The World's Greatest Bookstores
Bookmark these stores for a good read.
Getting lost in a good book can take you on adventures around the world—or to other worlds, if you’re reading science fiction. Getting lost in a great bookstore is an adventure, too. Put a bookmark beside the names of these booksellers for your next trip. They deserve a spot on every bibliophile's bucket list.
Atlantis Books, Santorini, Greece
Take a flight or ferry from Athens to this independent bookstore on the sun-washed island of Santorini. Atlantis Books was launched by university friends who started with little more than a cat, a dog a book van and an idea fueled by a bottle of wine. Today, Atlantis occupies the basement of a whitewashed villa, offering everything from bestsellers to books on Greek history and culture. Writers often sit on the terrace overlooking the blue Aegean while scribbling their own books. Check the website for news of upcoming food and film festivals, author readings and musical events.
Barter Books, Northumberland, North East England
Winner of a 2013 Vintage Shop of the Year award, Barter is the home of the iconic “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster. Look up at the ceiling when you visit; the store is in Ainwick, a Victorian railway station that dates back to 1887, and a model railway sits overhead. Pull up a chair to the working fireplace to nibble a cookie and have a cup of coffee, or search the shelves for a wide variety of titles. Glass cases hold antiquarian books, first editions, autographed copies and more.
Shakespeare and Company, Paris, France
From its home by the Seine River, Shakespeare and Company often has a line of customers and tourists waiting to get in, eager to prowl its collection of rare books, new reads and indie-published titles. When you enter this English-speaking store, which opened during the 1950s Beat Generation, you get a sense of stepping back in time. But this legendary independent has kept its historic atmosphere while adding readings and other events with such contemporary authors as Jonathan Safran Foer, Martin Amis and Dave Eggers.
Bonnie Elliott/Shakespeare And Company
Cafebreria El Péndulo, Mexico City, Mexico
Part café, part coffee house, part bar and part bookstore, Cafebreria El Péndulo is located in Mexico City. Books line the shelves from the ceiling to the floor, and live plants add lots of lush greenery to the décor. Climb a winding staircase to browse more selections on the balcony level, or find a seat in the bar to listen as poets read from their work or comedians hit clever punch lines. On the weekends, musicians play during breakfast hours. The store is named for a huge pendulum suspended from its ceiling.
® Cafebrería El Péndulo, 2016
Stanfords, London and Bristol, England
Established in 1853, Stanfords boasts that it offers the world's largest selection of travel books and maps. It also sells travel accessories, including compasses, first aid kits, mosquito nets and sleeping bags. Look for the enormous National Geographic Map of the World in the flagship store in London; it was created in 2003 to celebrate the store's 150th birthday. Online, you can search the store’s inventory by country, city, region or destination to find whatever you’re seeking. Customized mapping is available at the London and Bristol stores, and plans are underway to offer maps on-demand.
Edward Stanford Limited
Eslite, Taipei, Taiwan
Of all the stores in the Eslite chain, the 24-hour Eslite Dunnan branch is the most popular. With more than 250,000 books to chose from, the store draws tourists and locals who stay for hours, reading books as if they're in a library or listening to music, watching dance performances and films, and enjoying art exhibits and cooking demonstrations. The store also offers a wine cellar, clothing boutiques and a food court and cafes. Image courtesy of GuidetoTaipei.com.
Eslite 24-Hour Bookstore (誠品書店) - GuideToTaipei.com
Rizzoli, New York City, New York
For almost a half century, Rizzoli’s has been considered one of the best independent bookstores in the U.S. It specializes in illustrated books about fashion, photography, interior design, cooking, architecture and other subjects, along with Italian, Spanish, French and English literature. After many years on New York’s 57th Street, the store relocated in 2015 to a new 5,000 square-foot building on Broadway that boasts 18’ ceilings, chandeliers and impressive artwork. Take a master class in floral design, attend a lecture and book signing, or drop in for a cooking demo or book launch party.
Foyles, London and other locations in England
W & G Foyle, Ltd., or Foyles, as it's commonly called, is a chain of stores. Four are in London, while two others are in Bristol and Birmingham. The flagship store, on Charing Cross Road, in London, is arguably the most popular. Foyles carries a wide variety of fiction, as well as art and children’s books, and the Charing Cross Road store offers the largest foreign language section in the U.K.
El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Often described as one of the world’s most beautiful bookstores, El Ateneo is housed in an historic theater where the frescoed ceilings, balconies and theater boxes remain much as they were when the theater opened in 1919. After customers browse the shelves, they can drink coffee and listen to music from a stage draped in red curtains where tango dancers once performed. While most of the store’s books are in Spanish, they are available in a range of subjects.