Ever long for a good bookshop?

Whilst buying books online is undeniably convenient there is nothing like the mystique in entering a shop filled with floor to ceiling books. The opportunity to hold fresh crisp books in ones hands, to skim through the pages, flicking back and forth, to pause by a particular paragraph. Imagine this experience whilst browsing books in some of the most beautiful bookshops in the world.

Come with me as I explore three of these amazing bookshops.

ateneo2The luxurious theatrical bookshop in Buenos Aires, Argentina is awe-inspiring. El Ateneo, with its gold tiered levels and actual stage was in fact a theatre which opened in May 1919 and later became a cinema showing the first sound films in Argentina in 1929.  It was converted into a bookshop in 2000, although it retained its theatrical features including some chairs and the original box seats. In  2007 El Ateneo welcomed over one million visitors and sold over 700 000 books.

selexyzdominicanenAnother converted building which now serves as a bookshop is the former Catholic Dominican Cathedral in Holland. The Selexyz Dominicanen in Maastricht is over seven hundred years old but was closed by Napoleon in 1794 and used as a warehouse. It was renovated in 2005 and now houses black bookshelves over three storeys as well as books along the walkways. If you need a rest and a chance to read take a pew in the cafe in the old choir section.


Porto shop

The architecturally stunning Livraria Lello bookshop  is located in Porto, Portugal. Its Neo-Gothic facade hides a beautiful Art Nouveau interior. Built over a hundred years ago it opened to great acclaim in 1906. The main feature is the beautifully dipped wooden staircase that stretches across the shop. The wood panelling and red carpet contributes to the rich lush experience of book browsing. Of particular note is the stunning stained glass ceiling with its monogram of the bookshop’s motto of ‘Decus in Labore’ (Dedication at Work). window one

I hope you have enjoyed the tour. Have you personally visited any of these bookshops? I would love to hear from you. Or do yo have a particular favourite bookshop you frequent? Please let me know what makes it special for you.

“It is clear that the books owned the shop rather than the other way about. Everywhere they had run wild and taken possession of their habitat, breeding and multiplying, and clearly lacking any strong hand to keep them down.”

Agatha Christie, The Clocks


  1. Mike

    Well, if our local library was like this I’d use it every day. What fantastic buildings and use of space. In these places you could really absorb yourself in the world of words, the smell of well thumbed paper and bindings. And there’s lots of wood too! These are not so much libraries as lovingly crafted temples to the written word. E-books in the cloud (which I bet is some super large computer somewhere but doesn’t sound quite so soft and cuddly) are certainly not as tangible or emotive.

    Keep it up Annika.


    1. Yes Mike, it does get the imagination working doesn’t it, thinking about unused buildings that could be put to such a use! I like your ‘temple to the written word’ how true and most apt with regarding the bookshop in Maastricht! I am thoroughly enjoying the discussions that have been taking place of books v. Ebooks, and yes, another point an ereader can never give you that new cover experience.

  2. Mirja

    Browsing a good book-shop is a great pleasure for all the senses so I will with
    joy follow you exploring these fantastic temples to literature that you have chosen.
    El Ateneo must take the price in beauty. Just imagine to browse for a day there.
    Like an Aladdin’s cave.
    Selexyz Dominicanen now; what a sacrilege by Napoleon to use this as a warehouse!
    This one I might just go and see.
    The Livraria Lello in Portugal is definately on my list to visit now. Another full day, of course
    interspersed with a leisurely lunch.
    Great motto and I also love Agatha Christie’s quote.:)
    Thank you Annika for showing all this glory.

    1. Yes, Mirja, I like the quote too and can just visualise the books running riot inside the shop, taking it over. How wonderful. What a lovely expression ‘like an Aladdin’s cave’ and how apt for these glorious bookshops – just to visit one would be heavenly.

  3. Peter R

    Totally amazing, Annika. I have to agree about the bookshops; sadly they are all disappearing. However, I think there might be a resurgence, when people realise that the ebooks will evolve, and probably not be reverse-compatible. Think of all the data on old Amstrad disks (discs) that is almost impossible to retrieve now. At least with a book, you own it and, short of a disaster, it will stay there as long as you want.

    1. Sadly more and more bookshops are disappearing – maybe more like this should be created – then their would be boundless of visitors and buyers! If these were local I would be there every weekend! Having just bought a new Kindle for myself I can’t knock ebooks too much as whilst suffering from a cornea disease the kindle is a life saver! I could not imagine a world where I could not read. But yes, I do wonder what will happen to all the ebooks I have bought.

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