[Originally published in thediscoverer.com.]
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 beautiful, 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 the inspiration behind the setting of 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. According to SpottedByLocals.com, the high walls of this bookstore are filled with books from the floor to the 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 inside, so you can get everything from fruit salad to traditional Mexican dishes after you browse and grab a 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!