinctive staircase with red carpeting and a large stained glass window. Time magazine, The Guardian and Lonely Planet are among those who have named Livraria Lello one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world.

4. SHAKESPEARE AND COMPANY, Paris

This quaint little bookstore on the French capital’s Left Bank is arguably one of the most famous in the world. In fact, Shakespeare and Company is more than a bookstore – it is an institution in Paris, legendary for functioning as a living room – and sometimes bedroom – for literary legends such as Ernest Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.

5. CORSO COMO 10, Milan

Corso Como 10 in Milan, northern Italy, was founded by former editor-in-chief of Italian Vogue Carla Sozzani. Apart from the bookstore, the Corso Como 10 complex houses an art gallery, a shop, café, boutique hotel and roof garden. The modern, eclectic space has benefited from Sozzani’s artistic touch and offers, among others, publications on art, architecture, design, graphics and fashion.

10 Corso Como bookstore in Milan.
10 Corso Como bookstore in Milan.
Image: 10 Corso Como Milan

6. EL PÉNDULO, Mexico City

El Péndulo in Mexico City, a two-storey book-filled space decorated with trees and plants, is a perfect place to shut yourself off from the bustle of the city. Time your visit right and you can catch live music and a bite to eat from the café. 

El Péndulo in Mexico City.
El Péndulo in Mexico City.
Image: Wikipedia Commons / Nan Palmero

7. BOEKHANDEL DOMINICANEN, Maastricht

This unique bookshop in the Netherlands is housed in a 13th-century Gothic Dominican church. Combining old and new, it has a 14th-century fresco depicting scenes from Thomas Aquinas’ life and an entire section dedicated to DVDs, CDs and vinyl. 

WATCH | Inside Boekhandel Dominicanen: 

8. LIBRERIA ACQUA ALTA, Venice

Translating from Italian as “bookstore of high water”, this shop in Venice constantly changes as the owner moves his stock into bathtubs and onto higher shelves during flooding. Grab a book and shut yourself off in one of the shop’s nooks, which often have views of the canals.

Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice.
Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice.
Image: Getty Images / Luca Zanon / Corbis

9. CĂRTUREȘTI CARUSEL BOOKSTORE, Bucharest

This bookstore, in the old town of Romania’s capital Bucharest, was built in 1903. The building was confiscated by the Communist regime in the 1950s, used as a general store and later abandoned to become derelict as Communism collapsed. In 2007, renovations began and it has become arguably one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world with its curved balconies and old-world charm.

Cărturești Carusel Bookstore in Bucharest, Romania.
Cărturești Carusel Bookstore in Bucharest, Romania.
Image: Cosmin Dragomir / Carturesti

10. EXCLUSIVE BOOKS, Hyde Park

In 2017, Exclusive Books Hyde Park was shortlisted for the London Book Fair International Excellence Award in the bookstore of the year category. A little closer to home than the others on this list, Exclusive Books Hyde Park offers a broad range of titles, with a touch of class.

Exclusive Books Hyde Park.
Exclusive Books Hyde Park.
Image: Exclusive Books
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