(Book)mark! A round-up of the world’s most unusual bookshops

Cook and Book, Brussels: a literal interpretation of 'from floor to ceiling'
Cook and Book, Brussels: a literal interpretation of ‘from floor to ceiling’

A few days ago, I wrote about two of my favourite bookshops: Atlantis Books on the island of Santorini, and Shakespeare and Company in Paris. This has since inspired me to do a bit more research into the worldwide ‘indie bookshop scene’ and I thought I would share some of the coolest links I came across:

This slideshow features Flavorwire’s pick of the 20 most beautiful bookstores in the world, most of which are also listed, along with others, in this blog post on the most interesting bookstores of the world.

The REALLY EXCITING THING is that two of the stores cited appear to be on my route, so I shall not fail to indulge in some browsing at El Ateneo in Buenos Aires and Akateeminen Kirjakauppa (The Academic Bookstore) in Helsinki… although worryingly, they look like the kind of places I could end up spending an entire lifetime in! (Hopefully though, the second will be filled with scientific treatises in Finnish, which should help cut the experience short..!)

El Ateneo, Buenos Aires: a giant bookshop in a former theatre and cinema
El Ateneo, Buenos Aires: a giant bookshop in a former theatre and cinema

The Academic Bookstore, Helsinki: showcasing Scandinavian architecture
The Academic Bookstore, Helsinki: showcasing Scandinavian architecture

All this virtual bookstore-browsing reminds me of two other amazing literary landmarks my past travels have taken me to: Richard Booth’s Bookshop in the second-hand books capital of the world, the otherwise sleepy, Anglo-Welsh border town of Hay-on-Wye, and the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in New York City’s trendy Soho neighbourood:

New and second-hand books a-gogo in Richard Booth's Bookshop, Hay-on-Wye
New and second-hand books a-gogo in Richard Booth’s Bookshop, Hay-on-Wye

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe-cum-charity in hip Soho, NYC
Housing Works Bookstore Cafe-cum-charity in hip Soho, NYC

Both double up as cafes serving quality local food (and, in the Richard Booth cafe, without doubt the best British cider I’ve ever tasted – nearly rivalling French cider!) and hold plenty of events, ranging from poetry readings to more inebriated cocktail parties.

Richard Booth is also one of the founders of the internationally renowned Hay-on-Wye literary festival and of the more confidential British Film Festival, offering up the bookshop’s large precincts as an inspiring venue for both.

What also makes Housing Works special – besides its beautiful, split-level wooden interior and resident cafe -, is its not-for-profit status: the shop is run 100% by volunteers and donates all proceeds to its partner charity helping homeless and low-income men and women affected by HIV and AIDS.

I did my bit when I visited and bought a book called Love, death, and the changing of the seasons purely on the strength of its awesome title… which turned out to be a pretty niche collection of lesbian sonnets! Definitely what I was looking for..!


Do you have a favourite bookshop, or are you tempted to visit any of these? Leave a comment below!



Hey, I'm Camille! I quit my life to travel the world in 2013 – and I haven’t stopped since! I have visited 40+ countries as a location-independent travel/lifestyle writer and digital marketer. I like hammocks, scooters, eating, and scaring my mother trying adventure sports! I was chosen as a top travel influencer by Influence.co, and have co-founded Helipad Marketing to help travel & lifestyle brands soar with killer online marketing.

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14 thoughts on “(Book)mark! A round-up of the world’s most unusual bookshops”

  1. Ah, j’adore Cook & Book à Bruxelles, un super bookshop-restaurant (comme son nom l’indique) dont chacune des salles se rapporte à une thématique ou à un genre littéraire ! Pas vraiment sur ta route mais au programme lors d’une prochaine visite en Belgique, donc !

  2. Hum… pas facile de choisir ! Je dirais l’atmosphère de l’espace “Romans” pour profiter du restaurant, et “Voyages” pour passer des heures à feuilleter les livres dans les rayons ! 🙂

  3. Il y avait une belle librairie ancienne dans le quartier du Chiado, à Lisbonne, avec de superbes boiseries, un plafond décoré, un double escalier étonnant et, bien sûr, plein de livres. Je cherche son nom, je suis même allé voir sur internet et dans les guides, mais je ne retrouve pas. Peut-être la librairie Bertrand ?
    Elle se trouve près du café où une sculpture de Fernandoa Pessoa est installée au milieu des tables, en terrasse au bord de la rue.
    Je me souviens, en revanche, qu’il était interdit d’y prendre des photos et cela empêche peut-être d’en retrouver sur internet ?

    1. Ce ne serait pas plutot la librairie Lello a Porto? Celle-ci figure en effet sur certaines listes des plus belles librairies du monde.

    1. Ah, moi aussi – je ne suis pas editrice pour rien! J’ai eu la chance de visiter la librairie de Buenos Aires au debut du mois et elle etait vraiment superbe.

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