There’s nothing quite as fantastic as a stroll through a stunning building of books. You can almost smell it. The scent of crisp, old book pages and coffee grounds mingled with the feeling of anticipation and joy that comes with picking out a new favorite book. From St. Petersburg to Portland, we’ve compiled a list of the best bookstores in the world.
Whether you’re looking for a quaint shop packed full of only romantic fiction or you’re feeling adventure call you to a bookstore on the side of a Grecian cliff, you’re covered here.
15 of the Best Bookstores in the World
From the hallowed Shakespeare and Co. on the streets of Paris to the 18 miles of books in the Strand in NYC.
From the purring shelves of the Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice to the heritage building spot of Munro’s in Victoria.
There are places for book lovers all across the world!
1. Powell’s Books (Portland, Oregon)
As the world’s largest independent bookstore, this Pacific Northwest mainstay is a must-see.
Powell’s is constantly holding literary events – over 500 author events a year in addition to things like children’s storytimes and book clubs.
And its towering shelves hold thousands upon thousands of used and new books.
Powell’s is a family business with five different locations in the Portland area and boasts a library of over two million volumes.
2. Parnassus Books (Nashville, Tennessee)
Deep in the heart of Music City, Parnassus Books calls itself “an independent bookstore for independent people.”
Parnassus is rooted in literature, owned by bestselling author Ann Patchett and publisher Karen Hayes.
Parnassus is named after Mount Parnassus, which was a mecca for learning in Greek mythology, and works to connect the writing community with the reading community.
Lined with colorful shelves of books and packed full of author events, the Nashville bookstore is a must-visit.
3. The Ripped Bodice (Culver City, California)
The only exclusively romantic bookstore in the United States, The Ripped Bodice is owned by two sisters who made their dream of a romance-only bookstore come true with a Kickstarter campaign.
In the Culver City portion of Los Angeles, The Ripped Bodice is home to a huge selection of romantic fiction as well as items sold by independent and female-owned businesses.
4. Cook & Book (Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, Belgium)
A unique bookstore and restaurant, Cook & Book is nestled among the streets of Brussels and stands as an eclectic literary experience.
The absolutely massive bookstore is divided into eight sections, decorated with bright colors and tons of whimsy.
5. Strand Book Store (New York, New York)
Nestled on Broadway and 12th Street in the East Village of Manhattan, the Strand Book Store holds 18 miles worth of books in its store.
Founded in 1927, the Strand has molded and changed with the times of New York City booklovers, becoming an icon.
From rare books and collectibles to new bestsellers, over 2.5 million titles hold a place on the Strand shelves.
The Strand has three other locations in the city and frequently hosts events. From Lil Wayne to Bernie Sanders, celebrities and authors are inside the city beacon often.
6. BookPeople (Austin, Texas)
With a place in the capital of the Lone Star State, Austin’s BookPeople has had its space since 1970.
From classic books to new releases, BookPeople’s building considers itself a community bound by books.
From presidents to famous authors, constant events and book signings grace its doors.
While you’re shopping for books, you’ll be able to grab a coffee handcrafted by onsite baristas, and you’ll be able to shop there 364 days a year.
7. City Lights Booksellers and Publishers (San Francisco, California)
Founded in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter Martin, City Lights is a bookstore and publisher combination in the great city of San Francisco.
As the first paperback bookstore in the United States, City Lights is an independent bookstore for the ages that works to cater to every single reader that graces their doors, regardless of viewpoints or likes.
8. Shakespeare and Company (Paris, France)
On Paris’ Left Bank, Shakespeare and Company opened in 1919 and is around to this day.
In a stunning 17th century building, the bookstore has played host to famous authors like Anais Nin and Allan Ginsberg.
Stunningly beautiful on the inside and the out, time stands still and the literary world beckons. Known widely as one of the most famous bookstores in the world, a stop by Shakespeare and Co. is an absolute must.
9. Munro’s (Victoria, British Columbia)
In the heart of Victoria, British Columbia, Munro’s has held its spot as a premier book store in Old Town for over 50 years.
Stocked with shelves in an old heritage building – the building was originally designed for the Royal Bank of Canada – Munro’s is a destination for book lovers all over the world.
10. Libreria Acqua Alta (Venice, Italy)
On the streets of Venice, the Libreria Acqua Alta is a warm and cozy bookstore surrounded by shelves upon shelves of books and the sounds of purring cats.
The tiny little store is full of book spines and crisp pages, a must-visit for anyone near the area.
With its spot in Venice, which is famous for its floods, the books at Libreria Acqua Alta are stored in everything from bathtubs to canoes so that they don’t get ruined by water.
11. The Book Garden (Bountiful, Utah)
In the center of Bountiful, Utah, The Book Garden occupies over 4,000 square feet of space with books stacked as far as the eye can see.
The Book Garden has been in town since 1985, smelling like gently worn pages and filling each reader up with as many books as they can possibly carry out.
12. Dom Knigi (St. Petersburg, Russia)
On the streets of Saint Petersburg, Dom Knigi – The House of the Book – is in an absolutely stunning and towering building, richly decorated and packed full of volumes galore.
Open since 1938, the bookstore has survived as history has happened outside of its doors, from being bombed to being flooded. The bookstore is also a historical landmark and is a book lover must-see.
13. Cafebreria El Pendulo (Mexico City, Mexico)
Part bookstore, part café, the Cafebreria El Pendulo is a chic and stunning store full of books, fanciness, and gifts.
There are several locations around Mexico City, each a delightful location featuring flowers, plants, and books upon books.
You’ll want to stay for a while, flipping through pages and sipping on fresh, hot coffee.
14. Atlantis Books (Santorini, Greece)
The quirky and whimsical Atlantis Books store holds a place on the Santorini Cliffside and finds itself on lists everywhere showcasing the best bookstores in the world.
Books are perched on shelves, stacked on the floor, and packed into every available corner, and the bookstore is a massive tourist attraction with an eye for the unusual.
15. The Bookworm (Beijing, China)
The Bookworm in Beijing – with several other locations as well – isn’t just a bookstore; but is also a library, a bar and restaurant, and an event space.
Known consistently as one of the best bookstores in the world, The Bookworm is stunning. A stroll through The Bookworm’s aisles is absolutely beautiful. The space full of hanging lanterns and rows of books.
Best Bookstores in the World: Did Your Favorite Make the List?
We hope this list has inspired you to stop by a new independent bookstore in your own town. And we really hope that this list has inspired you to stop by one of these famous bookstores on your next travels!
Did you get a chance to stop by one of these iconic bookstores? You know that we’d love to see those literary travels of yours!
Tag us on social media with #HookedToBooks and, as always, happy reading! We can’t wait to see what you find.
About the Author
At the ripe old age of 3, Susannah decided that life was just a blank canvas and took Magic Marker to the newly installed carpet in her room just to “see what happened.” She’s taken that approach to life since, curious about pretty much everything.
She earned a journalism degree from Texas A&M University with the mission of making asking questions and telling stories her life, and since then has done everything from social media strategizing and content creation on the national level to writing a career column for USA TODAY.
Susannah is a high school teacher and yearbook adviser with a huge passion for reading (Harry Potter is her absolute favorite) and is excited to bring another book-loving voice to Hooked to Books.