Best Book Stores In The World


Best Book Stores In The World

“It is clear that the books owned the shop rather than the other way about. Everywhere they had run wild and taken possession of their habitat, breeding and multiplying, and clearly lacking any strong hand to keep them down.” Agatha Christie

I love traveling. Some things I don’t mind skipping out on. Base jumping is always a pass. Art and Architecture is always in. I wish I had more time for fashion. But there are few things more tragic than knowing I strolled through the streets of a far off city and walked right past a book attraction I may never get the chance to see again. This collection of bookstores includes many I have seen and some that got away. I write this blog with a hint of regret as I am moving and once again I have to narrow down my collection of books.

Shakespeare and Company, Paris, France

This independent bookstore on Paris’s left bank was originally founded in 1919 by Sylvia Beach, and became a popular gathering space for famous writers such as Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound and James Joyce. It might seem strange for an English-language bookstore to have such an important place in the history of literary Paris, but many notable English-speaking writers gathered in the City of Light during the 1920s to work on their craft. These writers and artists became known as the ‘Lost Generation’ and Shakespeare and Co was at the center of their world.  In the 1920s, this was not only a bookstore, but also a lending library. Another reason Shakespeare and Co is so well-known in literary circles is for its famous sleeping facilities. There are over 10 beds in the bookstore that have offered a place of rest to young writers since the 1950s. The present-day bookshop isn’t the original shop which was shut down by the Nazis during the French Occupation in World War II. It was reopened at its current address in 1951. In 1981 the owners daughter, named Sylvia after Sylvia Beach, runs the bookshop and is a wealth of knowledge about the history of the building and the writers that have passed through this famous door.

El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Buenos Aires, Argentina

The Teatro Grand Splendid  was built in 1919 as a theatre for top-tier tango concerts. What a wonderful name for a theatre. Tango legends such as Carlos Gardel, Francisco Canaro, Roberto Firpo, and Ignacio Corsini performed here. In 1929, the theater underwent its first transformation to become a cinema, with the distinction of being the first in Buenos Aires to show sound film. Its latest transformation is the El Ateneo bookstore. The painted ceiling, detailed balconies, and stage are all intact. The private boxes are now small reading rooms. The stage is a café. The shelves fit perfectly around the theater’s original shape. The book collection is pretty standard and mostly in Spanish. It is an amazing place to buy a book or have a coffee on the famous stage.

Livrario Lello, Porto, Portugal

Once upon a time Livraria Lello was an old beautiful book store. The Lello book store was built in 1906 in Porto, Portugal by the Lello Brothers (Antonio and Jose). Their book store is one of the most ornate book stores in the world, mixing Neo-Gothic and Art Deco elements. Carved wood ceilings, a stain-glass roof, an undulating, opulent red staircase, and even a built-in wheel-barrow on rails for moving the store’s 120,000 books all make the Lello seem like a bookstore out of some fantasy-world. One day some lady named J.K. Rowling lived in Porto while working on her first book. You might have heard of it- Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Livraria Lello is reputed to have inspired parts of Hogwarts. Since then, it has been inundated with Potter fans from around the world wanting to catch a glimpse and selfie of the bookstore’s interior.

Cook And Book, Brussels, Belgium

A unique restaurant that is also a bookstore… Or a bookstore that’s also a restaurant? The huge bookstore is located on the outskirts of the city. There are different bookstore entrances divided by themes. In the literature themed bookstore, the books are hanging from the ceiling and most of the books for purchase are in French. The cucina themed section has cooks behind the lunch bar and books filled in the salad bar. There are nine different bookstores and two restaurants. Be careful when hunger hits you while you’re caught in the middle of a good book reading. Bringing a book to the table while eating means that you’ll have to pay for the books and whatever else you consumed at the table.

Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice, Italy

This bookstore is close to St. Mark’s Square and opened in 2004. The name translates to “bookstore of high water” due to the store being plagued by Venice’s rising waters, which regularly flood the floors of the shop each winter. To combat the issue, the bookstore’s owner, Luigi Frizzo, piled all of the books into waterproof bins, bathtubs, canoes, and even gondolas in order to protect the literature. Books are everywhere possible and seem to have taken control of the space.

Selexyz Dominicanen, Maastricht, The Netherlands

This location of the Selexyz chain of bookshops occupies a thirteenth century Dominican church. The glorious interior is massive and includes an eating area.To maintain the integrity of the space, the architects built vertically, which means the three-story bookstore is not only impressively imposing, but also outfitted with neat walkways, staircases and elevators. A Frescoed vaulted ceilings soar over the book browsing activity.

Carturesti Carusel, Bucharest, Romania

Literally translated as the “Carousel of Light” in English, Cărturești Carusel is situated in a restored 19th-century building in the very heart of Bucharest’s Old Town. It has six floors, over ten thousand books and a bistro on the top floor. Built in the 19th Century by the Chrissoveloni family, the impressive columns and spiral staircases were once the headquarters for their banking dynasty. A few decades later, it was transformed into a general store. In the 1990s the structure had become unstable and the building was abandoned. It was later restored and opened as a bookstore.

