By the Book: Wonderlands for Bibliophiles

Literature is often inspired by travel—let these literary gems inspire your next trip.

Av. Santa Fe 1860, C1124 CABA, Argentina
Buenos Aires is a city of readers—it supports more bookstores per capita than any other place in the world. The crown jewel of the librerías here is the Ateneo Grand Splendid. Housed in a theater where music legends such as Carlos Gardel once attracted vast crowds, the store features shelf after shelf of tempting volumes on its rounded balconies. Italian frescoes on the domed ceiling and plush red-velvet curtains are from the theater’s original 1919 design. The four-story space carries over 120,000 books and a local-music selection, and there’s a café on the erstwhile stage.
6 E Liberty, Savannah, GA 31401, USA
Nothing makes me happier than stumbling upon a really great bookstore, and this one in Savannah takes the cake! While strolling down East Liberty Street in gorgeous Savannah—my favorite of all the beautiful Southern cities—my husband and I happened upon the independently owned Book Lady Bookstore, offering over 50,000 (!) new, used, rare, and out-of-print books of all kinds. The store is located on the first floor of an old mansion and, as you can see, every square inch is packed with wonderful books—I could have spent all day browsing through the dusty stacks. If you love books and find yourself in Savannah, I highly recommend checking out the amazing Book Lady Bookstore.
1005 W Burnside St, Portland, OR 97209, USA
An iconic name in Portland retail—as well as among readers who have never been to the city—Powell’s has multiple locations on both sides of the Willamette. The downtown store remains the one best suited for visitors to explore, with miles of used reads, a tightly curated selection of books from the knowledgeable staff, and every Portland-themed book you could hope to find under one roof. A renovation in 2014 opened up the space and made it feel less like a warehouse of dusty stacks, an improvement that bodes well for the future of the business. Author appearances, even those at the satellite branches, are some of Portland’s best events for interesting discussions.
476 5th Ave, New York, NY 10018, USA
The main branch of the New York Public Library is one of the country’s grandest Beaux Arts buildings, a temple to learning on Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd streets. At the end of the 19th century, John Bigelow, who oversaw the Tilden Trust, decided that as New York was becoming a global financial capital, it required a grand public library. When the Astor and Lenox libraries faced financial difficulties, he convinced them to merge and, with the Tilden Trust, underwrite the library that now stands next to Bryant Park. The firm of Carrère and Hastings was entrusted with the design, and construction began in 1902 on the building that would be the largest marble structure built up to that time in the United States. The elegant main reading room with its soaring carved-wood ceilings is the highlight of its interiors. The library hosts temporary exhibitions related to literary and cultural topics that draw on its extensive collection of books and other printed materials. The two beloved lions in Tennessee marble—Patience and Fortitude—have stood at the entrance to the library since it opened in 1911 and were created by sculptor Edward Clark Potter.
1231 A Dundas Street West
Tempt fate at the Monkey Paw’s Book-O-Matic machine, where for the price of a toonie you’ll be delivered an archaic tome in the vein of Elementary Arabic, Vol. 3. I’ll let you know how my studying gets on. The Monkey’s Paw is an eclectic vintage bookstore on Dundas with a collection of unique books, vintage maps, and bugs preserved in Lucite.
84 Marylebone High St, Marylebone, London W1U 4QW, UK
Daunt Books really is special. Even if you are not a big reader, it is well worth a visit because the space is so beautiful and filled with exceptionally well-chosen books. Daunt is the ultimate antidote to the Amazon generation and connects you to the books and their authors in a very traditional way. Although Daunt is only 20 years old, it is located in an original Edwardian bookshop, with long oak galleries, graceful skylights, and William Morris prints. Try to persuade the staff to let you into the walk-in safe, where the expensive volumes were once stored. —Jasper Conran
1 Rue de la liberté, Fort-de-France 97200, Martinique
If this library doesn’t look much like your average Caribbean building, there’s a reason for that. It’s not. The entire library was first built in France back in 1889, then shipped piece by piece to the island Martinique as an exquisite monument to Victor Schoelcher, the French abolitionist writer from the early 19th century. No Caribbean travel experience in Martinique is complete without taking in this building’s unique architecture.
R. Marquês de São Vicente, 476 - Gávea, Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22451-040, Brazil
