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A reader’s dream: Discover Europe’s most magical bookshops

In those past years, the publishing industry has been through a digitalisation revolution. And although the sales numbers of audiobooks and e-books keep growing, there is nothing quite like the smell of freshly printed ink on the pages of a new book.

So, whether you are looking for a new page turner to accompany you on your way to work or want to escape in the magical world of a bookstore, the travel experts from Travel circus have compiled a list of Europe's most bookworm-friendly corners.

Paris: Shakespeare and Company

Located in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, not too far from the famous Notre-Dame Cathedrale, is the discreet Shakespeare and Company bookshop. The specificity of this shop is that it focuses primarily on classics and new works in English-language. Regular readings and workshops are held in the bookshop and those who want to improve their own writing style will be able to find the right inspiration here.

Santorini: Atlantis Books

What started out as the idea of two students drinking raki is now one of the hottest spots on the whole island of Santorini. As the first bookshop on the Greek island, Atlantis Books offers a wide choice for your next holiday read.

Atlantis Books is not only one of the best addresses for readers in Santorini, but it also serves as a prime backdrop for a great Instagram photo. A white marble façade creates the ultimate holiday atmosphere. Colourful slogans, mosaics and green plants give the shop a hip, modern feel, while wooden beams and book shelves create a cosy atmosphere.

Alnwick: Barter Books

British charm shines through at its best when wandering through the picturesque market town of Alnwick. Alongside the narrow streets, historic brick houses and sumptuous aristocratic castle, there are numerous libraries and bookshops waiting to be discovered by readers and historians alike. One of the many book hotspots is the tourist attraction Barter Books. Located in the middle of an old Victorian railway station, the shop is considered to be the largest second-hand bookshop in Europe.

With more than 350,000 books, book lovers can browse to their heart’s content for hours in an unique atmosphere. Surrounded by the many shelves, customers can sit back and enjoy a cup of coffee or - in the English tradition - a cup of tea.

Munich: Law Library

Historic wooden spiral staircases with decorative ornaments, rows of bookcases and display cabinets on several floors, high walls, and large windows - entering Munich’s law library can feel like walking into the magical world of Harry Potter. It is not surprising that the library in Munich's old town has already been used several times as a film location for films and series, such as the famous German children movie “Bibi Blocksberg”.

During normal opening hours, however, it is not directors and actors who come here, but students and lawyers. The premises are exclusively devoted to specialist legal literature, which is available to the public for consultation, browsing and reading on the spot. The large wooden table in the centre of the room invites you to study together. But beware: the sumptuous Art Nouveau style combined with the abundance of wood creates a great risk of distraction.

London: Daunt Books

Always dreamed of travelling around the world while staying in the same place? Daunt Books offers to make this dream a reality. this bookshop specialises almost exclusively in travel literature. The various volumes are arranged by country - if you want to travel from Canada to Australia, just follow the colourful shelves.

It is not only the books it offers that makes Daunt Books in London so special, but also the interior design. Reading enthusiasts can sit comfortably between dark green walls, warm lights, antique oak wood and light-flooded arched windows. The highlight of this multi-storey space is the charming wooden staircase, which gives visitors the impression of taking a trip back in time.

London: Words on the Water

A bookshop that floats on water? It's possible in London! On a small barge near Kings Cross station is the extraordinary bookshop Word on the Water. Here, readers can search for real treasures and sit back in one of the antique armchairs. But be warned: you have to keep your head down here!

Leakey's Bookshop - Inverness

Located in Inverness, Scotland's beautiful Highlands, Leakey's Bookshop is a haven for book lovers. As you step inside the shop, you are immediately struck by the shelves, which are filled with an extensive collection of second-hand literature, inviting you to spend hours exploring and discovering new books. The shop's unique atmosphere is created by its location in a former church, with colourful stained-glass windows, warm wooden furniture, subdued lighting, and a spiral staircase in the centre of the room. This creates a pleasant and welcoming environment that allows visitors to escape into another world, providing a special haven for reading enthusiasts.

Florence: La Cité

During the day, La Cité in Florence is a cozy café and bookstore where you can enjoy both a cappuccino and your latest literary discovery. However, as the day turns into the evening, the shop transforms into a lively bar that offers more than just drinks. From rhythmic dance parties to live jazz performances, La Cité offers a variety of exciting events every night. The shop provides a unique combination of reading materials and refreshments, including cheap cocktails, creamy cappuccinos, and sweet croissants, making it the perfect spot to relax and enjoy the dolce vita.

