12 Of The Biggest Bookshops In The World

by Emma Oulton

If you've never been bitten by the travel bug before, this might be the moment everything changes for you. Maybe Instagrams of tropical beaches or snowy mountaintops didn't make you jealous — but reading about the biggest bookshops around the world is sure to get you itching for a trip. These 12 bookstores are big, beautiful, and magnificent; within their walls you can lose yourself in books for hours at a time. Just don't blame me when you spend all your rent money on books, OK?

Small cozy bookstores are adorable — but you have to admit there's something pretty breathtaking about a ginormous room full of all the books your heart could ever desire. Even just standing inside one, staring up at the mountains of books that surround you, is enough to give any book-lover serious chills — and once you get your wallet out, it's time to wave your savings goodbye. But you know what? I'll happily live off bread and butter for life as long as I've always got a good book to read.

So pack your suitcase, because it's time to go on a global bookstore crawl. But don't forget to leave extra room for all the books you'll be bringing back from these enormous collections.


Powell’s Book Store in Portland, Oregon

Powell's Book Store boasts an impressive 68,000 square feet (that's 1.6 acres!) of retail sales floor — on which you can browse over 1 million books. The store reportedly purchases 3,000 used books per day, which is giving me serious bookshelf envy. With that many books, you'll need a map to find your way around — and the store provides one!


Barnes & Noble in Union Square in New York City

This one comes in close behind with a whopping 62,000 square feet of sales floor. Inside the huge store, they're always hosting fantastic events — from author signings to book fairs, from workshops to readings.


Cook & Book in Brussels, Belgium

Cook & Book sells so much more than cookbooks. It's roughly the size of a supermarket, divided into eight themed spaces, and complete with eight matching eating areas. And you can bring your non-bookish pals, too; they'll love hanging out in the music-and-wine room!


John K. King Used And Rare Books in Detroit, Michigan

More than a million books are stored inside the massive John K. King Used & Rare Books — and it's so charmingly old-fashioned that they don't even have a computer system. The floor managers have a pretty encyclopedic knowledge of the books, but they can't run a computer search to find the exact book you're after. Instead, plan to spend a full afternoon here happily browsing the shelves.


Waterstones Piccadilly in London, England

Waterstones is the biggest bookstore chain in the U.K., and its flagship Piccadilly branch in London claims to be the largest bookstore in the whole of Europe. Spread over six floors, you'll find more than 8 miles of bookshelves.

It's also a great place to come for events, because this Waterstones goes all out when it comes to getting dressed up.


The Strand in New York City

The famous Strand bookstore in New York boasts 18 miles of books — new, used, and rare. When it's sunny, you'll find kiosks outside Central Park for some open-air browsing.


The Bookworm in Beijing, China

The Bookworm is a bookshop, library, bar, and restaurant rolled into one — all at the top of an incredible bookish staircase. It's open until midnight or 1 a.m. on weekends, making it a great place to settle in for the night with a book. There are also regular activities here from movie nights to open mics. Yep, it's a pretty spectacular place.


Bart’s Books in Ojai, California

Bart's Books is the largest outdoor bookstore in the world, and many of its books are sold on a simple "honor system." Take whatever you'd like, and leave some money in the coffee cans on top of the bookshelves.


El Ateneo Grand Splendid in Buenes Aires, Argentina

El Ateneo is housed in an old theater, making it one of the most strikingly beautiful bookshops in the world. The box seats are now cozy book nooks, and you can bring your own book if you can't find anything in the not-particularly-extensive English language section.


The House of Books in St Petersburg, Russia

The House of Books is situated over three floors of the gorgeous Singer Building in St Petersburg — and once you've loaded up your tote bag with books, you can settle by a window in the cafe and gaze at the stunning view while you read.


Blackwell's in Oxford, U.K.

From the outside, Blackwell's doesn't look like anything special. The bookshop is tucked away inconspicuously on Oxford's Broad Street — but once you're inside, it opens up to its full cavernous size. The underground Norrington Room alone (which is only one of the shop's four floors) is 10,000 square feet — and has a Guinness World Record for being the largest single room selling books in the world.


Librairie Avant-Garde in Nanjing, China

Before it was a bookshop, the Librairie Avant-Garde was a parking lot — so that should give you some idea of its immense size. The highlight has to be the iconic cashier counter, which is built from thousands of old books.