In the digital world, it's all to easy to forget to love physical books. The smell of the ink and the pages, how it feels to hold a heavy tome in their hands, and, most importantly, what it's like to go into a bookstore and browse for hours until you find the perfect paperback. Luckily, there are some amazing bookstores that can reignite love for reading in an instant. Here are the ten most amazing bookstores in the world to merge your love of books and travel.
Shakespeare and Company, Paris, France
Shakespeare and Company is arguably the most famous independent bookstore in the world located at the edge of the river Seine in Paris, France. The weathered shelves and the old-fashioned sign out front conjure up memories of times long gone, times when authors like Allen Ginsberg and Henry Miller stopped by the store to hang out and to sell their newly written works. And that is exactly the thing that makes this bookstore amazing — it has been visited by generations of authors like Anaïs Nin, William Styron, Martin Amis, Zadie Smith, and Dave Eggers, who we now hold in the highest of esteem, back when they were starting out.
El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The "Splendid" in the name of El Ateneo Grand Splendid in Buenos Aires is putting it mildly. This incredible bookstore is one of the most fascinating places on Earth. It started its life as a theater, then became a cinema, before ultimately being filled with books. The incredible frescoes on the ceiling, ornate stage curtains, high-class theater boxes and stage from 1919 are all still there in their artistic glory, making this bookstore seem like something out of one of the storybooks it holds.
Atlantis Books, Santorini, Greece
Atlantis Books in Santorini is so amazing that it topped the National Geographic's list of most interesting bookstores, according to GreeceIs.com. Referred to as a "Hobbit Hole," this small but mighty bookstore was created inside of a house — a house someone still lives in. Classics (don't expect to find modern guilty pleasures like 50 Shades of Grey) can be found on stacks on the floor, as if someone just set them down while they went to read another book. To make things even homier, there is also a dog and a cat that live in the bookstore to keep you company while you browse.
Selexyz Dominicanen, Maastricht, The Netherlands
Selexyz Dominicanen is housed in a cathedral that is more than 700 years old. This tall, ornate stone church was once a place of worship, until Napoleon Bonaparte decided to use it as his personal storage unit in 1794. He left all of his equipment and weapons in the church, where they remained until they were cleared out to make room for other people's storage and archives. Finally, in 2005, the place was renovated and reimagined as a bookstore, and now people come from all over the world to see the grand, book-filled space.
Livraria Lello, Porto, Portugal
Livraria Lello near the heart of Porto, Portugal, is another must-see bookstore. With stained glass windows, intricate decorations and columns featuring bronze artwork depicting the faces of multiple brilliant Portuguese writers, this bookstore is a work of art in and of itself. Harry Potter fans can also thank Livraria Lello for the decadent, gothic-style scenery of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry — rumor has it that this bookstore's amazing interior and spiraling staircases were some of the inspiration behind J.K. Rowling's most famous works.
Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice, Italy
Venice is known for having canals instead of streets, and for its tendency to flood. That is why the owners of Libreria Acqua Alta ("High Water Bookstore") cleverly place their books in boats, gondolas, barrels and fish tanks. That way, the books will be safe if the waters ever get in. The bookstore also has stairs made from old encyclopedias and thousands of new and used books for tourists and locals to browse.
Cafebreria El Pendulo, Mexico City, Mexico
Cafebreria El Pendulo in Mexico City, Mexico, is a lovely, peaceful place to while away an afternoon. The high walls of this bookstore are filled with books from the floor to ceiling, and there are natural and artificial plants everywhere to make you feel as if you were reading these books outside. To make things better, there is also a cafeteria, so you can get everything from fruit salad to traditional Mexican dishes with your new read. You can enjoy these foods while you sit on benches around the store and read to your heart's content, so there is really no reason for you to ever leave!
Zhongshuge Bookstore, Hangzhou, China
A trip to the Zhongshuge Bookstore in Hangzhou, China, will make you feel as if you have stepped into the future, or perhaps onto some sort of spacecraft. Books are arranged around columns and behind transparent curtains, and mirrored ceilings and walls make you feel as if the books are endless, and that time has no meaning. What better place to dig into your new favorite Sci-Fi novel?
Bosudong Book Alley, Busan, South Korea
Forget exploring just one bookstore — this street in Busan is home to dozens. These stores are so overcrowded with reading material that their inventory spills out in piles into the street. It's a bit of a hunt to find the right book, but if you love being surrounded by bound volumes, you'll love exploring this particular alley.
Honesty Bookshop, Hay-on-Wye, Wales
Last on our list is the Honesty Bookshop in Hay-on-Wye Wales. Hay-on-Wye itself is full of bookstores — dozens of them line every street, making it a real haven for book lovers. One of the best bookstores here, though, is the Honesty Bookshop. According to Daily Kos, this charming outdoor bookstore consists of a wall of books, from which you can choose any book you want on the honor system. Once you have chosen your book, you are asked to pay for it (hardbacks are just one pound, while paperbacks are half that) by depositing your money in a box in the wall. There is no one there to check whether you did it or not, as the Honesty Bookstore trusts that you will be (you guessed it) honest.