Barter Books, Ainwick, UK

Barter Books in Alnwick is the most magical place for book lovers. It was opened by Mary Manley in 1991 and is now one of the largest second-hand bookshops in Europe. The store is situated inside a Victorian railway station which is a beautiful building with so much character. Those with a particular interest in the station’s history and architecture can take a walking tour. There are books everywhere and comfortable chairs, sofas, fires and even a train running on tracks above your head. Amazing quotes join bookcase to bookcase and there are beautiful murals to enjoy.

Livraria Da Vila, Sao Paulo, Brazil

The front door of Livraria de Vila is made of revolving bookcases. Once you get inside, you’ll notice books on every surface – on shelves from floor to ceiling, on nooks and crannies, and even on shelves carved into holes between each floor. In fact, this bookstore seems to be made of books.

City Lights,San Francisco, USA

As a reader, City Lights is one of my favorite bookstores. It is heavily associated with the Beat movement and its writers – Neal Cassady, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and store co-founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti. The big story behind the store is the obscenity trial surrounding Ginsberg’s Howl And Other Poems, which City Lights published and sold in 1956. I wasn’t a huge fan of the poem but it was deemed obscene and the poem went on trial. Lawyers were interrogating academics over the literary merit of a graphic work. City Lights grew to occupy all three floors of the building with an outstanding selection of world literature, poetry, and progressive nonfiction that is as significant today as it was in the ‘50s. City Lights gives us a physical reminder that ideas and words will always be challenged because they are powerful. Of course I bought a copy of Howl.

Fly safe,

Things I Have Learned In Buenos Aires

Things I Have Learned In Buenos Aires

“The two elements the traveler first captures in the big city are extra human architecture and furious rhythm. Geometry and anguish.” Federico Garcia Lorca

Recoleta Cemetery is the final resting place of the good, the bad, the beautiful and the rich people of Argentina’s past. It is a remarkable necropolis of tombs and mausoleums.  It is proportioned like a miniature village with its stately Greco-Roman crypts lining the narrow walkways. They believed “the bigger the mausoleum, the closer to God. “ It is less expensive to live your whole life in Buenos Aires than it is to be buried in Recoleta.


There are approximately eighty cats who live at the Recoleta cemetery.  They say that they are the guardians/ tour guides of  the 4800 tombs and have been taken care of for twenty years.  Everyone including me  takes photos of them.



When you enter the cemetery through the neoclassical gates (designed by  the Italian architect Juan Antonio Buschiazzo.)  There are two messages in Latin. The message on this inside is from the living to the dead and says rest in peace. On the outside, it is from the dead to the living and says Wait for God.



You have found Eva Peron’s flower strewn monument when you see people. She is buried among the rich people who did not like her.



Outside the  cemetery on Saturdays is the Feria Artesanal Plaza Independente Alvear, Recoleta. It is a sprawling arts and crafts market.  They sell leather goods, indigenous products, art, souvenirs and snacks. I bought some really good gifts there. (artist Pablo Maino)



Buenos Aires like Paris is a city of street markets on Saturdays and Sundays.


Drivers in Buenos Aires love to break the rules. Six AM is a dangerous time to be on the road as many people are heading home from milongas and dance clubs.

It turns out that Argentina has great ice cream. (or helado in Spanish). The blend of Italian immigrants bringing their tradition of making gelato, with high quality and creamy milk, combine to make some of the best ice cream in the world. Un Altra Volta is always a good place to go and they have a few locations. The Dulce De Leche is really tasty.

La Boca means the mouth in Spanish. The La Boca barrio  is located at the mouth of the Riachuelo. It was originally a shipyard and housed the people who worked there. The houses were built with cast-off ship building materials, meaning that they were largely constructed of  planks, sheet metal and corrugated iron. They were painted in different colors because they used whatever colors were brought in on the ships.  There never seemed to be enough paint in one color.


Caminito is the colorful artist/tourist street by the river.  In 1960, La Boca artist Benito Quinquela Martín painted the walls of what was then an abandoned street and erected a makeshift stage for performances. It attracted the artists, followed by the tourists, tourist hustlers and bland tourist restaurants.




It is fun to see the open air tango display and I bought some nice photographs from an artist on the street. If you are going at night, take taxis to and from your destination. It is still a rough working class barrio. (artist Doralisa Romero)



Throughout history and male dominated governments, women were supposed to suffer injustice in silence. During the reign of the military junta it is believed that 30,000 to 45,000 people “disappeared”.  These victims were sons and daughters. In 1976 a small group of mothers walked around the Plaza Mayo holding photos of their missing children. The protests were not legal. A woman’s place was in the home. The women said a mother’s place is to protect and find her missing children and so they protested on a technicality. Some of the early protestors went missing as well. The women began to wear white headscarves.  The movement grew throughout Latin America. Sting and U2 recorded songs about  them. In 2006 President Kirchner declared unconstitutional the laws used to imprison the Disappeared. Following this move, the Madres ceased their annual protest marches. (U2 on UTube)

Today the Madres de  Plaza de Mayo are the largest civil rights organization in Argentina. In addition to their initial work to find the disappeared, the Madres have tried to continue the work of their lost children.  They have set up a  newspaper, a radio station and a university.And they continue to fight for social justice. The march every Thursday afternoon at 3:30.

