For book lovers, one of the nicest things to do is to take time to browse a bookstore.
Even better if it’s an unexpected find on your travels, and better still if you leave with purchases that make you happy. To mark Book Lovers Day (August 9), we asked Lonely Planet staff about bookshops they remember from their worldwide travels and what made them so special.
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One of Alex Butler’s (Senior Editor, Travel News and Features) favorites, @AlexPButler:
Ler Devagar, Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon is a city that I keep going back to and every time I visit I make a stop at the astounding Ler Devagar bookshop. The somewhat chaotic array of books that fill this former printing space will keep you wandering as you explore the different levels of this unusual space. The English-language section is small, so you might not pick up your next great read, but if you climb your way up to the printing press at the top, you’ll find something you won’t in just any bookstore – Pietro Proserpio. The artist/inventor has filled the space with his unique creations, and will happily take you on a tour to show you how his whimsical contraptions work.
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A favorite from Alison Killilea (Production Editor) @AlisonKillilea:
The Wee Book Inn, White Avenue, Edmonton, Canada
One of two much-loved secondhand bookshops which feature resident cats, there are long aisles to browse old favorites and new classics. Its location on Edmonton’s premier shopping street, next to vibrant clubs and boutique eateries, makes it a restful place to relax with your bags of goodies.
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A few favorites from Melissa Yeager (Senior News Editor) @melissayeagr:
Dussmann das KulturKaufhaus, Berlin, Germany
Five floors filled with thousands of books in multiple languages plus music, films and more, Dussman is a delight for book lovers right in the heart of Berlin. Located not far from the famed Brandenburg Gate, you can spend hours wandering the aisles. Great place to find a unique souvenir from Berlin.
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Palabras Bilingual Bookstore, Phoenix, Arizona
A bilingual bookstore in Phoenix, Arizona, Palabras was started by Chawa Magaña, the daughter of Mexican-American immigrants, “to provide an inclusive space where marginalized voices are represented & valued.” Along with aisles filled with authors from diverse backgrounds, it’s also an art gallery and vibrant community space.
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Librairie Mollat Bordeaux, France
Founded in 1886, the long-adored Librairie Mollat has 15 different departments spread over 2700 m of floor space in the heart of Bordeaux and is the largest independently-owned bookstore in France.
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Changing Hands Bookstore, Phoenix, Arizona
The beloved independent bookstore has several locations in Phoenix, Arizona, but my favorite is the one on Camelback Road. After you wander the aisles and find what you fancy, sit down at the store’s First Draft bar and have a beer or glass of wine. The store is always buzzing with energy.
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The following favorites are from Karen Henderson (Managing Editor) @karenleeh1:
Books Upstairs, Dublin, Ireland
This low-key bookstore, located in a royal-blue Georgian building on the iconic D’Olier street, is Dublin’s oldest independent bookstore. It’s also a wonderful cultural space and cafe with a great view of the hustle & bustle of the streets below.
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Vibes & Scribes, Cork, Ireland
Cork’s main (and longest lasting) independent bookstore, Vibes & Scribes is actually three stores (new books, second-hand books and crafts). You can always find a great deal on contemporary classics and science fiction with their huge 3 for €12 collection, and they also have a great supply of reference books, particularly art books.
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4 of Brekke Fletcher’s (Director of Newsletter Content) favorites, @brekkefletch:
Books Are Magic, Brooklyn, New York
Yes, it’s right around the corner from me. Yes, I’ve had friends give readings there. Yes, it’s run by a local novelist, Emma Straub. None of this should discount the neighborhood hub this bookstore has become. It’s a draw for everyone. And I mean everyone, the place is jammed on weekends. Because of its reputation and its distinctive mural outside, it’s also become a bit of a tourist attraction, which we’ll take because we all want this indy to survive.
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Chaucer’s Books, Santa Barbara, California
Like most hidden gems in Southern California, this shop is located in a strip mall, next to a Jersey Mikes. Chaucer’s Books is an independent, locally owned, overstocked bookstore located on upper State Street in Santa Barbara that has been a mainstay for book lovers near and far since 1974. The staff is knowledgeable and friendly, there’s nothing they won’t do to help you find the book you are looking for or even better, don’t know you want. After you’ve made your purchase, scoot over to Reynaud’s for the best croissant in town.
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Maison Assouline, London, United Kingdom
Buying travel books (heavy ones at that) when you travel may seem like overkill, but this elegant shop in the middle of Piccadilly in London is the kind of place you go when you want to relax and plan your next trip. Go there during the festive season, and find all manner of gifts. They will ship your presents if you don’t want to lug them home. I always buy one when I’m lucky enough to find myself in town. It’s not your musty used bookstore, but it has a sophisticated charm that makes one feel cosmopolitan and chic.
