7 marvellous bookshops to add to your travel itinerary

I usually travel with only carry-on luggage, so in most cases, I do not buy books while I travel, even though there are some exceptions. Still, I love to visit admirable bookshops with beautiful architecture and special features. In this article, you will find information about various bookshops: aesthetically pleasing Daunt Books in London, a bookshop with a cat in Reykjavik, Sweet Books, a paradise of book lovers in Girona, a bookshop located in the former bank building Carturesti Carousel in Bucharest, the Acqua Alta bookshop in Venice, and Abacus Books and Coffee which is recognised as one of the best coffeehouses in Cartagena, Colombia. You will also learn disappointing news that J.K. Rowling has never visited the Lello & Irmão bookshop in Porto, among many other things. So here are 7 great bookshops for your future travel inspiration!53 venice bookshop thesanetravel.com venice bookshop P1240788

1. The Acqua Alta Bookshop, Venice, Italy

The Acqua Alta bookshop in Venice is considered by many as the most beautiful bookshop in the world. The legendary bookshop, whose name in English means "high water", is celebrated for keeping and protecting its books by storing them in baths, floating tubs, and notably a full-size gondola. The shop offers not only books but also pictures, drawings, postcards and much more. At first glance, everything seems completely confused and chaotic. Most books are not on shelves but are simply lying around. 49 venice bookshop thesanetravel.com venice bookshop P124080850 venice bookshop thesanetravel.com venice bookshop P124078152 venice bookshop thesanetravel.com venice bookshop P124078554 venice bookshop thesanetravel.com venice bookshop P124079256 venice bookshop thesanetravel.com venice bookshop P124080157 venice bookshop thesanetravel.com venice bookshop P1240806You will find numerous books in English, including for children. The ambience of the place is quite special and friendly. Moreover, Acqua Alta is treated with a lot of humour. A rare thing for a bookshop: if you have a boat, you can access Acqua Alta from the canal!

Address: Calle Longa Santa Maria Formosa (Corte Senza Nome), Venice.

2. The Lello & Irmão Bookshop, Porto, Portugal

Lonely Planet considered the Lello & Irmão bookshop in Porto as the third most beautiful library in the world. Built at the beginning of the 20th century, the shop has an excellent neo-gothic façade where you can see the two figures representing science and art. 10 lello bookshop thesanetravel.com P1850365As you walk through the doors, you’ll notice a marvellous stairway and exquisite wooden walls. 13 lello bookshop thesanetravel.com P185039212 lello bookshop thesanetravel.com P185037711 lello bookshop thesanetravel.com P1850371Arches are supported by pillars where the busts of some of the greatest Portuguese writers were sculpted, such as Eca de Queiros, Antero de Quental, and Camilo. Its wonderful ceiling has a magical element every visitor will notice: the stained glass. Made of 55 panels, the size of this artwork is 8 x 3.5 meters (26×11 feet). It was made by the Dutch architect Gerardus Samuel van Krieken.14 lello bookshop thesanetravel.com P1850396Rumour has it that J.K. Rowling’s inspiration to write Harry Potter began in Porto, particularly at this bookshop. To Harry Potter lovers’ disappointment, J.K. Rowling has stated that: “... I never visited this bookshop in Oporto. Never even knew of its existence! It’s beautiful and I wish I *had* visited it, but it has nothing to do with Hogwarts!” The well-known writer lived in Porto working as an English teacher in the early 1990s.
The library charges an entrance fee of 5 euros and you can buy it online. It is actually a book voucher and you can use it for buying a book there, but not souvenirs.

Address: R. das Carmelitas 144, Porto.

3. The Eymundsson Bookshop, Reykjavik, Iceland

Icelanders have a beautiful tradition of giving books to each other on Christmas Eve and then spending the night reading. This custom is so deeply ingrained in the culture that it is the reason for the Jolabokaflod, or “Christmas Book Flood,” when the majority of books in Iceland are sold between September and December in preparation for Christmas giving. In 2011, UNESCO designated Reykjavik a “City of Literature” to emphasise Icelanders’ love of books. Eymundsson is Iceland's oldest bookshop, established in 1872. It operates at 15 locations around Iceland and offers a wide selection of books, magazines, and various gift items. Many of their storefronts also include a coffeehouse. You can drink coffee or enjoy a light meal in a cosy environment while reading whatever you like from the shop. And do not forget to pet a cat while visiting the shop!20 reykjavik bookshop thesanetravel.com P1360133

Address: Laugavegur 65-77, Reykjavik.

