Is there any place better than a bookstore? There are the cavernous, huge bookstores where you can get lost in a sea of shelves. There are the tiny, used bookstores where you can discover long forgotten gems. There are boozy bookstores, where you can sloshed and then try to read Joyce. And then there are the bookstores that are just plain... weird (but still good, because they're full of books). Here are a few of the most unconventional bookstores in the world.
If you've ever wanted to shop for books on a boat, in a train, or in an underground parking lot, then you should add these stores to your travel list right away. These bookstores range from unbelievably huge book depots to secret little nooks in private apartments. They're cramped, gorgeous, bizarre, and everything in between. At least one of them will let you sleep there if you book your trip in advance (and it's every book lover's dream to spend the night buried in a pile of literature).
So check out some of the most unconventional bookstores the world has to offer. And then visit your local indie bookseller, because it's always the right time to buy more books:
1. The Book Barge, Staffordshire, England
Yes, The Book Barge is a floating bookstore that roams the canals of England and now France. You have to make an appointment to actually buy books from The Book Barge, but they will create a "little library" of books tailored to your interests. Bookseller Sarah Henshaw has even written a book about her experience turning an old canal barge into a bookstore.
2. La Caverne aux Livres, Auvers-sur-Oise, France
If romantically cramped bookstores are your style, then you won't want to miss La Caverne aux Livres (The Cavern of Books). La Caverne is built into an old postal train train in Auvers-sur-Oise, France. From the outside it looks like any other decommissioned train, but inside it's crammed with thousands of books of every kind.
3. Brazenhead Books, New York, New York
Two words: speakeasy bookstore. Brazenhead Books is an odd little (secret) bookshop that has moved from actual store to apartment to second apartment over the years. Some nights it's "more of a book club" than an actual store, and you have to do some research to find it, but then you wouldn't exactly want a speakeasy bookstore to be easy to find.
4. Saraiva Bookstore, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
5. 1200 Bookshop, Guangzhou, China
Not only is this bookstore open 24 hours a day, but backpackers can also stay there for free as long as you email to book your visit in advance. Naturally, the bookstore includes a bar, a kitchen, and plenty of couches and benches for comfy reading.
6. El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Buenos Aires, Argentina
El Ateneo Grand Splendid is easily one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. It's definitely the most beautiful bookstore to ever take up residence in an old theater. The theater itself is over 100 years old, and it makes for one majestic bookshop.
7. The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles, California
The Last Bookstore in L.A. is a beautiful, twisting maze of new and used books. The store is famous for its huge stock, its wild design, and its very inventive shelving.
8. Librairie Avant-Garde, Nanjing, China
Librairie Avant-Garde is quite literally an underground bookstore: it's built in a former underground parking lot (that was also once a bomb shelter). The store doubles as a library, with a coffee shop and plenty of room for reading, and a check-out counter built out of old books.
9. Libreria Alta Acqua, Venice, Italy
Libreria Alta Acqua ("Library of High Water") is known for its unusual methods of storing books. If you want to shop in this bookstore, you'll have to dig your book out of a boat or a bathtub. Books are used to create the store's furniture and staircase, too, and there's a full sized gondola inside that floats every time the store floods.
10. Selexyz Dominicanen, Maastricht, The Netherlands.
Selexyz Dominicanen started out as a church 700 years ago. It was closed down by Napoleon Bonaparte, and later reopened as a warehouse, and then as bicycle storage. Finally, it was redesigned as an incredibly beautiful bookstore, perfect for even the most grandiose readers.