Picture of El Ateneo Grand Splendid bookstore in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires' repurposed El Ateneo Grand Splendid bookstore was formerly a theater.

Photograph by Efrain Padro/Alamy Stock Photo

From the National Geographic book Destinations of a Lifetime

  1. Atlantis Books, Santorini, Greece

    A decade ago, a group of friends from Cyprus, England, and the United States founded this bookshop, now in a gorgeous home overlooking the water in Oia, Santorini. The store has hosted readings on the terrace, bookbinding classes, and food and film festivals.

  2. Cafebrería el Péndulo, Mexico City, Mexico

    This beautiful Mexico City bookstore is large, light, and open, with sagging bookshelves flush with volumes in both Spanish and English and a pendulum suspended from the ceiling. Give it a nudge to trace your literary musings in the air.

  3. Munro's Books, Victoria, Canada

    In 1963, exactly a half century before she won the Nobel Prize in literature, Alice Munro cofounded a bookstore with her then husband, Jim. Munro’s has since moved into a magnificent, neoclassical former bank, decorated with gorgeous fabrics, in Old Town, Victoria, British Columbia.

  4. El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Buenos Aires, Argentina

    El Ateneo’s magnificent Buenos Aires home used to serve as a performing arts theater, and it shows: The Grand Splendid has retained the ornate trappings, including frescoed ceilings and red stage curtains.

  5. Powell's City of Books, Portland, Oregon

    The flagship of the world’s largest independent bookstore chain stretches over an entire city block in downtown Portland. The color-coded rooms are stocked with a huge selection of used and new books; the store also hosts readings, story times for kids, and book groups.

  6. Prairie Lights, Iowa City, Iowa

    Iowa City, home to renowned Iowa Writers’ Workshop, is drenched in literary life. Prairie Lights is arguably the hub of it all, with readings by star writers and up-and-comers and staffed by famed bookseller Paul Ingram.

  7. Shakespeare and Company, Paris, France

    With its 17th-century facade and rustic decorations, Shakespeare and Company of Paris is a font of old-world charm. It also has a vibrant history: It's been a veritable home to such writers as Allen Ginsberg, Richard Wright, William Styron, and Langston Hughes.

  8. Gertrude & Alice, Sydney, Australia

    In 1998, two new friends, inspired by the partnership of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, decided to open a bookstore. Gertrude & Alice, a cozy shop that’s also home to a café, is now a neighborhood fixture in Sydney.

  9. Librairie Avant-Garde, Nanjing, China

    Housed in a former underground parking garage and bomb shelter, Librairie Avant-Garde has been transformed into the most beautiful bookstore in China. It also has a ton of reading chairs, so you can snuggle in for the afternoon.

  10. Cook & Book, Brussels, Belgium

    Per its name, Cook & Book is a combination restaurant and bookstore near the Metro in Brussels. Nine different spaces offer their own distinct vibes, from a whimsical kids’ area to a room with books suspended from the ceiling.

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