La Cité also hosts regular readings, live music, debates, and writing classes, encouraging interaction and cultural exchange between readers. Whether you're interested in historical classics, comics, or the latest literary newcomers, there's something for everyone to explore. The shop is a great place to meet new people who share your love of books, making it an ideal spot for like-minded individuals to connect and share their passion.

Venice: Libreria Acqua Alta

If you're in the mood for a unique literary adventure, look no further than the Libreria Acqua Alta bookshop in Venice. Here, you'll find books in unexpected places, such as old bathtubs, small boats, a gondola, or even between fishing nets. The bookshop's location on the canal provides a charming maritime atmosphere, and visitors can enjoy an unobstructed view of the passing gondolas for an added romantic touch.

During the winter months, rising tides can cause the bookshop to be up to its ankles in water, adding to the shop's distinctive character. However, don't worry about getting your feet wet - the shop has measures in place to ensure that visitors can still browse the books safely and comfortably. With its unusual book displays and picturesque location, the Libreria Acqua Alta is a must-visit destination for book lovers looking for a one-of-a-kind literary experience.

Besides the Libreria Acqua Alta's distinctive interior and stunning terrace views, the bookshop also boasts a famous book staircase that guarantees a special photo opportunity for visitors. But the shop isn't just for taking photos - it also offers a diverse selection of reading materials, including travel guides, novels, historical volumes, drawings, postcards, and paintings. With such a variety of options, there is something to suit every taste and interest. Whether you're looking for a new novel to read, a guidebook for your travels, or a unique piece of art to take home, the Libreria Acqua Alta has you covered.

Maastricht: Boekhandel Dominicanen

If you're looking for a unique experience in the Netherlands, look no further than the bookshop hidden in the heart of the charming university town of Maastricht. The bookshop is housed in a former 13th-century church, which boasts stunning gothic architecture with high ceilings, pointed arches, enormous stained glass windows, and an imposing dome.

In addition to a wide selection of Dutch literature, the bookshop also offers books in English and some in German. But that's not all - visitors can also browse through records and unusual gifts while soaking up the enchanting atmosphere of the historic building.

For those in need of a break, the small Coffeelovers café is located in the middle of the bookshop, next to fully stocked shelves. Here, customers can sip their chai lattes and leaf through the pages of their favorite new novels around a table shaped like a cross. It's an opportunity to sit in the same space where children were once baptized and where the city's hipsters now come together. With its fascinating blend of history and modernity, this Maastricht bookshop offers a truly unforgettable journey into the past.

Krakow: Massolit Books & Café

Massolit Books & Café is the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon in the Polish city of Krakow, browsing through the books while enjoying a cup of coffee or tea. The cozy atmosphere and friendly staff create a welcoming ambiance, and the shelves are filled with a wide range of books in both English and Polish. From fiction and poetry to philosophy and history, there is something for everyone. The café also hosts literary events, such as book clubs and author readings, which attract a diverse crowd of locals and tourists alike. So whether you're a bookworm or just looking for a cozy spot to relax, Massolit Books & Café is not to be missed.

Prague: Czech National Library

The Czech National Library is not just a cultural treasure trove, but also an important research centre. It holds a significant collection of Czech literature, including the complete works of famous Czech writers like Franz Kafka, Karel Čapek, and Milan Kundera. The library also houses valuable historical collections, such as ancient manuscripts and rare prints, as well as extensive collections of music, maps, and photographs.

Visitors can enjoy guided tours of the Baroque Hall and other parts of the library, attend cultural events and exhibitions, or simply spend time browsing the extensive collections. With its impressive architecture and vast collections, the Czech National Library is a must-visit destination for book lovers and history enthusiasts alike.

Porto: Livraria Lello

The Livraria Lello bookstore in the stunning city of Porto is a sight to behold. With its curved wooden staircase, high glass ceiling adorned with decorative paintings, and cozy lights along the shelves of colourful books, the atmosphere is truly magical. It's no wonder the bookshop has been voted the most beautiful in the world multiple times, evidenced by the long queues outside its entrance door. Since 2015, visitors have even had to pay an entrance fee to enter. Despite the crowds, a visit to this unique oasis is a must for book lovers and globetrotters alike.

This article is from the 2/2023 issue of the magazine "Life Abroad".

The magazine is published four times a year free of charge with many informative articles on foreign topics.

It is published by the BDAE, the expert for protection abroad.