10 of the Most Beautiful Bookstores in Europe

As self-proclaimed bibliophiles, we are proudly obsessed with beautiful bookstores in Europe and beyond.

From the gorgeous decor to the books themselves, we find ourselves perusing the shelves every chance we get, all over the world.

That being said–some shops stick out more than others.

We love European fairytale towns of all shapes and sizes, but gorgeous towns that are also home to gorgeous bookstores are a special treat!

We’ve teamed up with several other travel bloggers to curate a list of the most beautiful European bookshops.

Some of these we’ve been to, some are still on our list of places to visit, and all of them are absolutely gorgeous.

Staircase of books at Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice as seen from the side, two ship's wheels are propped up on the righthand side.

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Shakespeare & Company, Paris, France

From Lena of Salut from Paris

Paris’ famous Shakespeare and Company bookshop resembles more a piece of art than a store.

The interior is as askew as the outside and despite its small size, it actually takes a while to explore and capture this beautiful bookstore as a whole: two floors and an unbelievable amount of tiny rooms are filled with literature, poetry, biographies, and the comforting smell of old books. 

The remaining beds, sofas, and the piano are relics from earlier days when grand writers spent time living and writing here. 

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The little yellow-green storefront with the colorful fairy lights is located in the center of Paris in a setting that could not be more perfect.

With Notre Dame, a classic green water fountain, the slightly weathered outside bookshelves, and the cherry blossom trees all visible from the front of the store, it makes a perfect Paris picture. 

While you’re exploring the best things to do in Paris, you should not miss the events that are held frequently at Shakespeare and Company!

Several times a week the bookstore is opening its doors for evening author readings.

The admission is free and so is the glass of wine you can have at the end.

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The House of Books, Saint Petersburg, Russia

From Campbell and Alya of Stingy Nomads

Housed in a former office building modeled after the Singer Building in New York City, The House of Books is ornate and beautiful.

The building is one of the best examples of art nouveau architecture in Saint Petersburg, complete with opulent decorative details massive oak frames and doors, large windows, a mosaic floor, and gold foil detailing.

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The House of Books is one of the biggest bookstores in Europe, and you can find anything from city photo albums and travel guides to modern novels and souvenirs there.

Once you’re finished shopping, head up to the coffee shop on the second floor for a cup of coffee and a great view of the Kazan Cathedral through the window.

exterior of the House of Books, Saint Petersburg, one of the best european bookstores
Photo provided by Stingy Nomads. Reused with permission.

Ler Devagar, Lisbon, Portugal

From James of Worldwide Shopping Guide

One of my favorite bookshops in Europe, simply in terms of design, is Ler Devagar.

Situated in Lisbon’s hipster LX Factory, the bookstore is large and industrial, with big high ceilings, metal beams, and plenty of open space – the opposite of most other European bookstores, which are typically small, intimate, and cozy.

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The bookshop is housed in a former printing press, and it still holds many of the machines that were a part of the print workshop.

Re-using old factories for new businesses is nothing new, especially these days, but rarely do the two businesses match as well as a printing press and a bookstore.

Ler Devagar means read slowly, and this is a great bookstore for doing exactly that.

With so much open space, you rarely feel like you’re getting in anybody’s way and, if you want to be even more leisurely, there’s a cafe where you can sit down and enjoy your latest purchase.

Ler Devagar Bookstore in Lisbon Portugal

Leakey’s Bookstore, Inverness, Scotland

From Laurence of Finding the Universe

Leakey’s Bookstore is a rare treat waiting to be discovered in Inverness, the capital of the Scottish Highlands, and the starting point of Scotland’s epic North Coast 500 driving route.

When you walk into the book store, the first thing you will notice will likely be the huge heating stove, which in winter keeps the whole place toasty warm.

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Around this central area are shelves upon shelves and piles upon piles of books, spread out across two stories.

Access to the second floor is available via a spiral staircase, which also offers a wonderful view of all those lovely books that are just waiting for you to crack them open.

The books are for the most part well-loved and well priced, and you could easily lose yourself for hours here!

Leakey's Bookshop Inverness, one of the most beautiful bookstores in europe
Photo provided by Finding the Universe. Reused with permission.

Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice, Italy

A bookstore designed to protect its books from floods: that is the nature of Libreria Acqua Alta, the Venice bookshop known for storing its books in devices that float–think bathtubs, buckets, and one beautiful gondola.

The interior of the bookshop is enough to rank it as one of the most beautiful bookstores in Europe, but its back porch is incredibly memorable as well.