Those in search of sublime culture in an exuberant natural setting will find an ideal refuge in the Instituto Moreira Salles, a modernist residence hidden on a lane above the Gávea quarter that’s home to a cultural center. The delights on offer at this off-the-beaten-path spot—visual-arts and photography exhibits, literary salons, film series, and a stunning garden by famed landscape designer Burle Marx—are made all the more amenable by a restaurant as well as petite art– and Rio-focused bookstore. The IMS also happens to be the city’s most extensive photographic archive. If you’re looking to learn Rio history, a visit to this rare gem—nestled into the Carioca jungle—is a must.
4000 15th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98195, USA
When visiting Seattle, make sure to stop by the University of Washington—one of the most beautiful college campuses in the United States. Cherry trees, lakeshore, and views of glaciated Mt. Rainier surround a cluster of Neo-Gothic buildings. The Suzzallo library, built in the 1920s, is the central masterpiece. Inside, taking up the entire western side of the library is the Graduate Reading Room: 250 ft. (76 m) long, 52 ft. (16 m) wide, with a 65-ft. (20 m) high ceiling. With oak paneling, carved sandstone walls and a Gothic vaulted ceiling, this is truly a “cathedral of learning.”
220 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118, USA
For a dose of culture, head to Park Life in the Inner Richmond. The goal of this gallery-cum-retail space is to feature today’s most engaging contemporary art. Located in a 1,400-square-foot former furniture store, Park Life showcases 10 exhibits per year. After perusing the artwork, make your way to the retail side, which sells international art and design items, including prints, jewelry, and housewares. Park Life also collaborates with artists to release new items ranging from books and zines to T-shirts and skate decks. And if you can’t make it to the shop, Park Life’s online store features many of their products.
Sainte-Avoye, Paris, France
Just down the street from the charming Carreau du Temple, an open-air market square in the Haut Marais that recently reopened after heavy renovations, sits OFR: a bookshop-cum-gallery that houses an extensive collection of multilingual art and design books and fashion magazines. Here, you’re likely to mingle with a modish crowd, willing to strike up a conversation about anything from travel photography to urban design. If you go, check OFR’s website for regularly rotating events. Added benefit: open 7/7!
48603 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920, USA
In a regal redwood grove along the Big Sur coast lies a place “where nothing happens,” according to its proprietors. The highway traffic noise disappears, the filtered sunlight takes on the quality of stained glass, and the earthy smell of the forest is enough to cleanse your mind of digital and other distractions. This quiet altar of wisdom and irreverence serves as a bookstore and art hub focused on promoting the works of author Henry Miller, who lived in Big Sur between 1944 and 1962. The library hosts events throughout the year, but especially from May to October, including concerts, lectures, and book signings. The annual Big Sur International Short Film Screening Series occurs outside, in the redwood amphitheater. In the winter, the library takes on the aura of a writer’s retreat, when time stretches endlessly forward and you can spend hours browsing books, nursing a cup of coffee, and watching the light and shadows change the landscape outside the windows. Unlike a library, there’s no borrowing here, but what you walk away with may just be richer than any physical possession.
37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris, France
Located at 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, a stone’s throw from the Seine and draped in the shadow of Notre Dame, is what should be proclaimed one of France’s national treasures: the Shakespeare and Company bookstore. This is actually the second site of the store; the original was closed in June 1940 due to the German occupation of Paris during the Second World War. The current location opened in 1951 as Le Mistral, but the name didn’t stick for long. Walk through the green double doors to find a world steeped in history and literary greatness. Endless stacks of books and shelves teeming with manuscripts make it hard to move around. The smell of old books hangs in the air, and that fragrance alone is reminiscent of a bygone era. My own weathered copy of A Moveable Feast was picked up here (Hemingway was a frequent visitor of the original shop). Stop in for a minute or stay for hours: Shakespeare welcomes your company.
1521 10th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122, USA
The Elliott Bay Book Company is the Seattle bookstore and, thankfully, survived its move from Pioneer Square to Capitol Hill with soul and towering cedar bookcases intact. Elliott Bay lost a significant chunk of square footage during the move but gained a home right in the heart of Capitol Hill. Which makes it even easier to execute the ideal lazy Sunday afternoon combo: new novel + Fonte latte and one of the book-size housemade muffins from the on-site café (if it’s sunny, make a beeline for the grassy Cal Anderson park, just across the street). The food is northwest downhome—unpretentious salads with local greens, wholesome soups—but the abundant outlets and cozy café vibe make up for any food misses.