4. Carturesti Carousel, Bucharest, Romania

Built in the mid-19th century in the neoclassical style, the building was bought by the Chrissoveloni bankers in 1903, and it served as a bank. It was confiscated in the Communist era and turned into a general store called Familia, the Romanian word for family. After the fall of communism, the Chrissoveloni family reclaimed the building. Now it houses one of the most beautiful bookshops in Romania.30 carturesti thesanetravel.com P1410107
A bookshop is more than space where books are sold. When it looks like ‘Carousel of Light‘, the act of reading becomes a wonderful, unique experience. According to the owner, the Carturesti bookshop located in a 6-storey building represents an experiment of ‘cultural habitation’ in the old centre of Bucharest. The bookshop provides a space for reading, socialising, and artistic explorations of the city. 32 carturesti thesanetravel.com P141011233 carturesti thesanetravel.com P141013534 carturesti thesanetravel.com P141013935 carturesti thesanetravel.com P1410161Moreover, the place offers many other activities: a bistro, a media centre in the basement, and an art gallery dedicated to contemporary exhibitions on the first floor. Every year more than 300 cultural events are held at the bookshop. It has a wide assortment of books as well as custom made stationery. There is a teahouse in the same building where you can enjoy browsing through the books as you drink your tea, accompanied by music in the background.

Address: Lipscani Street 55, Bucharest.

5. Sweet Books, Girona, Catalonia

I love to visit unique bookshops when I travel and Sweet Books in Girona, Catalonia is definitely one of those. The owners combine the love for books as beautiful objects in their own right, with love that is even sweeter because at the bookshop you can also buy sweets. Sweet Books is a paradise for book lovers, a venue of only twenty square meters that makes the most of its dimensions. Here you will find a large number of out-of-print and second-hand books, a feature that makes the experience of visiting Sweet Books even more special. Sweet Books was opened in 2013 by Ernest Riera and Olga Vila. 40 sweet books thesanetravel.com P164013541 sweet books thesanetravel.com P164013642 sweet books thesanetravel.com P164013843 sweet books thesanetravel.com P1640141The bookshop is decorated with a mural painted by Girona artist Pau Morales.

Address: Carrer de les Ferreries Velles 14.6, Girona.

6. Daunt Books, Marylebone, London

If bookshops were judged on their aesthetics alone, there is no doubt that Daunt Marylebone shop would triumph in London. The historic look drives tourists mad and why it shouldn’t, it’s beautiful. Daunt Books in Marylebone is an original Edwardian bookshop. 60 daunt books thesanetravel.com P1650688The arched window and skylight flood the shop with natural light, while books are arranged on long oak galleries. There is a huge stained glass window at the end of the room and this, teamed with the oak balcony and William Morris prints, give Daunt Books a real sense of grandeur. 61 daunt books thesanetravel.com P165069262 daunt books thesanetravel.com P165069464 daunt books thesanetravel.com P165070365 daunt books thesanetravel.com P165071066 daunt books thesanetravel.com P1650712The building was bought by James Daunt in 1990 and originally specialised in travel books and literature. Spread over three floors, this stunning oak bookshop is arranging all books by country; book lovers are given a unique browsing experience. As the shop has expanded, they have encompassed fact, fiction, guides, and cookbooks also. Feel free to spend Sunday flicking through their travel photography books and enjoying the peace of this old bookshop and do not forget to pick up a famous Daunt Books canvas tote bag.

Address: 84 Marylebone High St, Marylebone, London.

7. Abacus Books and Coffee, Cartagena, Colombia

Could you find a good coffee, nice music, and a wonderful book selection in one place? Of course, you can! It happens at the magical corner of the streets of Mantilla and Iglesia located in the walled centre of Cartagena de India’s, where the lyrics melt into vibrant chords to the rhythm of jazz, while the aroma of ground coffee transports you to the coffee landscapes of Colombia. 70 cartagena bookshop thesanetravel.com P1910715Abacus Books and Coffee is the perfect place to take a break from the tour of the walled city and a perfect meeting point for the informal gathering of the city's intellectuals and visitors. You can select books of your choice while sipping drinks in this atmospheric bookshop. 77 cartagena bookshop thesanetravel.com P191072379 cartagena bookshop thesanetravel.com P191073580 cartagena bookshop thesanetravel.com P1910749Perfectly cooked banana cakes, brownies, and orange cakes are the best dishes. A lot of visitors order delicious wine, beer, or Daiquiris. Try excellent iced coffee, lemonade, or ice tea. 78 cartagena bookshop thesanetravel.com P1910731By the way, Abacus Books and Coffee is rated among the best coffeehouses in Cartagena.

