Books and coffee go together like bread and butter, and these 10 amazing bookstores from around the world take this relationship to a whole new level. Cozy or grandiose, quiet or bustling, they are the ideal places for both quiet reading and stimulating conversation. Whether you consider yourself a literary type or not, you should add these bookstores to your travel itineraries. Not only will you gape at their beauty, you’ll also find excellent resources to optimize your travels — be it in the form of a book or advice from a local.
Though bookstores and their cafés come in different shapes and sizes, they have one resounding message: reading books on paper is a universally loved activity and no amount of advanced technology can change that fact. There is something about the ways books smell or feel in your hands that is irreplaceable — so be careful not to spill your coffee on them, especially if it's one of the many novels every food-lover should read.
We began our research by finding beautiful and historic bookstores from around the world and seeing which ones had cafés in them. Then we narrowed it down to see if the cafés met three categories: picturesque interior design, menus offering more than just café fare, and a sense of community that only a bookstore can create. Some cafés, like Mexico City’s El Péndulo, excel in all three categories, while others, like Ler Devagar in Lisbon, may have limited menu options but make up for it with their visually stunning décor and resources they provide as a community venue.
Sometimes bookstores exude a sense of sacredness that verges on pretension, but cafés tend to lessen that effect by providing a space where people can let loose over coffee, wine, or, in the case of Boston’s Trident Bookstore, Tibetan momos. Pretentious vibes or not, bookstores provide a home away from home for just about anyone.
What are you waiting for? Get reading.
Alexandra Bookcafé (Budapest)
Alexandra Bookcafé, or just Bookcafé, seems like your standard bookstore, except that when you climb up the stairs you’ll find what looks like the ballroom of a royal palace. Actually, it is the bookstore’s café. The neo-Renaissance decor, live music, delicious pastries, and bookish vibes combine to create a reading environment that is just as perfect today as it was when the space opened (as part of the Párizsi Nagy Áruház, or Paris Department Store) in 1911.
El Ateneo Grand Splendid (Buenos Aires)
Frequently voted as one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, El Ateneo Grand Splendid is a must-see if you are in Buenos Aires, whether you are a bookworm or not. The enormous bookstore is located in what used to be a majestic theater, and guess where the café is? Right on the stage. Enjoy café fare while taking in the amazing view of shelves upon shelves of books.