10 Inspiring Bookshops around the World


28th Aug, 2013

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

– Henry David Thoreau

Just some shops that sell books that I think are worth crossing oceans for…

1. Libreria Alta Acqua, Venice, Italy


[Aubrey Dunnuck]

[photo by VickyFlipFlop] 

A little sign outside says, “Welcome to the Most Beautiful Bookshop in the World”. It just might be. Step inside and find a full-sized gondola smack in the middle of the shop, overflowing with books. Head to the back  and take a seat in front of the open doors; the canal at your feet, water gently splashing against the doorstep as you flick through a book.

Libreria Acqua Alta (+4)

[photo by Silvia Sala]

Libreria Acqua Alta di Frizzo Luigi

[Photo by Graham Dash]

the most beautiful bookshop in the world

[Photo by Dddeni]

Alta Acqua is not a place you’ll find in your average guidebook and most visitors to the floating city will come and go without ever finding this treasure trove. Make sure you’re not one of those visitors.


[Aubrey Dunnuck]

Alta Acqua, Sestiere Castello, 5176/B  30122 Venice, Italy, Facebook Page here.



2. Bart’s Books, Ojai, California

[Photo by Aude Lising]

Founded in 1964, Bart’s Books is a beautiful outdoor bookstore where you can sip lemonade in the courtyard surrounded by a maze of bookshelves, play a game of chess in the shade or read a short story under the apple tree. Not just a desirable al fresco space, Bart’s Books has heart. Gathering here for art shows and weekly community events is a bit of a local tradition.

[Photo by Susie Lee]
 [Photo by Aude Lising]

[Photos by miss absinthe]

Bart’s Books, 302 W. Matilija St., Ojai, California 93023, Facebook page here



3. Atlantis, Santorini, Greece


Without a doubt, one of the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean, but not exactly the place you’d think to go looking for a charming English bookshop. Located in the basement of one of Santorini’s white houses, Atlantis Books was conceived when two young friends, Oliver and Craig were spending a week on Santorini and over a bottle of wine one evening, they decided to open a bookshop on the island. It was the one thing their paradise was missing; a haven for readers and writers. The two young men laughed about how their children would run it one day.

A sort of in-the-know meet-up place for travelling bibliophiles, Atlantis Books hosts festivals and sunset readings on their terrace (with sea views of course). They even started their own publishing house in the back room of the shop.

It’s worth checking out their facebook page as well to see how the place was transformed from a neglected old village house into magical place it is today. Bookshop with the best view in the world? I’d put my money on it.

Atlantis Books, Main Marble Road, T.K. 84702 Oía, Kikladhes, Santorini, Greece. Facebook page here.



4. Book/Shop, Oakland, California

Book/Shop is one of the clever independent bookshops that are staying afloat by not just selling books to read, but things that will inspire you to read the books. Based in Oakland, this sleek and pretty book (&) shop sells beautiful and interesting bits & pieces such as vintage literature posters, book-related art etc.

“We’re committed to the reading experience. The surprise of one page turning to the other. The little luxury of sitting in a great reading chair, inhaling the scent of a beautifully made book. The luscious heft of three or four good reads in a sturdy bookbag as you head out into the world. The hundred discoveries waiting at a used bookstore; the refuge of a library.”

Book/ Shop, 482D 49th Street, Oakland, CA, 94709. Facebook page here.



5. Word on Water, London

London’s only floating second-hand bookshop, Word on the Water is a Dutch book barge that travels the canals and moors for two weeks at a time at various locations such as Camden Lock, Angel, Hackney and Paddington.


[photo via Now.Here.This]

The books are donated by the public and charity bookshops but that’s not to say you won’t find some great classics, cult, contemporary fiction, and some quirky stuff you might never find anywhere else.

Find the Word on the Water bookshop via updates on the Facebook Page 



6. Brazenhead Books, New York

I’ve done an article on Brazenhead books but I couldn’t leave it off this list, so for those of you who missed it, this is the secret speakeasy Manhattan bookshop…

Michael Seidenberg once ran a non-secret bookstore in Brooklyn. When he couldn’t afford to pay rent anymore, he moved Brazenhead Books into his three-room apartment on the second floor in upper East Manhattan.

