Booklicious: The World's Greatest Bookshops

December 14, 2010


What do you do when it's less than 20 degrees outside? I imagine being somewhere far, far away (and preferably warmer). Cue Lonely Planet's list of the world's best bookshops. Here are three of their top 10 - you can check out the rest here.  

1. City Lights Books, San Francisco, U.S.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Books is still one of the world’s coolest bookshops, almost 60 years after it opened for bohemian business. Having been a meeting point for American literary icons, from beat writers like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg onwards, it’s still central to the city’s vibrant cultural scene. As well as three floors of tomes, including those published by City Lights, the shop offers weekly readings and events. More than the nearby Beat Museum, this is the place to feel the boho buzz that once inspired Kerouac et al to drive across America to the Bay Area.

2. Librería El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Buenos Aires, Argentina
It’s grand, it’s splendid, it’s a strong contender to be the world’s most beautiful bookshop. Occupying a 1920s theatre in downtown Buenos Aires, El Ateneo has kept the sumptuous auditorium’s original furnishings – and added books. Beneath the painted ceiling, shelves have been built into the spectator balconies. When you’ve finished gawping at the ornate carvings and it’s time to put finger to page, the former theatre boxes are now intimate reading rooms. There’s a cafe on the stage, between red velvet curtains, and the final firework in the literary spectacle is the round-the-clock opening hours.

Librería El Ateneo Grand Splendid is located on the south side of Ave Santa Fe, 50m west of Ave Callao.

3. Livraria Lello, Porto, Portugal
A little over 100 years old, this art nouveau gem in Portugal’s second city remains one of the world’s most stunning shops – perhaps of any kind. Competing for attention with the books are wrap-around, neo-Gothic shelves, featuring panels carved with Portuguese literary figures. A track, used by the staff for transporting stock in a cart, leads from the entrance to the lolloping red staircase, which winds up to the first floor like an exotic flower. Books are available in English as well as Portuguese, and there’s a small cafe upstairs beneath the stained-glass skylight.

You can continue the Art Nouveau tour of Porto at Café Majestic and streets such as Rua Galeria de Paris.


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