17 Bookstores That Will Literally Change Your Life

And all you have to do is visit them!

1. City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco

Book appeal: City Lights was founded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, so it makes sense that its entire second floor is a dedicated poetry space. But throughout the store there are chairs strategically placed so customers can not only enjoy the natural light, but take their time in choosing a title to bring home.

2. Word on the Water in London

Book appeal: This bookstore is on a barge, for starters. You can hop aboard to browse through its selection (and mingle with the owner’s cats), or stay on the mainland to see their poetry readings and live music, which happen on the roof of the barge.

3. Boekhandel Dominicanen in Maastricht, Netherlands

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Book appeal: Browsing books in a 700-year-old church is an experience you’ll only have at Boekhandel Dominicanen. There’s a mix of Gothic architecture and modern furniture to enjoy, along with all of the titles, of course.

4. The Livraria Cultura in São Paulo, Brazil

Book appeal: Not only is this the largest bookstore in Brazil, but it’s also a borderline playground for kids. There are massive dragon statues to play on, areas to lounge, and four stories of pure book-filled aisles to wander through.

5. Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice, Italy

Book appeal: This bookstore is easily one of the most memorable and quirky places in Venice. The shop itself is small, and filled with books that fall out of gondolas, bathtubs, and small boats. You can dip your feet in the canal as you read, or climb a set of steps entirely made of old books.

6. Librería El Ateneo in Buenos Aires

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Book appeal: This former theater turned bookstore is filled with all sorts of stunning architectural details, like Italian ceiling frescoes, rich red curtains, and ornate sculptures. Plus, there’s live piano music playing in the background while you browse each section.

7. Cook & Book in Brussels

Book appeal: Cook & Book is part bookstore, part café, and totally worth the visit. The shop is divided into nine rooms, and each room contains a different section (think music, fiction, children’s, travel, graphic novels, etc.). But best of all is that each section has its own special design and looks totally unique from the other rooms. There’s even an English room that looks a bit like a pub.

8. Brattle Book Shop in Boston

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Book appeal: Founded in 1825, the Brattle Book Shop is one of the largest antiquarian book shops in the country. There are unique outdoor bookstalls, as well as three levels of titles to browse through.

9. Livraria Lello in Porto, Portugal

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Flickr: renej / Via Creative Commons

Book appeal: If you blink you’d miss the unassuming exterior of Livraria Lello. But inside, it’s filled with rich dark wood and a sweeping staircase that leads to a second floor of stained glass and floor to ceiling bookshelves. This is one of Portugal’s oldest bookstores and completely worth the visit.

10. Librairie Ptyx in Brussels

Book appeal: Even before you walk through the doors, it’s not hard to see that the Librairie Ptyx is a monument to all things art. Inside, titles are carefully curated, and the homages to famous writers covers the walls.

11. The Last Bookstore in Downtown Los Angeles

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Book appeal: Aside from the vaulted ceilings and enormous pillars that fill this large space, stepping inside The Last Bookstore will make you feel like you’ve entered another world. There’s a mix of old and used books, and even an upstairs section where everything is just $1.

12. Cafebrería El Péndulo in Mexico City

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Book appeal: Anywhere where they allow you to eat, drink mojitos, and read is pretty fantastic, in my opinion. Plus Cafebrería El Péndulo also offers outdoor seating, and enough natural light and vegetation to make you feel like you’re not in a bookstore at all.

13. Atlantis Books in Santorini, Greece

Book appeal: Stepping into Atlantis Books is a bit like going into a cave, but one filled with tons of character! There are notes and messages written all over the walls, and they host food festivals, film festivals, and book signings regularly.

14. Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon

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Book appeal: Powell’s is ENORMOUS. That’s because it was formerly a car dealership that has become a Portland landmark. If you ever feel like indie bookstores are flailing, walk through the rows of books while sipping coffee from their cafe and just remember that being a book lover is alive and well in Portland.

15. Librairie Avant-Garde in Nanjing, China

Book appeal: Can you spot the yellow stripe down the center of the book rows? That’s because Librairie Avant-Garde is a former garage converted into a bookstore. Pretty neat, but you’ll have to find parking elsewhere!

16. Dickson Street Bookshop in Fayetteville, Arkansas

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Book appeal: Specializing in out of print and rare books, you’ll step off the main Fayetteville drag into this cozy shop filled with rows and rows of books old and new. The rare and more leather-bound options are right up front and absolutely stunning, while if you head into the back you can find anything from Southern cookbooks to music biographies.

17. Books Actually in Tiong Bahru, Singapore

Book appeal: This shop is a mix of quirky and modern, like the ultimate Etsy store filled with indie titles, local authors, and plenty of knickknacks to bring home. It’s small, but intimate, and readings are often hosted here.

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