Five Bizarre and Beautiful Book Shops

El Ateneo Grand Splendid,Buenos Aires

Bookstores don't get much grander than this. El Ateneo Grand Splendid is one of the biggest bookstores in South America. The building dates from 1919 and originally housed the Teatro Grand Splendid.

It was converted into a bookstore in 2000 and now hosts up to 3000 visitors a day. The store makes use of the original features with its stalls and balconies crammed with books, the balcony boxes a cosy nook to catch up with a book and even the stage is now a cafe.

La Acqua Alta, Venice 

The sign reads 'Welcome to the most beautiful bookshop in the world' - and it certainly is outstanding, a treasure trove of books in all directions. You will see many unusual items along with the 10,000 books - such as a gondola, a canoe and a bathtub - maybe these have been the various methods the owner has used to get to the store which is canal adjacent -  well we are in Venice...

Fjærland Norweigian Booktown

Booktown Fjaerland - nestled amongst the Norwegian glaciers locals have converted barns, stables, and even old boathouses into storage space and display cases for beautiful antique books. Their town boasts 12 shops total and over 250,000 books. This book town started in 1996 and is part of the International Organisation of Booktowns - where small towns host literary festivals

Lello Books, Portugal

The Lello book store Portugal is the World'd oldest book store built in 1906, it has an almost decadent feel with its carved wood ceilings, a stain-glassed roof, an opulent red staircase, and even a built-in wheel-barrow on rails for moving the store’s 120,000 collection. It is almost fairy tale like and is said to have inspired J.K Rowling.

Barter Books, U.K

Housed in a converted Victorian train station in Northumberland this book store in one of the largest second hand bookstores in all of Europe. It opened in 1991 and is known for its barter system, whereby books can be exchanged for store credit. Roaring fires and cosy nooks make this a ideal spot to catch up with a good book and visit the station buffet for some comforting food.


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Taking a look at the beautiful and the strange in history, art, people and places.