18 Of The World’s Most Magical Bookshops - The Gloss Magazine

18 Of The World’s Most Magical Bookshops

Every book lover should experience these magical bookshops around the world, from Atlantis Books in Santorini to Venice’s Libreria Acqua Alta …

Books can take us on enchanting trips, and these beautiful bookstores inspire wanderlust beyond our wildest dreams. We would happily plan a trip just to visit any and every one of these magical bookshops.


Magical Bookshops Outdoors


These bookstores lovingly embrace the outdoors. From The Honesty Bookshop at the medieval castle walls in Hay-on-Wye, a Welsh town that hosts an annual book festival, to Rodger’s Book Barn, a simple shop tucked into the woods in Upstate New York.

BART’S BOOKS, 302 W Matilija St, Ojai, CA 93023. Photograph via @happycamperbooks.

The world’s largest outdoor bookshop, founded in 1964. Inspired by the Parisian book carts on the River Seine (see Bouquinistes below), Bart’s Books started with a few bookcases of books outside Richard Bartinsdale’s home. Today Bart’s Books has a collection of over 130,000 titles housed in a series of open-air bookcases. Books range from the 35 cent specials that are for sale through the honour system, to the rare, out of print first editions.

HONESTY BOOKSHOP, Hay Castle, Oxford Rd, Hay-on-Wye, Hereford HR3 5DG. Photograph via Jessica Charleston @ladyandthelibrary.

Hay-on-Wye, a town on the Welsh borders known as the “Town of Books” is home to the annual Hay Festival. Famous for its many bookshops, we are completely charmed by Hay Castle’s Honesty Bookshop established in the 1960s. Open-air shelves propped against the castle’s walls are filled with all manner of second-hand books which are paid for by placing the requisite change in an honesty box.

RODGER’S BOOK BARN, 467 Rodman Rd, Hillsdale, NY. Photograph via Emma Austen @andnorth.

Established in 1972, Rodger’s Book Barn in upstate New York is home to more than 20,000 second-hand books. The barn opens into a series of cosy, carpeted rooms lined with books.

THE STRAND CENTRAL PARK KIOSK, 60th Street & 5th Ave, New York, NY 10065. Photograph via Paula Flynn.

The famous Strand Book Store, NYC’s largest independent bookshop opened its outpost kiosks in the 1960s. Once again, the inspiration for these book kiosks are Paris’ bouquinistes book stalls along the River Seine.

BOUQUINISTES, Quai des Grands Augustins, 75006 Paris, France. Photograph via @hifromalix.

Running along the left and right banks of the Seine, from Quai Voltaire to Île Saint-Louis, are the book stalls of the renowned Bouquinistes of Paris. The Bouquinistes are second-hand and antiquarian booksellers, a tradition that dates back to the 16th century, and has inspired open-air bookshops around the world.

Magical Bookshops with Water Views

Similarly, who doesn’t love a bookshop with water views? Atlantis Books in Santorini has stunning views of turquoise waters, Venice’s Libreria Acqua Alta’s fire escape opens onto a pretty canal and Word on the Water is a book barge on Regent’s Canal in London’s King Cross.

ATLANTIS BOOKS, Nomikos Street, Oía, Santorini. Photograph via @axelandash.

Established in 2004 with a mission to bring great art, literature, and conversation to one of the most beautiful environments in the world. Atlantis Books has successfully achieved its goal, offering books in several languages and a terrace with a stunning view overlooking the Santorini Caldera.

LIBRERIA ACQUA ALTA, Calle Lunga Santa Maria Formosa, 5176b, Venice. Photograph via Rita Esposito @ritaespos.

The charming Libreria Acqua Alta, which translates to “Book Store of High Water”, stores its inventory of new and second-hand books in bathtubs, rowboats, canoes, and gondolas to protect them from Venice’s frequent floods. The fire exit opens onto a canal and there is a staircase made from damaged and unusable books on the back porch.

WORD ON THE WATER, Regent’s Canal Towpath, Kings Cross, London. Photograph via Paula Flynn.

A 100-year-old Dutch barge is home to unique bookshop Word on the Water, also known as The London Bookbarge. Located on Regent’s Canal Towpath, close to King’s Cross station, Granary Square and Coal Drops Yard.