Meet Michael, he’s just as inspiring as his secret bookshop…

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/26293855]

As well as selling some beautiful old books, Michael hosts weekly salons, where regulars and new visitors alike can hang out until the early hours of the morning, talking, leafing through books, listening to music and drinking whiskey.

As for the address? Well you can look Michael up in the phonebook. If you have one.

Pssst! You can find updates about the salon and Brazenhead Books on Michael’s Facebook page.



7. The Abbey Bookstore, Paris, France 

Abbey Bookshop

[Photo by Craig Finlay]

The Shakespeare & Co in Paris is world-renowned for its old charm, its Hemingway connection and that magical feeling you get while ducking and squeezing through its nooks and crannies. There’s just one problem: it’s hard to catch it on a day when it isn’t flooded with tourists. And that’s where the Abbey Bookshop comes in.

[Photo via Les Bouquinistes]

Tinier, equally charming and nostalgic, this Canadian, English-language bookstore is your off-the-beaten path alternative. Beautiful books piled haphazardly to the ceiling, warm lighting, jazz music playing in the background– you can easily spend an afternoon cozying up with an old treasure you found that tumbled from a shelf. The little-known neighbourhood gem is funnily enough just a few blocks from the Shakespeare & Co– but don’t tell anyone there!

The Abbey Bookshop, 29 Rue de la Parcheminerie, 75005 Paris



8. Books Actually, Singapore

This sleek and sunny little indie is hidden away in the old Singaporean housing estate of Tiong Bahru. The founder Kenny Leck is another bibliophile who knows how to keep his book business alive and kicking by selling interesting and vintage knick-knacks on the side that complement the literary palette. But when it comes to his books, Kenny knows his stuff and personally selects every title sold in his shop. He also set up his own publishing house for up-and-coming Singaporean authors.

Books Actually, 9 Yong Siak St, Tiong Bahru, Singapore, Facebook page here



9. Barter Books, England

Barter Books is an Eden of nostalgic treasure and it has a very special story to tell. One of the most recognisable posters in the world, the wartime catchphrase Keep Calm and Carry On, was actually lost in history until 2000 when it was re-discovered inside a dusty old box at this charming second-hand bookshop in North England. Discover the story and the bookshop in this video..

YouTube Preview Image

Barter Books, Alnwick Station, NE66 2NP Alnwick, Northumberland, Facebook page here



10. Les Bouquinistes, Paris, France

What would a romantic stroll along the Seine be without les bouquinistes?! To get their literary fix, Hemingway and other great creatives of the Belle Epoque once browsed these unique bookstores that squat the banks of the Seine. They have outlasted iPads and eBooks selling dog-eared vintage print from their open-air boxes the same way they did a hundred years ago. I’d say that earns them a place on my list….

Christy Turlington by Steve Meisel for Vogue Italy, 1992

A model poses in designer Jacques Fath, 1951, photographed by Willy Maywald

© Jacques Boyer / Roger-Viollet, 1934

Yvon, 1930

Photographer unknown, circa 1960

William Vandivert, Time Life Pictures, 1939

The mayor’s office even makes it a priority that the 250+ bouquinistes stay solvent. Back in the 18th century however, the bouquinistes would have been regularly chased across bridges and along the Seine by established bookshop owners who were losing business to the illegitimate sellers. 

Jean Henry Marlet, 1821

Kanako, 2013, (more of her work here)

BONUS Bookstore!! (Updated)

The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles

This magical place initially started out in a loft in downtown Los Angeles in 2005. The founder,  Josh Spencer, was a bit of a whiz at selling second-hand things on eBay, from clothes to cars, and decided to have a go at selling books– his true passion. Today it’s the largest independent bookstore in California buying and selling used & new books and records.

Oh, and earlier this year the bookstore did something very cool…

A pop-up dinner in a bookstore! Come on book lovers, let’s make this a regular thing!

The Last Bookstore website / Images by Room Forty and Lumos





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