The most brilliant bookshops in the world: our readers' picks – Financial Times

We use cookies and other data for a number of reasons, such as keeping FT Sites reliable and secure, personalising content and ads, providing social media features and to analyse how our Sites are used.
Your guide to a disrupted world

We’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest Books news every morning.
Following our edit of the world’s most beautiful bookshops, published in October, we are publishing some of the many recommendations you contributed in response. The names of readers (either their social-media handle or FT commenting name) have been given in brackets in each entry. Where readers gave further details about what they love about a particular store, that has been included as a quote. 
Academic Bookstore, Helsinki
“A bookshop designed by Alvar Aalto, with a café, also designed by him, and the largest selection in the Nordics.” Serenest
Archive Bookstore, London 
“An old bookshop where the shelves threaten to collapse they are so stuffed with an eccentric mix. Last time I was in the archive the owner offered me a glass of sherry – the business!” Carol
Athenaeum Boekhandel in Amsterdam 
Amsterdam’s best bookstore features thoughtfully stocked English, Dutch and French sections, covering everything from paperbacks to coffee-table books, along with an extensive selection of magazines and newspapers. Simon Schama
Barter Books, Northumberland 
Housed in Alnwick’s Victorian railway station, Barter Books houses more than 40 glass cases full of antiquarian books, an open fire in the winter-time, a children’s room, and a Station Buffet serving tea, coffee and cakes. Mrs Handbag
Bertrand, Lisbon
Founded in 1732, Bertrand lays claim to the title of the world’s oldest operating bookstore. It stocks Portuguese, English, Spanish and French literature, and each purchase comes with the offer for it to be stamped with a note stating where the book was bought. Dirck
Boekhandel Dominicanen, Maastricht, Netherlands 
Maastricht’s most famous independent bookstore is located in a 13th-century Dominican Church. New, old and rare titles are housed on shelves which weave around and under the stained-glass windows, frescoes and vaulted arches. MikeLdon
Cafebrería El Péndulo, Mexico City 
Three levels, a spiral staircase, potted plants, arched entryways, a café and a curation of new Spanish and English language books make this Mexico City bookstore a chic browsing spot. anaravinae
Carturesti Carusel, Bucharest 
Six floors, over 10,000 books and a bistro in a 19th-century building in Bucharest’s old town. hiddenappache
City Lights, San Francisco 
“There is still such a feeling of history about the place as well as extensive selections in poetry (of course), fiction, criticism and essays, philosophy and radical politics, and each spiced still by a discerning eye for the avant-garde and confrontational. It’s a holdover from a different city, an atavism that’s worth visiting before it too is swept away.” Steven P
Daunt Books, Marylebone
“What a treat to visit their shop in Marylebone. The only bookstore I’ve ever visited which provides travel books with literature from the country on the same shelves – what a brilliant, simple idea. The shop has a lovely old-fashioned skylight and welcoming chairs, the perfect place on a winter’s afternoon to dream of summer travels and read the local authors. The staff are very well-read and can introduce you to new authors of a country or propose other books of the same genre you’re purchasing. The final winning point: I had looked everywhere for an English translation of Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften, by Robert Musil, in many countries. One day I spotted the 1,130-page book resting on a table at Daunt. That is when I crowned it the best shop in London, and a close runner-up for best in England – which I would award to Blackwell’s who have sent books to me when I lived overseas.” L J Hickman
The Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle 
“I have such good memories of evenings on book tour there, and of the wonderful people running it.” Simon Schama
Eslite, Taipei
“Great for all-night browsing. [And you’ll find] dozens of young people reading, lying around or sitting against a wall. The genius of Eslite is that it attracts people to [come in and] read.” Paulshk
Faulkner House Books, New Orleans
“Charming and wonderful, hidden behind the Cathedral in the French Quarter.” virginiacorrigannelson
Het Ivoren Aapje, Brussels 
A “second-hand shop whose owners will walk you through Hegelian philosophy”. Russell Bishop and Maarten Klaassen
Heywood Hill, London
Old, new and antiquarian books have been sold from this Mayfair location since 1936. Nancy Mitford worked in the shop during the second world war, helping to establish the store as a literary hotspot. Her sister the Duchess of Devonshire recalls how Mitford forgot to lock up one evening and returned the next morning to a shop “full of wandering people trying to buy books from each other”. Clarkenation
John Sandoe, London
John Sandoe opened in Chelsea in 1957 as a joint venture between Sandoe and Félicité Gwynne, sister of the cookery writer Elizabeth David. It now stocks 30,000 new titles from across the humanities, and is known for its “book bundles” – packages of books organised around themes such as “Fiction in Translation”, wrapped in brown paper and tied with ribbon. “The range of books crammed into their three floors of space in Chelsea is exceptional.” Curate’s Egg
Kawon, Madaba, Jordan 
“Bookstore, built-in literacy project, restaurant, small-business incubator, general all-round social good. A wonderful recent discovery.” Open Sands
