Reading is magic. I particularly enjoy channelling my inner Gandolf by surrounding myself with stacks of books and old parchment paper. Although right now I’ll have to settle for my own bookshelf and crumpled newspaper that will eventually be used for the cat litter box. LIVIN LA VIDA LOCA.
Especially right now during Covid when I just need like an hour to not be mentally here. I was doing a little reminiscing of better days spent inside physical stores, specifically, bookstores. Then I got an excitement quiver because a list was brewing. I don’t know anything about the history of these places nor any notable features of the buildings, I just like books.
I do love a good best-of list
They are in order from when I remembered seeing them, not by my favourite since it is too hard to pick, they all have such charm.
1. Libreria Acqua Alta: Venice, Italy
This bookstore is just the most dysfunctional, delightful shop. Books of every size and publication year are stacked everywhere; shelves, the ground, desks, and even inside the massive gondola featured in the middle. I didn’t even realise it was a gondola because there are so many books. It’s right by a canal (shocking since Venice is surrounded by water) so you can get some sick shots. I ended up buying a postcard and some bookmarks because I couldn’t decide where to begin when sifting through all the piles of books.
2. Dominicanen: Maastricht, Netherlands
Inside a fricken church! Pardon my language but it is so awesome. The church is humongous and the book selection is the same.
3. Livraria Ler Devagar: Lisbon, Portugal
This bookshop is simply lit- great lighting and a great selection of literature. There is a little cafe inside as well. They sell new and used books, so make sure you have room in your carry-on bag to bring something back home.
4. Stockholm Public Library: Stockholm, Sweden
Free libraries- got to love them. This is the mother of all free libraries. So curvaceous.
5. Shakespeare and Co: Paris, France
Every bookstore fantasy starts and ends here. Rows upon rows of English books in a Parisian bookstore located literally right across from Notre Dame. The charm is otherworldly. Plus there is (or was) a cat. I’m sure he is still alive, he was too cute to die.
6. Rijksmuseum Research Library Cuypers: Amsterdam, Netherlands
You can see this library if you purchase a ticket to the Rijksmuseum since it is inside the museum itself. If you are a student in Amsterdam and can prove you need access to the archives, I think you can get a library card and walk around the library itself- instead of seeing it from above on the museum balcony.
7. Biblioteca Joanina: Coimbra, Portugal
Hidden inside a university sits one of my favourite libraries that I’ve been to. Gandolf for suresies went here to sift through old manuscripts. There are bats inside that will eat the bugs that would damage the books. All they need to do is cover the books so the bats don’t poop on them. FUN FACTS. Also, you aren’t allowed to take pictures inside so that is why I have to show you this glorious outside area but trust me, the inside gave me shivers of delight.
8. Livraria Lello: Porto, Portugal
I wanted to love this bookstore because it inspired J.K. Rowling but it is very much an amusement park attraction. I wrote a blog post on how to buy tickets and when to go- expect at least a 45-minute wait. Yeah, for a bookstore. There are also very few English books here. Despite all that, the staircase is pretty phenomenal.
9. Paludan Book & Café: Copenhagen, Denmark
Cafes and bookstores make the perfect pairing. Much like the wine and cheese that I ordered from this particular bookstore cafe. Just kidding, the glasses of wine are like 9 euros but I did have a tea and cheese. Don’t be shocked by 9 euro wine- it’s very Danish with the pricing- as in, the country is hella expensive.
10. Dussmann Das Kulturkaufhaus: Berlin, Germany
This bookstore is large, modern and gorgeous. Definitely, a must while in Berlin.
11. Daunt Books: Marylebone, London, England
Not all Daunt Books are created equal and this one in Marylebone stands out. If I’m being honest, I’ve only gone to one other Daunt Books and it was nice also. Either way, it makes for some delightful perusing in London. Also, why are British cards so hilarious? In Amsterdam, I go to Waterstones and the card selection is top-notch.
12. Waanders In de Broeren: Zwolle, Netherlands
This church-turned bookstore will charm the pants off you. Look up when you get there and you’ll see what I mean. I can’t find a picture or I’d show you.
13. Carturesti Carusel: Bucharest, Romania
I’m not sure what the name means but it does remind me of a small carousel from a circus.
Libraries where you can’t go
In Canada, our libraries are free to use once you have a library card so I was simply aghast when I tried to go into a few public libraries in Europe and have been DENIED ENTRY. These are the buildings that are only for cardmembers or you need to be a resident of the town. The security/ receptionists were all very huffy when I asked to go inside these pretentious establishments. Some libraries also require a guided tour such as the one in Coimbra (which you can easily find where to buy tickets) and Strahov Library in Prague (which I couldn’t figure out how to get into even with a local Czech person).
– Florence National Central Library: Florence, Italy (denied entry)
– Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana: Venice, Italy (denied entry)
– Biblioteca Nacional de España: Madrid, Spain (denied entry)
– Strahov Library: Prague, Czech Republic (need a tour and couldn’t find where to buy tickets)