10 Spellbinding Bookstores You Have to See

By Briana Seftel

“There is no friend as loyal as a book.”

We’d have to agree with Ernest Hemingway. Whether you consider yourself a bibliophile or just a casual reader, a good book is an essential part of travel. Ranging from the iconic to the strange and stunningly beautiful, these are bookstores around the world are perfect vacation ideas you don’t want to miss.

Shakespeare & Company • Paris, France

Being a well-known literary paradise, Paris bursts with one incredible bookstore after another. On the Left Bank, Shakespeare & Company is a temple to English-language literature that is a must-see for any visitor. Originally opened in 1919 by an American expat, the store was eventually moved to its current location on Rue de la Bûcherie in 1951. In its nearly 100 years, this bookstore has counted Hemingway, James Joyce and Allen Ginsberg as regulars. View the Street Map: 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris, France

Photo via Instagram user @georgianlondon

Hatchards • London, England

If you need a good book to pair with your afternoon cup of tea, head to Hatchards, London’s oldest bookshop founded in 1797. Holding the prestigious title as the official seller to the royal family, this bookshop on Piccadilly Street sells everything from modern-day classics to rare first-edition copies. History buffs will delight in the display of vintage photos lining the walls, and even a receipt from 1815. After visiting Hatchards, Harry Potter fans will also be able to follow walk the streets of London to their favorite filming spots. View the Street Map: 187 Piccadilly, St. James's, London W1J 9LE, UK

Powell’s City of Books • Portland, Oregon

If you find yourself in PDX, make the pilgrimage to Powell’s Books, the world’s largest independent bookstore carrying an astonishing one million books. With four locations around Portland, most visitors flock to the four-story flagship on West Burnside, which occupies an entire city block. Even if you can’t make it to the actual store, Powell’s online shop is sure to carry any book you desire. View the Street Map: 1005 W Burnside St, Portland, OR 97209

Livraria Lello • Porto, Portugal

Step inside the magical Livraria Lello in Porto and be amazed by what you see: a mesmerizing spiral staircase, ornate wooden shelves stacked with books, and a stained glass ceiling. Opened in 1906 by the Lello brothers, this is truly one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. It’s rumored that Livraria Lello inspired J.K. Rowling’s Hogwarts in her “Harry Potter” series. View the Street Map: R. das Carmelitas 144, 4050-161 Porto, Portugal

The Strand • New York, New York

Proclaimed as having “18 miles of books,” The Strand is an essential stop on any New York City tour. Opened in 1927 by Ben Bass, the bookstore is the last survivor of “Book Row” on Fourth Avenue near Union Square. It only employs the savviest of staff (the interview process is notoriously hard), while its two floors make it perfect for browsing new, used and rare books. View the Street Map: 828 Broadway, New York, NY 10003

Book and Bed Tokyo • Tokyo, Japan

Does reading make you sleepy? Don’t worry, because at Book and Bed in Tokyo, you can doze off while you read. While not exactly a bookstore, this hostel was created on the feeling when you fall asleep with a good book. With 30 beds and thousands of English and Japanese language books, this is one accommodation you’ll never forget. View the Street Map: Japan, 〒171-0021 Tokyo, Toshima City, Nishiikebukuro, 1 Chome−17−7, ルミエールビル

Libreria Acqua Alta • Venice, Italy

Venice’s rising water levels pose a serious problem to the city’s many businesses, including this small bookstore. But you can thank Italian ingenuity for Libreria Acqua Alta’s brilliant solution: putting its precious books in bathtubs, waterproof containers and even a gondola! The “Bookstore of High Water,” with its tight spaces and resident cats, is one of the most unique and charming places in all of Venice. View the Street Map: Calle Longa S. Maria Formosa, 5176/b, 30122 Castello, Venezia VE, Italy

El Ateneo Grand Splendid • Buenos Aires, Argentina

Sometimes the preservation of an historic place is too great. So is the case with El Ateneo Grand Splendid, opened in 1929 as a theater hosting some of Argentina's tango greats. It then became a cinema, but by 2000 this palatial theater faced demolition. Luckily, the right buyers came along and transformed it into a bookstore. Selling mostly Spanish language books, this bookstore is worth visiting for the stunning and ornate architecture alone. View the Street Map: Av. Santa Fe 1860, 1123 CABA, Argentina

City Lights • San Francisco, California

A landmark bookstore in the North Beach neighborhood, City Lights will transport you back to ‘60s-era hippy San Francisco. A bastion of the city’s alternative culture, the bookstore was opened in 1953 and became a meeting place for the “Beatniks.” Browse the shelves for political manifestos and poetry, and pick up a copy of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl," which was first published here. View the Street Map: 261 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

Booksellers on the Seine • Paris, France

Okay, while not technically a bookstore, Paris’ booksellers bordering the Seine River are as iconic as it gets. Known in French as “bouquinistes,” the tradition of selling used and antique books goes all the way back to the 16th century - and was even declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. Grab a croissant from a nearby bakery and stroll the left and right banks as you peruse books, maps and countless unique finds. Magnifique! View the Street Map: Located on the right bank from the Pont Marie to the Quai du Louvre, and on the left bank from the Quai de la Tournelle to Quai Voltaire.

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