The shop owners have taken hundreds of old books that have outlived their usefulness (mostly outdated encyclopedias) and created a staircase made entirely of books.

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Be sure to make the short climb up–you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful view of Venice’s canals.

Naturally, this bookstore can get extremely crowded–we’ve lost count of how many times we’ve visited now, and tend to have the best chance of avoiding the crowds by going as soon as they open in the morning.

For around 20 minutes one morning, we practically had the place to ourselves!

Even if you only have one day in Venice, the beautiful Libreria Acqua Alta is a must-see for book lovers–you won’t regret seeking it out!

kate storm standing on top of a staircase of books at libreria acqua alta venice italy

Selexyz Dominican Church, Maastricht, The Netherlands

From Bruna of Maps ‘n Bags

Can you imagine what it is like to read a book in a former 13th-century Dominican church?

Created from the fusion between a few European bookshops, the Selexyz Dominicanen bookstore is one of the best things to do in Maastricht and it attracts many tourists and locals by its distinctive location.

The architecture of the place didn’t change much with the passing of the years, so if you have been to other European churches and you know how gorgeous they are, you won’t be disappointed here!

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On the ground floor, there are plenty of aisles with some books as well as magazines, but most of the shelves are on a huge three-story black steel construction.

I highly recommend you to go upstairs because the view is just astonishing, almost divine.

Fancy a cup of coffee

? Then go to the church’s altar and have a cup of coffee which many people claim to be the best in town.

Best Bookstores in Europe: Maastricht bookshop in a dominican church
Photo Credit: Jorge Franganillo CC by 2.0

Cărturești Carusel, Bucharest, Romania

from Skye at Skye Travels

Cărturești Carusel is the pride and joy of the Old Town of Bucharest, Romania–though perhaps Old Town is a misnomer.

Although the oldest part of the city, it was dilapidated until just the past few years when efforts have been made to revitalize it.

One of the restorations is of an old bank building from the early 1900s. In 2015, it opened its doors as the gorgeous Carusel bookstore.

The bookstore doesn’t follow any specific architectural design, yet the style is beautifully modern.

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The six stories are arranged with natural lighting coming down from the skylights to the ground floor. Wavy banisters wrap along the wooden-floor aisles, held up by a dozen white columns.

Over 10,000 titles are available, both in Romanian and English.

In the basement, multimedia can be purchased, while much of the ground floor is somewhat of a souvenir shop, including a massive selection of teas and chocolates.

The fifth floor doesn’t have any shelves. Instead, it doubles as a gallery for local artists.

Then on the top floor is a spacious café where readers and travelers can relax while enjoying a coffee and the view of the floors beneath.

kate storm in a red dress on a staircase in a bookstore in bucharest romania

Librairie Jousseaume, Paris, France

From Elisa of World in Paris

Everybody knows about Shakespeare & Company, one of the most Instagrammed spots in Paris.

But if you ask locals about the most beautiful independent bookstore, probably they will send you to Gallerie Vivienne.

Librairie Jousseaume (45 Gallerie Vivienne, Paris 2) is one of the most bookish spots in the City of Lights, a hidden gem located in one of the most beautiful covered passages in Paris.

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This charming bookstore, classified as a historical monument, was founded in 1826 with the name of Librairie Petit-Siroux.

Today, this dream bookshop lost in time has over 40.000 references from XVIII, XIX, and XX centuries and it is the perfect place to browse for ancient and new books, rare books, and perhaps find a treasure.

The concept is simple: Mr. Jousseaume has everything or he can have everything.

Go to Librairie Jousseaume to get a glimpse of La Belle Epoque, of that charming Paris almost disappeared.

view of one of the most beautiful bookstores in paris france

Booth Books, Hay-On-Wye, Wales, United Kingdom

From David of Delve Into Wales

Hay-on-Wye, a small Welsh country town on the English border, has long been the second-hand book capital of the world, and it also plays host to the annual Hay Literary Festival, one of the biggest of its kind in the world.

Booth Books was founded by Richard Booth, who kickstarted the whole Hay book-town phenomenon and once declared himself King of Hay.

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It’s one of the largest bookshops in the town, and in recent years has also opened a small café and cinema in the back of the shop.

It’s housed in a vast old building in the center of the town, a labyrinth of shelves where I always linger for an hour or two whenever I pass through Hay, emerging eventually with at least half a dozen new volumes.

I’m sure I haven’t read some I bought there a quarter of a century ago, but next time, I’ll be back for more.