Address: Cl. 36 ##3-86, Cartagena.

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What did you think? What is the most beautiful bookshop you have visited so far? I’d love to hear from you so please add your comments below.

  • Posted by Anita on December 11, 2020

    Author: Anita Sane

    Anita 03 18

    About the author
    Anita is a part-time traveller, passionate photographer and a retired career woman from Latvia, 
    travelling mostly solo for more than 15 years. She is a skilled travel planner who plans and executes her travels by herself. Anita wants to show you how to travel the world and open your mind to new experiences. Follow her on FacebookInstagramPinterestTwitter and Bloglovin.



    Oh... I love a great bookshop and can peruse for hours. I loved visiting the one in Cartagena and of course, Daunt! The one in Porto is on my bucket list! Happy Reading.
    These are so amazing! I love visiting bookstores when traveling! I usually go out of my way to find them because they're usually the highlight of my trip :)
    Great list. I can't believe I have never been to Daunt Books even though I have worked in Marylebone for years! Lello is definitely something!
    Amazon has NOTHING on these gorgeous places! That staircase at the lovely The Lello & Irmão Bookshop in Porto and the adorable cat at the Eymundsson Bookshop in Reykjavik. LOVE!
    This is an amazing list! I love finding local bookshops while I travel. Lello & Irmão looks incredible! WOW.
    Taylor Taverna
    Oh these are all SO dreamy! I can't believe I've only been to one on the list.. I've got some catching up to do! Thanks for sharing.
    Such a treasure! I've always loved hunting for bookshops whether local or not on my trips. And what a shame I missed the Acqua Alta bookshop in Venice while we were there! But it's not too late for me to check out the rest! happy about this!
    Gorgeous! Oh, how I wish I found the Acqua Alta bookshop in Venice when we were there! What a shame! I've always loved hunting for bookshops in my travels! But I'm keeping the rest for our next trip. Good to know! Such a treasure!
    Terri Markle
    Some of my most magical memories are visiting book stores in my foreign traveks, such as the Shakespeare book store in Paris. I made fast friends with the cats! They are magnets to keep me in the store. You must visit the Capitol Hill bookstore in Washington DC if you visit my city!
    Those bookshops look so charming! The kind of places where you could stay for hours! I have seen only the one in Porto and I loved it!
    My favourite thing in the world a beautiful book located in a stunning bookstore. I can't be doing with Kindles they ruin the reading experience for me, there is nothing better than the smell of paper and ink and I could sit in one of these shops for hours at a time.
    The Holidaymaker / Renee
    I just love this! There is nothing better than perusing a wonderful bookshop while on holiday. One of my favourite pastimes.
    I love a great bookshop. Some of these are delightful & others look quite overwhelming even for me.
    Great list! My favorite is actually El Ateneo in Buenos Aires - a beautiful theater converted into a bookstore. Fantastic list! Thanks for sharing!
    What a marvelous collection of bookstores. I love reading and now I just want to visit all of these lovely places. The staircase at the bookshop in Porto is magnificent
    I'm a Literature teacher and avid bookworm, so I enjoy browsing a bookshop (however, I also like neatness, so the Venice one would drive me crazy!). I love the idea of the Icelandic Jolabokaflod. I live in Sweden, which is also so dark and cold this time of year. Curling up with a book is very tempting! Plus any bookshop that sells sweets and cakes is a winner in my book! Lovely post.
    I am a huge bookworm and can't help but collect books on my travels. I'd love to visit all these bookshops! Daunt books in London looks particularly appealing :)
    Oh, I love, love, LOVE this list! I work in a bookstore, I have I think almost 100 books in my to-read pile, and yet if I see a row of shops and one of them is a bookstore, guess which shop I'd head to first? I especially like the one in Reykjavik with the cat. What a perfect pairing of the best things in life!

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