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Photo Highlights — By Slava Sakhnenko on November 17, 2009 at 5:58 pm
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Most Beautiful Bookshops

These aren’t you local Chapters outlets. The following five book stores occupy old theaters, churches, and even entire towns. They’ve become tourist destinations, where guide-book checking and taking photos often take precedent to actual book browsing. For better or for worse.

El Ateneo

Buenos Aires, Argentina – It’s been called a bookstore to end all bookstores (whatever that means). El Ateneo Grand Splendid was first designed as a theater, and then converted to a movie theater, before becoming a bookshop in yeah 2000. Photo by Roger Schultz

Selexyz Dominicanen

Maastricht, Netherlands – Amsterdam architects Merkx + Girod took on the project of converting an 800 year old church into a vertically stacked book store that takes full advantage of the high ceilings and limited floor space. I checked, and you can go there now and buy a copy of “Going Rogue” for  € 24,95. Photo by Kevin Gessner

P.S. What’s with architecture firms all using a, usually orange, “+” in their company names instead of “&” or whatever ?


Hay-on-Wye, Wales, UK – Not a bookshop per se, but rather a whole town of book stores. Hay has over 30 (mostly specialist and second-hand) bookstore that often spill out onto the streets. In June it hosts the Guardian Hay Literary Festival that draws over 70,000 visitors to a town with a population of 2,000. Photo by liz_com1981

Livraria Lello

Porto, Portugal – From first appearances this looks like another old building converted into a bookshop, but Livraria Lello was purpose-built, in it’s signature neo-gothic style, way back in 1906, and was selling books ever since. Photo by Richard Nurcombe

Shakespeare and Company

Paris, France – Shakespeare and Co. is possibly the most famous bookstore in the world. You probably read about it in Hemmingway’s books, or saw it in Before Sunset and, perhaps, more recently, in Julie and Julia (ALSO: Season 3 of Highlander). The current location is actually it’s second – the original was closed down during the Nazi occupation of France.


  • Juan Gonzalez says:

    In direct opposition to your classic picks, here is my nomination for this set: Biblioteca Vasconcelos in Mexico City.

  • Slava Sakhnenko says:

    Wow… that looks like the Future.
    Buuuuuut, that’s a library, not a bookshop. And that’s a whole other post :)

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