Try it there: The lemon crepe

Bring it home: Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice and tickets to a Neptune Theater reading
4519, 261 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA
In an age when many independent bookstores have surrendered to the advance of chain stores and Amazon, City Lights is a true survivor. Since it was founded by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti in 1956, it has served as a gathering place for San Francisco’s literary communities. Everyone from beat poets to left-wing critics of America have found a welcome here. City Lights is also a publishing house, with Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Other Poems being perhaps the single most famous book it has put out, though it counts scores of other works by some of America’s leading contemporary literary figures on its list. You can drop in anytime to find an unexpected tome, and the store also has a crowded calendar of readings.

R. das Carmelitas 144, 4050-161 Porto, Portugal
A blend of neo-Gothic and art nouveau, the enchanting Livraria Lello bookshop dates to 1906 and is rumored to have inspired J.K. Rowling’s Hogwarts in Harry Potter.
Japan, 〒150-0033 Tokyo, Shibuya City, Sarugakucho, 17−5 DAIKANYAMA T-SITE蔦屋書店 1号館、3号館、2号館1階
A short walk from Daikanyama Station is one of the metropolis’s iconic bookstores, Tsutaya at T-Site. Designed by Klein Dytham Architecture, the Tsutaya bookstore is celebrated not only for the beauty of its three buildings but also for the extensive selection of books, magazines, CDs, and DVDs. Tsutaya opens at 7 a.m., perfect for travelers who land before hotel check-in. You can have a coffee or a cocktail in the Anjin Lounge while perusing books. The concierges are specialists in a variety of topics to help guide consumers through the books, music, and movies.
686 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11217, USA
Since opening in 2009, Greenlight Bookstore has become a cultural mainstay of the Fort Greene neighborhood (there’s also a second, newer location in Prospect Lefferts Gardens). The oversized windows of the original store face Fulton Street, inviting passersby to come in and browse or join one of the many readings, often featuring Brooklyn writers.
Universiteto g. 5, Vilnius 01131, Lithuania
Ask my college age nephew and he’ll tell you that the only thing he does when he goes to his campus bookstore is to get books and other study materials he needs for his courses. It’s an in and out kind of place. You don’t linger inside and you most certainly don’t stare up at the ceiling. Literra Bookstore, located on the grounds of Vilnius University, will change your mind on both fronts! The bookstore is small by U.S. standards. With its dark wood interior, low lighting and painted, vaulted ceiling, it looks and feels like an intimate library of a luxury European estate and not a campus bookstore. The ceiling is low and fully decorated so your eyes cannot help but be drawn to the frescoes of caricatures of professors and students painted by Antanas Kmieliauskas in 1978. It is a work of art unto itself. If you’re looking for English books, there’s not much of a selection, but the store does sell decent souvenirs including pressed paper postcards, suitable for framing, by Metalo Forma (, a renowned Lithuanian art print maker. It costs five litas to enter the campus, which is located in the heart of Old Town Vilnius. In addition to Littera Bookstore, there are enough sights to see to make the cost of admission worthwhile.
154 W 10th St, New York, NY 10014, USA
Three Lives bookstore in the historic West Village caters to serious book-lovers. The individually owned store and its employees are warm and full of character—it feels like you wandered into your best friend’s (large) library in which you could sit down and read in a quiet corner for hours. It’s literary and high-brow, yet humble, lived-in, and down-to-earth. In 1991, the Greenwich Village Historical Society recognized Three Lives as a “pocket of civility.” In the era of large chain stores and online sellers, Three Lives is the corner meeting place for local bookworms. The store also hosts intimate readings. The list of past speakers speaks volumes—Jonathan Franzen, Toni Morrison, Michael Cunningham, Julian Barnes, Maya Angelou, Kazuo Ishiguro, William Kennedy, and Raymond Carver to name just a few. The staff here is extremely knowledgeable. If you ask one of the sellers for a recommendation, chances are it will be original, thought-provoking and worthwhile. There is more than enough for any reader here—you’ll find the classics and the best of the latest releases.
225 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016, USA
The JP Morgan Library’s grand, old-world elegance immediately transports you to turn-of-the-century New York. And at that time, there was almost no one more powerful than financier JP Morgan. He launched U.S. Steel and even served as the unofficial central bank of the U.S. for a time. Though some considered him a national hero, his tight control of banks, corporations and railroads led others to label him one of the original “robber barons.” Morgan was an avid collector of art and books with holdings so vast they were housed at multiple locations in New York and England. Eventually, he decided to consolidate his holdings in a huge library next to his mansion in NYC. Designed by renowned architect Charles McKim and completed in 1906, the Italian Renaissance palazzo-style library holds a staggering collection of illuminated books, historical manuscripts, and old master drawings. The library is rightfully considered McKim’s masterpiece—a majestic, soaring space which is both intimate and warm. It features 30-foot ceilings, three tiers of bronze and walnut bookcases, stained glass, a huge marble fireplace and grand tapestries. Also visit Mr. Morgan’s study, with its red silk damask walls and antique wooden ceiling brought over from Florence. The library is off the typical tourist’s radar. Imagine yourself as Morgan in your private quarters, reveling in the power and wealth at your command.
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