Mothers of Plaza de Mayo-1


MALBA (Museo de Latinoamericano Arte de Buenos Aires) has an interesting permanent collection and should not be missed by anyone interested in art.


The building was designed to interact with art. A bench is not just a bench. (bench, bench continues)



The gallery space is sectional yet fluid The permanent collection  consists of painting, sculpture, photography, print, drawing, and installations.  Visitors see major works by Xu Solar, Diego Rivera, Antonio Berni, Frida Kahlo and Jorge de la Vega, and a host of other modern masters from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, Uruguay, and Venezuela. (Antonio Berni -love this piece)


The Teatro Colon celebrated its hundredth birthday in 2008.  Its first performance in 1908 was Aida. The theatre is said to have one the best acoustics in the world. It is listed as one of the top five opera houses in the world.  It is the only stage that Pavarotti  was nervous to perform on. A massive  100 million dollar renovation was completed in 2010 and tours of the beautiful building are conducted daily in English and Spanish. Better yet, see a performance.  You can get tickets online before you go.



Arte BA one of the largest and most important art fairs in Latin America was held in Buenos Aires May 24-27. Eighty two galleries from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, United States, Peru and Uruguay participated. It was really fun and interesting and they seemed to have a lot of sales. (art by Marta Minujin)



Eva Peron is a controversial figure in Argentine history. Museo Evita opened on July 26, 2002, the 50th anniversary of her death, in a mansion where her charity, the Eva Perón Foundation, once housed single mothers with children. The placement of the house here had been meant as a direct affront to the wealthy neighbors who hated Evita.


The museum treats her history fairly looking at the good and the bad. Her things have been remarkably preserved by the military government that took power after Juan Peron. Whether you love her, hate her or  don’t care either way, she is an important part of Argentine history and  you should see the museum.


Drink a cup of freshly roasted coffee  ( I like cortado  -small coffee with a splash of milk) with a crispy medialuna (Argentinian croissant) at Café Tortoni.  A good place to try one is the city’s most traditional café. It was founded in 1858.  Café Tortoni has doubled as both a Bohemian and literary joint over the years. It is touristy but I am a tourist . I like to mix the places I’ve heard about with the places only locals know.

I preferred La Biela , opened in 1950 near the Recoleta Cemetery.  Biela means the connecting hot rod of an engine. It was frequented by early car owners and race car drivers. Their  black and white photos decorate the walls. It went on to become popular with artists writers and politicians. It has life-size statues of Argentine writers Borges and Casares sitting at a table in the front of the café.


Great steak can be had at many places. I had it at La Cabrera in Palermo Soho.  It was the size of my head but buttery and delicious.

Palermo is the largest barrio ( neighborhood) in Buenos Aires. It has beautiful parks, polo fields and many subdivisions. The most well-known for tourists are Palermo Viejo – home to Jorge Luis Borges and Che Guevara; Palermo Hollywood named because in the nineties a number of radio and tv producers moved there. Today it is known for restaurants, clubs and nightlife. Palermo Soho, as with its London and NY namesakes, is a  trendy area for fashion, design, restaurants, bars and street culture. Its “alternative” reputation makes it popular with Argentine Yuppies and tourists.

The Teatro Grand Splendid  was built in 1919 as a theatre for top tier tango concerts. What a wonderful name for a theatre. Tango legends such as Carlos Gardel, Francisco Canaro, Roberto Firpo, and Ignacio Corsini performed here. Building proprietor Max Glucksman was a leading figure in the world of tango in his own right, as owner of the influential Nacional-Odeon record label. In 1929, the theater underwent its first transformation to become a cinema, with the distinction of being the first in Buenos Aires to show sound film. Glucksman’s love of tango carried over to the new cinema, with live tango orchestration accompanying the silent films projections.

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Its latest transformation is the El Ateneo bookstore.  The painted ceiling, detailed balconies, and stage are all intact. The private boxes are now small reading rooms. The stage is a café. The shelves fit perfectly around the theater’s original shape. The book collection is pretty standard and mostly in Spanish, it is an amazing place to buy a book or have a coffee on the famous stage.


Going to a soccer game with one of the local clubs is a must do in Buenos Aires. I got to go to a Boca Jr, game at La Bombonera in La Boca.  The fans are as exciting as the game. They spit, throw garbage, scream at each other, sing and often dump water or urine on the people sitting below them if they don’t like what is happening. The Bocas tied the Newell Old Boys and fifty people got arrested. It was a great first night in Buenos Aires.



I would  not have had such an amazing time without the help of tour guides Marcelo Mansilla ( ) and Fabian Ali ( .  Muchas gracias for all your great suggestions, insight, kindness and knowledge of your very beautiful city. (Marcelo)


Buen Viaje,