Booth Books, Hay-on-Wye, Wales, one of the prettiest bookstores in europe
Photo provided by Delve Into Wales. Reused with permission.

Open Book Market, Sofia, Bulgaria

From Stephanie and Allison of Sofia Adventures

Sofia’s Open Book Market is a special place in the city, and I’ve never seen anything quite like it anywhere in the world.

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The market is focused mainly on used books, with some new books and other tchotchkes thrown in.

While the majority of the volumes are in Bulgarian (and therefore have gorgeous Cyrillic covers), every seller has an English section.

Prices for most used books range from one to five leva (under three Euros!).

open book market bench in sofia bulgaria, one of the best europe bookstores
Photo provided by Sofia Adventures. Reused with permission.

The pedestrian-friendly zone is lined with shops, and the vintage trams come through regularly, making this a fantastic place to people watch, photograph the trains, and browse for used English classics.

My favorite feature is the benches, which have decorative wood panels painted to look like books, celebrating the legacy and cultural impact of this small market.

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It’s a beautiful and quiet corner of the city, which is why it’s one of my favorite Instagram spots in Sofia.

Stroll through, buy whatever catches your eye, and sit peacefully nearby reading your new find.

3 photos of beautiful european boosktores, white text on a black background reads "the best bookshops in europe"

22 thoughts on “10 of the Most Beautiful Bookstores in Europe”

  1. Book stores in Europe have such history and entering them is almost like getting in a museum! Absolutely love this list and wow love Leakey’s bookstore! Liberia with the book mountain is so cute! Can’t wait to return to Europe to see some of them.

    Reply
  2. I’m a bookworm at heart, so reading this made me very happy! I have to agree that the bookstore in Venice is truly wonderful, I always make a note of passing by when I’m there. The book market in Bulgaria is incredible too, and very unique. I wouldn’t understand a thing, but would like to photograph it!

    Reply
    • That’s exactly how I feel about the market in Bulgaria–I don’t understand a lick of Cyrillic (yet), but it looks gorgeous!

      Reply
  3. Being an avid reader I thoroughly enjoyed reading this list. What a fantastic list of bookstores!
    They are all truly charming, but my favorite one is always Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice, such a unique place!

    Reply
  4. What a lovely list of bookstores! Each one is unique and pretty in its own right. Ler Devagar is my favourite. I could easily lose a weekend here while nosing about the huge collection of books.

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  5. Being avid book lovers, we can spend hours browsing in bookstores. We found this post especially fascinating and something we need to look out for on our own travels too. These bookstores are all treasure houses with invaluable gems. Love the look of each one of them, but attention was riveted by Shakespeare & Co., Paris and Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice. A staircase made of old books sounds intriguing.

    Reply
    • It is intriguing… and lots of fun! Definitely recommend going early in the morning so you can have the porch + staircase all to yourself. 🙂

      Reply
  6. Though I am not a book wormer, but all these book shops are worth visiting as they all are so unique and beautiful. I loved the Cărturești Carusel Book shop of Romania as it is very unique with natural lighting coming all the 6 floors. Infact, I love the architecture and interiors of all the book shops. I would visit atleast any one of them during my next Europe trip.

    Reply
  7. As a self proclaimed book worm, I find book stores quite fascinating as well. While all of these sound interesting, I’m particularly fascinated by Shakespeare and Company and Libreria Acqua Alta. I look forward to visiting them sometime in the future.

    Reply
    • They are both wonderful! It’s both a good and bad thing no photography is allowed inside Shakespeare & Company–it makes it more peaceful in there, but I wish I could show off the interior on here!

      Reply
  8. Being a book lover, these places look like paradise to me. I love book shops, libraries, even the smell of the books and yes, the books themselves. The bookshop in a 13th-century Dominican church is something that’s quite fascinating. Ler Devagar would be my favourite too owing to its amazing design. I love those benches with decorative wood panels painted like books as well as your instagram photo on books staircase. Hopefully I’ll be able to visit them someday. 🙂

    Reply
  9. So it’s totally killing me that I’ve been to some of these cities and did not make a point to go to these bookstores! I recently started looking up cool libraries near me to go check out, and they can be great for bibliophile travelers, too!

    Reply
    • Yes, they definitely can!! One of our favorites is in Budapest if you ever get a chance to go–the Szabo Ervin Library. 🙂

      Reply
  10. I am speechless seeing these bookstores. Such creatively designed bookstores. I can spend the entire day sitting there. Its a great list of stores undoubtedly. My personal favorite from the list is Cărturești Carusel, Bucharest, Romania.

    Reply

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