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The World's Most Beautiful Bookshops

January 22, 2016

'A library is full of new worlds to travel’, or so the adage goes, but we believe quite the opposite – that the globe is packed with book shops and libraries well worth travelling to. Book nerds and interior aficionados get passports ready for this divine edit of beautiful bookshops around the world.  


This article was updated June 2019.


Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice 

With rambling rooms, steps made from old opuses and an oh-so-charming canalside locale, Libreria Acqua Alta (pictured above) is certainly one of the most enchanting book nooks to be found anywhere. But its position just inches above sea level means the vast stash of new and used English and Italian titles is at risk of being washed away as the water rises each winter. Owner Luigi Frizzo came up with an, ahem, novel solution – store the works in gondolas and bathtubs, so when the aqua really gets alta, the libros stay dry. Castello, 5176/b, Venice. +39 041 296 0841

Maison Assouline, London 

This luxury, limited edition bibliotheque on bustling Piccadilly (set in a Grade II-listed former bank, no less) boasts not only a back catalogue of 1,400+ cultural and coffee table tomes but also a room devoted to sumptuous furnishings for your at-home library, and the suave Swan Bar, serving coffee and classic ‘tails to sip while you scan the shelves. C’est chic! 196A Piccadilly, London. +44 20 3327 9370, assouline.com


Word on the Water, London

For a truly novel take on a book shop, zip on over to Regent's Canal where you'll find quaint 20s barge, Word on Water. This floating library is crammed with new and used books above deck and below in its cosy stove-warmed bunk. Keep peepers peeled for talks, open-mic sessions and live music. York Way, Granary Square London. +44 7976 886982 @wordonthewater


The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles 

Situ’d in Downtown LA's historic core, the last word on opus emporiums stocks best sellers and records on its stately, columned first floor… But it’s the mezzanine level that’s the true treasure – an uncategorised literary labyrinth with tunnels constructed from outdated encyclopedias, storybook sculptures and hidden alcoves. Best of all: everything up here is only one dollar. 453 S Spring St, Downtown, Los Angeles. +1 213 488 0599, lastbookstorela.com

L'eau et Les Rêves, Paris 

Sure, Shakespeare and Company is quaint and Galignani grand, but how can you skip a bookshop on a boat? Bobbing atop a serene stretch of the Seine in the Ourcq, L’eau et les Rêves (Water and Dreams) is a lovely lil’ library within a black barge; a river-reader specialising in all books nautical, plus a pirate-heavy selection for the kiddies. Barge in! Quai de l'Oise, 19th, Paris. +33 1 42 05 99 70, penichelibrairie.com


Robinson Crusoe, Istanbul 

Perched above shopping strip Istiklal Caddesi is this local literary institution, lined floor-to-double-ceiling with fiction, fine art, history and travel titles. With rolling ladders, a reading table and piano, it exudes warm library atmos, and patrons are positively encouraged to park their bots in cushy armchairs – or better yet, on the sunny rooftop terrace – and browse before buying. İstiklal Cd. 195, Beyoğlu, Istanbul. +90 212 293 6968, rob389.com


Rizzoli, New York 

It has been a fairytale ending for this Manhattan stalwart. Evicted from her original abode in 2014, it has now reopened in a historic NoMad building complete with moulded cherrywood shelves, brass chandeliers and custom wallpaper. An upsized 5,000 sq ft space = more room for page-turner fiction, philosophy works and foodie cookbooks. 1133 Broadway, NoMad, New York. +1 212 759 2424, rizzolibookstore.com


Strand Book Store, New York

Another Big Apple icon, this bright red corner fronting 92-year-old doll shelves more than two million books, across 18 miles of shelf space. Eschewing the traditional arrangement by author's names, The Strand has it's own particular classification and also hosts a roster of writer's talks, readings and events.  828 Broadway, New York. +1 212 473 1452, strandbooks.com

Tsutaya Books Daikanyama, Tokyo 

The tri-level, Mid Century Mod-styled Tsutaya flagship is stocked with every kind of reading, listening and watching pleasure. Peruse for page-turners in the extensive selection of English merch, then saunter upstairs to the Anjin lounge and take an artisan brew while you fall into the first chapter. 17-5 Sarugakucho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. +81 3 3770 2525, real.tsite.jp

BooksActually, Singapore 

Nestled in the arty Tiong Bahru nabe, this curio-crammed cutie is packed with fiction, classic literature, local works and poetry. But she holds more than just books actually: the back room showcases an adorable assemblage of hand-stitched notebooks and stationery. 9 Yong Siak St, Tiong Bahru, Singapore. +65 6222 9195, booksactuallyshop.com


Open House by Hardcover, Bangkok

Part of the floor-straddling cafe-bookshop-co-working space Open House atop of Central Embassy mall, this design marvel has a hefty selection of rare art tomes as well as an exhaustive selection of photography, children's books, cookbooks, novels, and Thai titles. 6/F, Central Embassy, Phloen Chit Rd. +66 2 119 7777. @openhousehardcover

For more recommended retail treats around the world...

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