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Powell’s City of Books, Portland, Oregon
This is one of Portland’s local institutions. It has probably doubled in size since opening its doors in 1971. The Powell family’s bookstore has a unique recipe that, though viewed as unorthodox at the time, worked: an old car dealership converted to house and sell books, used and new, hardcover and paperback, all on the same shelf; open 365 days a year; and staffed by knowledgeable and dedicated book lovers. Decades later, it draws the most marquee authors in the world for signings and events, and provides customers with a place to while away the hours, undisturbed and if you feel like you need a jolt, there’s even a cafe.
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Favorites from Laura Motta (Senior Director of Content) @guttersniper:
Daunt Books, London, England
This book shop is one in a chain, but the location on Marylebone High Street is a London icon. Yes, smart book curation makes for great shopping, but really, the highlight here is the store’s gorgeous Edwardian-era interior. Completed in 1912, it is thought to be among the oldest custom-built bookshops in the world.
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The Writer’s Block, Las Vegas, Nevada
Until The Writer’s Block opened in 2014, there were no independent bookstores — and in fact few bookstores in general — in Las Vegas. A visit here, and to the surrounding Arts District near downtown Vegas, feels like a breath of fresh air amidst the city’s flash. Be sure to wander the whole shop to experience the store’s “artificial bird sanctuary” and visit The Baron, the store’s bunny mascot, who is definitely not artificial. He hangs out in the children’s section.
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Three Lives & Co., New York City, New York
This classic New York City bookshop sits on a postcard-perfect corner in Greenwich Village and is a neighborhood focal point for brainly locals and visitors alike. The heart of this store, however, is its wonderful staff. Ask them for recommendations – between them, they’ve read everything in stock.
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Cafebrería El Péndulo, Mexico City, Mexico
This is one of those shops that elicits gasps when patrons walk through the door. Sleek, stocked with books from floor to ceiling, and dripping with greenery – there are trees growing inside the store – this shop feels like a reflection of Mexico City itself. The English-language section isn’t huge, but it hardly matters. Grab a coffee in the store’s eponymous cafe and explore away.
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A top pick from Sasha Brady (Travel News Reporter) @sassbra:
Marrowbone Books, Dublin, Ireland
Marrowbone Books in Dublin’s Liberties neighborhood is easy to spot with its sunny yellow exterior. Once you step inside, you’ll feel like you’re in the cosy living room of a book-loving friend with the worn chairs, Turkish rugs, plants, and rows of twinkling lights. You’ll find mostly second-hand books in this packed-to-the-rafters store, though the owners, Brian Flanagan and Lily Power, recently published a new collection of short stories with emerging Irish writers. There’s a great sense of community here and a program of events that includes tiny music concerts, comedy gigs, and readings.
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A top pick from Claire Naylor (Digital Editor) @RoadTripJone:
Shakespeare & Co, Paris, France
As a sucker for an independent book shop, I made a special trip to the Left Bank for Shakespeare & Co when I was in Paris. It has two floors packed full of English-language texts with any available wall space decorated with quotes from people far wiser than me. There are a few cozy chairs, window seats and corners to hide out in and consider your potential purchases. I was particularly struck by the alcove with a typewriter in it, the walls of which, when I was there back in 2013, were covered with handwritten scraps of paper. These notes were from visitors – heartfelt messages to a loved one, dedications to the shop itself, or a quote from a favorite author or philosopher.
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A favorite from Jonathan Tuseth (Sales Manager):
Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi
Square Books is a general independent bookstore in three separate buildings (about 100 feet apart) on the historic town square of Oxford, Mississippi, home of the University of Mississippi and many great writers, including William Faulkner, Barry Hannah, Larry Brown and, for a time, both Willie Morris and John Grisham. The main store, Square Books, is in a two-story building with a cafe and balcony on the second floor; Off Square Books is a few doors down from the main store and has lifestyle sections such as gardening and cookbooks; Square Books, Jr., the children’s bookstore, is in a building on the east side of the square; above it (in the site of the original bookstore) is the more recently opened Rare Square Books, which feature collectible, vintage, first edition books across a broad price range. Square Books is known for its strong selection of literary fiction, books on the American South and by Southern writers, a large inventory of reduced-price remainders, and its emphasis on books for children. The store hosts the popular Thacker Mountain radio show and over 150 author events a year.
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