One thing I can’t live without is a good book. I always read before bed or on my commute to work and I would go absolutely crazy if I got on a plane without a book, whether it’s a one-hour or twelve-hour flight
Even though I make sure to bring enough books with me to read on a trip, I make it a point to seek out a beautiful bookstore in a new city. No matter how foreign a destination is to me, I know for sure that a bookstore will bring me comfort and familiarity. I think it does the same for a lot of people no matter where they are from or what language they speak. Bookstores are universal treasures.
Over the last few years I’ve visited some pretty great bookstores where I’ll buy one or two books, mostly two, and write on the first page the date and which store and city I bought the book. It’s a collection to remind me of all the places I’m fortunate enough to travel to and all the stories I’ve enjoyed along the way. Here are seven bookstores around the world that I hope you have a chance to seek out too.
Daunt Books – London, England
Daunt Books is every traveler’s dream bookstore. They offer every book imaginable from cookbooks to children’s books but the above Edwardian-style gallery is the jewel of their Marylebone Street location (they have several more bookshops throughout London). Not only does this gallery have beautiful windows above but all of the books in this room, regardless of genre, are arranged by country. I think it’s the perfect bookstore to go to if you are preparing for a trip to say Africa and you want to gather reading material to get you inspired for your safari.
I loved wandering around for almost an hour in the quiet space save for the creaky wooden floors. It’s a peaceful place and not at all crowded. I bought a copy of Us by David Nicholls which is about a man trying to save his flailing marriage while on a European vacation with his wife and teenage son – a funny and also genuine and sincere story.
Shakespeare & Company – Paris, France
Of all the bookstores I’ve visited in the world, I was most excited to see Shakespeare & Company. It’s such an iconic bookstore (read a brief history here) and for me, it lives up to the hype. Yes, it can get crowded because it’s so famous but I didn’t mink taking my time to browse the shelves in the narrow aisles on the first floor before making my way up to the second floor where there are a few rooms with more books and a reading nook and a white cat sitting by an open window.
There is one room with some beds for the Tumbleweeds, which are the writers and artists who can sleep at the store in exchange for working at the store during the day. My souvenir is a copy of The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I was late in the game to be reading this young adult mega sensation but like Shakespeare & Company, the book lived up to the hype because I shed some tears reading it which I never do when reading a book.
The Strand – New York, New York
The Strand is probably one of the most famous bookstores in all of America and my visit was I think the first time I really started taking notice of bookstores on my travels. Known for housing 18 miles of books, you could get your cardio in while searching for the perfect book. I think they have four floors, or maybe even five, of every book imaginable including new, used, and rare collectibles and editions on the very top floor. There are so many books to pick up and browse that it can be overwhelming but in a good way. I bought the classic Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh and one of the store’s well-known red tote bags. It’s impossible to be bored in New York City but if you need something to do, you could easily spend a couple hours browsing and reading in The Strand.
Gertrude & Alice Cafe Bookstore – Sydney, Australia
Gertrude & Alice is the farthest bookstore I’ve traveled to and I have such a good memory associated with the place. I went to Sydney a few years ago to visit my best friend who was living there at the time and I got to spend two weeks with her exploring her new temporary home. Like me, she is an avid reader and lover of all things book-related so she was more than willing to go with me on a bookstore crawl throughout the city and Gertrude & Alice is such a gem.
We went to the bookstore after a long walk from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach and sat down and rested our feet and treated ourselves to some baked goods and coffee and tea. The tables are spaced apart from each other in the narrow shop and are placed in between walls that are stacked every which way with books from floor to ceiling. We could sit at a table and reach our arms out to the shelves and even though there were lots of people, everyone talked in hushed voices. It felt like a comfortable home or sacred space and it reminds me of the great day my friend and I had together. I bought My First New York by New York Magazine which is a collection of essays by well known artists, writers, athletes and actors about their first experiences living in New York City.
Rizzoli Bookstore – New York, New York
I had definitely heard about Rizzoli Bookstore but didn’t think to seek it out on one of my trips to New York but I stumbled on it after dinner one night and I’m so glad I did. Rizzoli’s new location is near Madison Square Park but it used to be on 57th Street for a while where it was known as one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world (watch a video here to see what it looked like). It’s new location is no different though with beautiful chandeliers and murals on the upper walls above dark wooden bookcases. In addition to novels, children’s books, and stationery, Rizzoli Bookstore offers mostly illustrated books on everything from fashion and photography to architecture and design, making the bookstore even more visually appealing. It’s a sight for sore eyes and a good place to snag your next beautiful coffee table book.
Knjizara Morpurgo – Split, Croatia
I researched where to find good bookstores in Croatia before my trip there this past spring and Knijzara Morpurgo was a great find! It was across the People’s Square, or Narodni Trg as it’s called in Split, from my hotel so it was easy for me to find. The oldest bookstore in the city and one of the oldest in all of Europe, Morpurgo was founded by Vid Morpurgo, a publisher and iconic figure in Croatia. Vid wanted the store to become a central part of the town’s culture as well as a place to sell books. Since 1860, the bookstore has been so well preserved, like the rest of the Old Town, and the current owners aren’t allowed to change anything. Even if they decide to sell it, law demands that nothing else can go into the space except a bookstore. I love this rule.
The English books section was very small so there weren’t a whole lot of books for me to flip through since everything was in Croatian but I did enjoy looking through some of the children’s book illustrations. I bought Julian Fellowes’s Belgravia in the English section and I can’t wait to read it since I love his writing for Downtown Abbey and I’m sure this book will help with my Crawley Family withdrawals.
BookWorks – Pacific Grove, California
BookWorks is the last new bookstore I visited just a couple weeks ago in Pacific Grove which is a short five minute drive from downtown Monterey. It sits on Lighthouse Avenue, the main street in Pacific Grove, where there are lots of privately owned restaurants, cafes, and shops. And so BookWorks fits rights into this warm, casual, and homey atmosphere. A big cafe space greets you when you walk through the door serving coffee, tea, and pastries and towards the back of the building is a good-sized bookstore with a strong selection of adult and children’s literature. I couldn’t help walking away with a copy of Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld which is a modern day retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice – unputdownable!
What about you? Do you have any bookstore recommendations? Let me know in the comments!