Even in the digital age, we all know the beauty of turning the pages of a good book. Perhaps even better is the beauty of a good bookshop. There's something about seeing shelves endlessly filled with books, that makes you just have to stop and browse. In this list I've selected some of the most beautiful bookshops in Europe, each one of them unique in their own way. Some small, some big, some modern and some old.
Livraria Lello, Porto
Small but exquisitely formed, Livraria Lello in Porto is how you imagine a bookshop would look like in fairy tales. It's housed in a beautiful historical building with a sweeping wooden staircase that takes centre stage. Boasting unique architecture that blends elements of Neo-Gothic, Art Deco, and Art Nouveau styles the craftsmanship that has gone into creating this bookshop is no surprise why it's commonly listed as the most beautiful bookshop in the world.The place was also a regular haunt for J.K.Rowling when she lived in the city whilst writing the first book in the Harry Potter series. For this reason, it has been immortalised into literary history.
There are several branches, but the original Marylebone bookshop of this popular chain is the one you want to visit. With its Edwardian features, dark oak shelves and elegant skylight it is the picture-perfect bookshop. Spread across three floors, books are arranged depending on their country, instead of genre, and will surely stir up a sense of interest and a place to retreat from the busy streets of London.
Shakespeare and Company, Paris
Possibly the most famous bookshop in Europe. The reason being its frequent visitors who were among the most important writers of their time. Generations of notable literary patrons have frequented the early 17th century building overlooking the south side of the Notre Dame, from Voltaire to Ernest Hemingway. Established by Sylvia Beach in 1919, the current location was opened by George Whitman in 1951 and today, Shakespeare and Company is run by his daughter, who continues the bookstore's tradition of providing a welcoming retreat for writers and visitors alike. Stop by in the early morning or late in the evening to avoid the crowds and browse through thousands of titles - most of which are in English.
Leakey's Bookshop, Inverness
What do you get if you turn a church into a bookshop? You get Leakey's Bookshop in Inverness, often hailed the most beautiful bookshop in Scotland, and quite possibly the UK. Back in 1982, Leakey's stock was spread out in two small shops in Inverness (a small city in the Scottish Highlands if you're wondering). Then 1994, they began the process of converting an old Gaelic church into their present business of one huge, magical bookshop. Also, I think I'm noticing a trend - a really beautiful bookshop ought to have a spiral staircase.
Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice
I don't think there's another bookshop quite like this pot of gold in Venice. Books appear to flow out of every corner, in fact they have, in some cases, become part of the furniture - specially piled to create steps and chairs. Quirky probably best describes this gorgeous place located only a stone's throw away from St Mark's Square, especially when you notice the random boats, and even baths (yes, you read correctly!) filled with books. It's these little touches that add up to an extremely fun and memorable browsing experience.