I can’t say the same about the rest of the world but traveling restrictions are soon to ease up in my country and that means fishing out those bucket lists again! Of course true to my bookworm self, my bucket list includes 14 indie bookstores I’d love to visit around the globe.
Kind reminder to shop from indie bookstores or local used stores when you can 🙏🏼 These small businesses breath life into our cities and towns, and many more require our help during the pandemic. Click here on ways to help.
If you’re looking to add these bookstores to your next destination or only falling in love with these pictures; I hope you enjoy this post.
Best For: Chinese books and photoshoots.
Location: Chongqing, China
This bookstore has been specifically designed to play with your head using mirror trick illusions making the space seem bigger than it is. More than 200,000 visitors were reported to have visited the bookstore in its first 15 days opening. In fact so many people kept visiting, the operator had to limit the number of entrants. One of my favorite rooms is the children’s reading room; this is literal heaven to bookworm kid me.
Best For: French books and french translations of English books.
Location: NYC, USA
The interior reminds me of Harry Potter and gives me major Ravenclaw vibes. It offers the largest collection in the United States of French-language books and translations from French into English. The history of the bookstore is quite morbid, Stanley White the building’s architect was actually murdered before it’s completion.
Best For: Rare editions and eccentric picks.
Location: Paris, France
Shakespeare & Company is arguably the most famous indie bookstore in the world. Famous for being a haven space for “The Lost Generation” of expat writers (like Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, and more), brushing up your fingers against the lined shelves you can’t help but breath in the history of this quaint bookstore.
What’s really cool is the tumbleweed program, what’s that you say? A tumbleweed is essentially a writer, artist, or wanderer who can stay and live in the bookstore for free in exchange for reading one book a day and helping out around the store. Never seen anything like it!
Best For: Perfect for all readers and comic book fans.
Location: Sao Paulo, Brazil
You can easily spend hours at this place, popular not only with novel readers the bookstore houses comic books and even pop culture figurines for collectors. Apart from the very awesome flying dragon (it might be the reason I really want to visit…) it features a cafe for you to sit back and relax with your book.
Best For: Vintage Italian and European novels.
Location: Venezia, Italy
The journey to the bookstore itself is picturesque enough, overlooking the serene canals of the “floating city”, the books as you can see are stacked high up because the store floods sometimes!
You must then take a minute to see “the book staircase”. It’s made entirely out of vintage tomes and makes a perfect photo. Although it hurts my heart to think about stepping on them. Tip: If you’re the person who stays too long getting that pic it won’t be for free so buy a postcard if you can’t purchase novels (although I highly doubt that! just look at them!).
Best For: Spanish books
Location: Buenos Arias, Argentina
This antique theatre has been restored to house the now beautiful bookstore, it’s hundreds of years old and originally bought the first sound films to Argentina. Even if you’re not a book lover, you can’t deny the majestic feel the place emanates.
Best For: Browsers looking for books by theme, and limited collections.
Location: Brussels, Belgium
Pretty sure that book ceiling is a selling point all on its own. The bookstore is divided into themes. One of the prominent ones is the “English Room”, it’s decked out in Victorian leather armchairs and ceilings lamps printed with Union Jack.
It also houses 3 different restaurants ( one is in the social sciences section and the other is in the cooking section, and one is situated near the fine arts section I believe.)
Best For: Antique, Vietnamese and Foreign literature.
Location: Hanoi, Vietnam
I accidentally found this store on Google Maps when I typed a store name wrong. I think that’s the best thing that happened to me out of a misspelling! On the outside it looks like your corner shop or grocer, but on the inside it’s this Studio Ghibli treehouse situation that is a sight to look at.
It’s considered one of the busiest “night book street markets” in Hanoi. Okay but the concept of late night bookstores is so appealing to me why is this not applied everywhere!? You can also drop off some books so this doubles as a second hand store as well.
Best For: Rare and first editions, as well as luxury editions.
Location: Porto, Portugal
It’s nicknamed as “The Harry Potter bookstore” because Rowling used to get inspired by Livraria Lello and its easy to see why. This is one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world and a fitting library at Hogwarts!
Considered groundbreaking for it’s architectural design when it was first unveiled in the 19th century, it still stands today in all its glory. Tip: Plan your visit before because it can get quite packed!
Best For: Selective literary fiction and books specializing in human sciences
Location: Brussels, Belgium
The outside of this bookstore is unmissable. It’s graffiti stencil style design showcases famous authors and this concept is extended inside where pictures of more famous authors are pasted on the ceiling.
You won’t find your best sellers and popular books here, the bookstore carefully selects and curates its books; as the site states: “It is far from the quantified sirens of a press unanimously dedicating a self-proclaimed bestseller whose sole objective (also quantified) is to please the greatest number.”
Best For: Second hand and discount books
Location: Provincetown, US
Behind the green archway that looks like something out of a 60-70s American suburbia you’ll stumble upon the hidden gem that is Tim’s Used Books. This was yet another accidental find but a happy accident of course. A great spot if you’re a thrift shopper.
Best For: New titles and used books
Location: L.A., USA
If you haven’t heard of the bookstore you must have at least seen the instagram pictures. It’s famous for its book “semi-tunnel” (pictured above) but did you know it’s also a record shop? Definitely check it out if you’re into old school retro music.
Fun fact: Originally it used to be the atrium of a bank before it got turned into a bookstore, it’s also been shrouded with conspiracy during the Elisa Lam case.
Best For: Spanish books, English translated books and popular titles.
Location: Mexico City, Mexico
The vibrancy of the place is enough to entice me to pick up a book or two, the decor is inspired by the Art Deco movement. A blog called it: “Part bookstore, part cafe, and part forest”. And that couldn’t be any more true.
A palm tree is jutting out in the middle of the space while vines and plants slither their way through the windows and in between shelves. It’s exotic in the best sense.
Best For: New titles and used books.
Location: Portland, Oregon
Powell’s is pretty popular, a former car dealership the space gives me Stranger Things vibes with the sign outside still keeping its style of 80s brand signage. The space is filled with rows upon rows of shelves and they offer titles both from the big press and small publishing houses which is great.
You can also sell some of your unwanted books too.