These book shops are more than just a place to purchase books. They attract book lovers from around the world to uncover the stories inside. Take a look at our list of book shops to tick off the travel bucket list.
1. Shakespeare and Company, Paris
Shakespeare and Company is an English-language bookshop in the heart of Paris, on the Left Bank. Since opening in 1951, it has become a literary institution, a meeting place for anglophone writers and readers from around the world. The shop’s founder, the late George Whitman, said he created the bookstore like someone would write a novel, building each room like a chapter.
“I like people to open the door the way they open a book, a book that leads into a magic world in their imaginations,” he said.
Now run by his daughter Sylvia, it is host to literary festivals, weekly events and, as in the old days, aspiring writers can sleep over. There’s also a café.
2. City Lights, San Francisco
City Lights was a literary meeting place for the Beat Generation and its legacy of anti-authoritarian politics and insurgent thinking continues to be a strong influence in the selection of titles found in store across a broad range of categories including poetry, fiction, translations, politics, history, philosophy, music, spirituality and more. It also publishes titles under the City Lights masthead, reinforcing its commitment to innovative and progressive ideas. The shop may have become world-famous but it has retained an intimate, casual and anarchic charm.
3. The Book Shop, Scotland
Scotland doesn’t just have a legendary bookshop it has a National Book Town, Wigtown, home to about 1000 residents (and thousands more visitors during the Wigtown Book Festival, on from 27 September to 6 October in 2019) and 12 bookshops beside the sea in the southern region of Galloway. Its oldest bookshop is, well, The Book Shop, also Scotland’s largest second-hand bookshop boasting about 100,000 books within its walls. The Diary of a Bookseller by owner Shaun Bythell is a must-read before you go.
4. Atlantis books, Greece
Oliver Wise and Craig Walzer were university students on holiday in Santorini when they were inspired, over a few glasses of whiskey, to open their bookshop. Sixteen years later they now also sell rare antiquarian books and collectors’ first editions, and publish their own books and posters. The shop stocks literature in English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Chinese and, of course, Greek. There are new and used books of modern classic fiction and non-fiction as well as selections of poetry, philosophy, art, and all things Greek interest. In the summer season it is open until midnight.
5. Zhongshuge, Chongqing, China
The Zhongshuge bookstores in China are known for their imaginative designs and the newest one to open in Chongqing (just over two hours flight time from Guangzhou) is no exception. The interior creates a mind-boggling optical illusion with stairways and mirrors that have been likened to the Relativity print by Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher. The lithograph, created in 1953, features upside-down and sideways steps that defy the laws of gravity and it has been the inspiration for a number of games, TV scenes and films, including Inception. At another branch in Chengdu stepping into the children’s area is like dropping into the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland with its giant mushrooms, bright colours and myriad shapes. Zhongshuge also has branches in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Yangzhou, Suzhou and Wuxi.