Kibworth Books, Leicestershire
“This bijou-sized but brilliant bookshop in our corner of rural Leicestershire kept villagers going throughout the soul-destroying Covid lockdowns. The owner personally drove orders of books to leave on the doorsteps of locals, bringing comfort, cheer, inspiration and diversion to needy book-lovers in grim times.” bellagram100
Kyobo, Seoul 
“Where people are lying in aisles, reading to learn.” Russell Bishop and Maarten Klaassen
The Last Bookstore, LA 
California’s largest used and new book and record store. “The name was chosen with irony,” notes the website, “but seems more appropriate with each passing day as physical bookstores die out like dinosaurs from the meteoric impact of Amazon and e-books.” phawx99
Leakey’s Bookshop, Inverness 
“Antique books and prints winding up three levels of a converted Gaelic church, perilously heated by a massive roaring log fire. Must be seen to be believed.” BiblioFiles
Libreria, London 
A Brick Lane bookshop which “curates its selection to perfection”. Russell Bishop and Maarten Klaassen
Libreria Palazzo Roberti, Bassano del Grappa, Italy
“It is located on three floors of an 18th-century palazzo and is managed and run by the three Manfrotto sisters who also own the palazzo. How beautiful to browse the books in such an inspiring setting!” Vittorio
Libreria Stendhal: La Librairie Française de Rome, Rome
“The bookshop with a huge selection, artsy atmosphere and a steady flow of book presentations.” Mo Ro
Livraria Cultura, São Paulo 
Founded 70 years ago in São Paulo, there are now five Livraria Cultura stores throughout Brazil. The branch in Conjunto Nacional is “an example of how a modern bookshop should be designed. Big and vibrant; you feel welcomed to browse, sit, read or simply watch the scene. Very good selection of Portuguese books and other languages”. Arturo Belano
Livraria Lello, Porto
The neo-Gothic stained-glass windows and ornate plasterwork of this bookshop were part of the inspiration for the library in the Harry Potter films. The shelves are stocked with Portuguese fiction and non-fiction as well as English and French literature. J Carlos Silva
Llibreria Finestres, Barcelona
Opened earlier this year not far from Barcelona’s Ciutat Vella, the shop features a curation of Spanish and English language-literature, velvet sofas on which customers are invited to sit and read, and its own bar. It has also recently founded two of its own literary awards. JAGAM12
McNally Jackson, NYC
McNally Jackson has four locations in New York City, but its headquarters are in Nolita, where Sarah McNally, a former editor at Basic Books, founded it 18 years ago. It sells new books organised by geographical region, and has an “espresso book machine” that allows customers to choose from a database of 8m titles and watch their book be printed on demand. anne_heffernan
Moe’s Books, Berkeley 
Founded in 1959 by characterful bookseller Moe Moskowitz (known for his dancing and his political activism) and his wife, Barbara, Moe’s stocks 200,000 new and used books together on the same shelves. John J Parman
Molho, Thessaloniki
“My wife and I visited it in 2000 and spent a memorable hour with René Molho herself. The bookshop, a fascinating warren, carries a remarkable range in Greek, French, English and German (to mention a few of the languages) in many different subject areas.” Faultline, Paris +30 210 323 1703
Prospero’s Books, Tbilisi, Georgia 
An English-language bookshop and coffee house (“Caliban’s”), Prospero’s Books is known for its history and travel guides curation, Georgian tea selection and house-roasted coffee beans. Cattis
Sarah Key Books: The Haunted Bookshop, Cambridge
Housed in a tiny shop just off Cambridge’s King’s Parade, The Haunted Bookshop has been selling rare illustrated and children’s books since 1987. littlelondonwhispers
Solidaridad Bookshop, Padre Faura, Manila 
“First, this is a bookshop on the frontier of the literary world. It’s one of the only independent booksellers in the Philippines and it takes its duties seriously. Always well-stocked and up-to-date with English language books, with knowledgeable staff and a proper bookshop atmosphere. Second, you stand a pretty good chance of meeting the 97-year-old novelist who owns it, F Sionil José, who can remember back to the second world war.” Methersgate
Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver 
“So warm and rich, and I had the impression they choose editions with the best covers. I bought books – paperbacks – I already had, just for the sake of the wonderful covers, never seen anywhere else.” Lucia Alessi
Three Lives & Company, NYC 
Three Lives has been selling books and holding literary readings in its Greenwich Village shop for over 40 years. It is named after the three women who founded it in 1978: Jill Dunbar, Jenny Feder and Helene Webb. They stock paperbacks and hardbacks across multiple genres, and are known for their curated section on New York City. genmullis
Topping & Company Booksellers, Bath 
Topping & Company Booksellers has much-loved shops in Edinburgh, Ely, St Andrews and Bath. Its Bath outpost is newly located in a high-ceilinged, stone-colonnaded building on York Street, stocking contemporary and classic books, and hosting regular talks and signings – and recently, a pasta-making demonstration by food writer Rachel Roddy. Bri in Chi
Voltaire & Rousseau, Glasgow 
Thousands of second-hand & antiquarian books housed (stacked) inside a small Glasgow shop. “They even have their own cat!” Bobby Phillips
Get alerts on Books when a new story is published
International Edition


Leave a Comment