Magical Bookshops in Stunning Spaces

Equally enchanting are architecturally stunning spaces, often repurposed as awe-inspiring bookshops. Such as a 700-year-old Dominican church in Maastricht which is now Boekhandel bookshop. Or the palatial Teatro Grand Splendid in Buenos Aires which was repurposed as a bookstore yet has retained its original frescoed ceiling and ornate balconies and boxes. Porto’s beautiful Livraria Lello features an ornate forked staircase, and the pretty spiral staircase and balconies at Bucharest’s Carturesti Carusel are exquisite.

BOEKHANDEL DOMINICANEN, Dominicanerkerkstraat 1, 6211 Maastricht, Netherlands. Photograph via Michael Holemans @archiseye.

A former 13th-century Dominican church has been repurposed into a bookstore in Maastricht, Netherlands. Soaring vaulted ceilings accommodate the three-storey bookshop with plenty of room to spare.

EL ANTENEO GRAND SPLENDID, Av. Santa Fe 1860, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Photograph via @eitaeuvou.

The ornate El Ateneo Grand Splendid theatre dates to 1919, was converted to a cinema in 1929 and later to a bookshop in 2000. The opulent interior has maintained its frescoed ceiling, intricate carvings and red stage curtains. The stage is now the location of a coffee shop.

LIVRARIA LELLO, R. das Carmelitas 144, 4050-161 Porto, Portugal. Photograph via Manuel Varzim.

Established in 1906, Livraria Lello’s iconic red staircase is the result of a happy accident – it was painted red rather than the intended brown. The mistake was so enchanting the red stayed. An extensive restoration was undertaken in 2018 fully returning Livraria Lello to its former splendour. Livraria Lello charges an entrance fee that can be offset against the purchase of a book.

CARTURESTI CARUSEL, Strada Lipscani 55, Bucharest, Romania. Photograph via Kael Rebick @punkodelish.

A former bank headquarters built in the early 20th century that became a general store under the Communist regime. In the 1950s the building fell into disrepair. A descendant of the original owners, the Chrissoveloni banking family, reclaimed the building after a lengthy legal battle and returned it to its former glory. Today the bookshop, Carturesti Carusel, occupies six floors including a bistro on the top floor, a multimedia space in the basement and a contemporary art gallery on the first floor.

LIVRARIA LER DEVAGA, R. Rodrigues de Faria 103, Lisbon, Portugal. Photograph via @allaboutus_03.

The 45-foot-high ceiling at Livraria Ler Devagar makes for an impressive bookshop space. Located in the LX Factory, a historical industrial complex, the bookstore has a collection of over 40,000 new titles and almost 10,000 second-hand books.

Bookshops with Dramatic Ceilings

New York’s French bookstore, Albertine has a beautiful, celestial painted ceiling, Arc.N.Book in Seoul has created tunnels from books, and London’s Libreria has created a magical book space with the use of mirrors.

ALBERTINE, 972 5th Ave, New York, NY. Photograph via @girlintheyellowtaxinyc.

A French and English bookshop located in a Stanford White Fifth Avenue mansion that was constructed in 1902. Since 1952, the mansion has housed the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, and Albertine was opened in 2014. The hand-painted mural on the bookshop’s ceiling was inspired by the ceiling of the music room at the Villa Stuck in Munich, Germany.

ARC.N.BOOK, 29 Eulji-ro, Euljiro 1(il)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea. Photograph via @ramita_s.

An underground bookstore and library, located at a subway exit, boasts two tunnels made from arches of books. British-style red phone boxes house computers to search and track down books. Plus, there is a coffee shop and restaurants in this vast subterranean bookstore.

LIBRERIA, 65 Hanbury St, London E1 5JP, United Kingdom. Photograph via Paula Flynn.

This small bookshop appears much larger than it is by the clever use of mirrors on the ceiling and back wall. Inside the shop Livraria emits a welcoming warm glow that invites browsers and shoppers to stay a while in one of the cleverly inserted reading nooks between the shelves.


Bookshops with Wheels

LITTLE BOOKSHOP, 38041 2 Ave, Squamish, BC V8B 0C3, Canada. Photograph via Calvin Cheung @adayontheterrace.

A bookstore founded on the principles of diversity, acceptance, self-love, empathy, multiculturalism and the love of books. Little Bookshop opened in 2020 and subsequently launched the mobile, kid-friendly Little Bookshop to the great outdoors of British Columbia’s Lower Mainland.

LA BANCARELLA DEI LIBRI, Via de’ Martelli, 41, 50129 Firenze FI, Italy. Photograph via Daniela Barani @albionroadbookclub.

A beautiful, vintage bookseller’s cart that sells second-hand books and vinyl records in Florence.

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