Experiencing a city goes beyong the simple frenzy of snapping some pictures of its landmarks’ best angles, or queuing for a specific, to-go museum. If we want to make our stay more enriching and ‘authentic’, we should combine classic sightseeing with spontaneous wandering in places we would also visit on a daily basis. As a matter of fact, I know some people who’d never leave before having entered local, mainstream supermarkets; others would just enjoy sitting on a bench and looking at the crowd passing by.
I have a thing for bookshops. It doesn’t really matter if they are not selling any title in any of the languages I get by in: I’d always end up spending some time in a peaceful, possibly not so big, bookshop. Maybe it’s because of the atmosphere that wisdom-on-paper creates, and a funny passion for comparing book covers’ styles with the ones I’m already acquainted with, too. Possibly it’s due to the fact that I like variety, and bookshops have been gradually evolving into multi-functional places that offer more than printed goods.
Browsing through rows of shelves, perusing copies of books while sipping a coffee and smelling printed paper are your cup of tea too? Here you go with some great bookshops suggested by our Spotters throughout the Old World. Of course this is just an incomplete list – our Spotters have written about many more and equally charming and interesting ones. In case the city you live in, or are visiting, is not listed in this top 10, look up the city’s blog and you might be able to find one there that we did not mention.
Where to start from if we are to number Robert’s Books’ pros? Alright, first: it’s hidden in a little, yet nice courtyard, which becomes even nicer when Riga’s not-so-warm weather gets a bit more clement. Then, this is an English-only, second-hand (we love second-hand) bookshop with 7000 (yes, 7000) books: not one is identical to the other, so take your time to browse through them.
On a budget? Don’t need to buy one, just swap one with one of yours that you don’t want in your bookcase anymore. Don’t even want to swap? Go to Robert’s anyway: sip some tea, attend one of their numerous events, meet people – just, don’t miss it!
With its infinite choice of places and attractions to visit, it’s hard not be in a rush in this hectic metropolis, the only city split between two continents. But if you’re longing for some rest and happen to be in the fashionable area of Nişantaşı (which is also where well-celebrated Nobel-Prize winner Turkish novelist Oran Pamuk lives), don’t forget to stop at Patika Kitabevi: its helpful staff will help you to get through the huge variety of books they sell.
Sip some tea or coffee and dig into their limited editions, photography and travel books, classics in English and international magazines: you will definitely find something you’ll want to take home with you.
At least once in their life, most students around the world have resorted to second-hand bookshops to buy their school texts. Bucharest students made no exceptions, especially in the past, but to this day most of these shops have slowly started to disappear from the streets of the Romanian capital. Antic Exlibris is one of the last ones still open and, like most second-hand bookshops. sells any type of book.
Head there if you want to add something unconventional to your collection, or if you are searching for something to read while on holidays (it turns out it has a big selection of English titles too).
Among other things, Florence is very well known for its culinary tradition and its bistecca alla Fiorentina (beefsteak Florentine style). Nevertheless, less would know that in the last years loads of great veggie restaurants have been popping up in Tuscany’s main city.
If you want to enjoy a tasty vegetarian dish in a cosy environment where you can purchase a book too, then reserve a table at Libreria Brac. Exquisitely decorated, Libreria Brac is the perfect setting for a relaxing meal. As a plus, it also boasts a beautiful courtyard.
Split between three different levels, at la Central you will find eccentric books you won’t be able to find easily in other bookstores. The building that hosts it, a former grand townhouse, is a good incentive to pay a visit too. And if that’s not enough, la Central has a polyvalent vocation: within its walls you will find a stationery boutique and a coffee place. On top of that, the downstairs area hosts different kind of events.
Enough valid reasons to stop by?
When in Belgium this is one of the best places in the country you should head to if you’re searching for a piece of writing regarding the LGBT culture and community. The passionate and competent team that runs Kartonnen Dozen organises events such as readings, speeches and get-togethers every week.
Kartonnen Dozen is also a publishing company, and houses the fiction department of ‘Het Roze Huis’, Antwerp’s LGBT umbrella organisation – meaning that you can also borrow a book instead of buying one. Impressive, indeed.
Let’s say that the name gives off the wrong impression, as Another Country is not like most other bookshops. Forget for a moment the edgy coolness of Berlin and just let Another Country’s warm atmosphere hug you. This bookshop sells mostly (but not only) second hand books and the great thing is – this is for everyone who doesn’t speak German – they are all in English.
That’s not all, the best has yet to come: in case you’ve bought one of their books and want to return it, just go on: you get your money back except for € 1.50. Ah, and you can have a drink, too.
Tucked in the building of the Faculty of Architecture, there’s a tiny and refined bookshop that you won’t even know exists (unless you speak with a local university student – maybe!). ARCHbooks has a good selection of art, design, architecture and photography books.
Have you ever desired a specific, special art book, but then it turned out it was too expensive? Well, in this case don’t worry: it turns out that here they are all quite affordable.
Leafing through a book is nice – leafing through a book with a cat sitting on your laps purring at you is nicer! Yes, Aprobo is a bookshop where its feline ‘owners’ wander around, sleep and search for cuddles.
In addition to that, Aprobo is a sort of small tea-house: the owner offers a good selection of teas served in pretty Japanese tea-pots and cups (which are also on sale in the shop). If you like cats, books and tea, well… this could be your heaven.
Two small rooms packed with old books, at a first glance that’s what Pessoa e Companhia looks like. No need to say it’s more than a bookstore. Pessoa e Companhia is a tiny yet vibrant gathering space that frequently launches cultural, social and pedagogical projects aimed at benefiting the community.
As the temperature in Lisbon is generally enjoyable, ask them if you can sit on their small interior balcony, and read a book under the blue sky.