Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice, Italy (pictured above)
This bookstore may be small, but it can entertain for hours. Books are stacked – in no particular order – from the floor to the ceiling, and there is even a gondola overflowing with tattered tomes, postcards and posters. Out the back, there’s a stairway built of books – climb to the top for views over the city’s canals. The highlights, however, are the store’s resident cats, which curl up wherever they please and take no notice of curious shoppers.
Livraria Lello, Porto, Portugal
If you’ve ever visited Livraria Lello, it probably comes as no surprise that it was part of the inspiration behind J.K. Rowling’s imaginary Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series – the author lived in Porto for a time when writing the novels, and was a regular visitor to the bookstore. Set in a neo-gothic building, the 1906 space housed more than 100,000 books, set on carved mahogany shelves illuminated by soft light through stained glass.
Assouline, London, UK
At a time when many bookstores are shutting up shop, it’s refreshing to see this relatively new London establishment thriving. Publishing company Assouline’s flagship bookstore in Piccadilly occupies a 1922 building designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. And while the focus here is on books – including volumes that you can have custom made by the on-site book binder – there are also homewares and furnishings to take home as souvenirs.
Shakespeare and Co., Paris, France
Founded by American George Whitman in 1951, this cosy bookstore in Paris’ Left Bank remains a landmark in the city. The 17th-century building that once housed a monastery is today home to books in all manner of languages, stacked floor to ceiling and even spilling out onto the footpath.