Art & History

Amazing Libraries and Bookstores Around the World

What do you like about going into a bookstore or library? Is it the smell of the books, or the sight of the different coloured spines, waiting to be pulled from the shelf, so that you can dive in?
We have compiled a list of some of the most amazing libraries and bookstores around the world. Some of them you may have heard of, others are less well-known, but all of them made us smile or gasp in wonder. Which one is your favourite, and which library or bookstore would you add to the list?


Real Gabinete Português de Leitura, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Real Gabinete Português de Leitura pic by Mathieu Bertrand Struck

Real Gabinete Português de Leitura pic by Mathieu Bertrand Struck

A building so remarkable that this one photo cannot hope to do it justice – more pictures here. This is the largest and most valuable collection of Portuguese literature outside of Portugal. The library was constructed between 1880 and 1887 – the facade was carved out of limestone in Lisbon, Portugal and transported by ship to Rio.


Munro’s Bookstore, Victoria. Canada


Munro’s Bookstore, Victoria. Canada. Photo by Graham Johnson














By kind permission of the photographer Mr Johnson, we are adding this picture to our gallery. Mr Johnson also drew our attention to the interesting history of Munro’s Bookstore in Canada. It was opened by James and Alice Munro in 1963, so celebrated 50 years of business earlier this year.

The bookstore moved into the current premises in 1984, and after extensive restoration commissioned and hung eight large fabric banners by Carole Sabiston depicting The Four Seasons.

You may be wondering why the name Alice Munro sounds familiar – perhaps you read about her receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature earlier this year, the first Canadian woman to do so.



Chatsworth Library in England

amazing libraries

Chatworth Library Pic Credit


Set in the heart of the Peak District in Derbyshire,  Chatsworth is home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, and has been passed down through 16 generations of the Cavendish family.

The house has over 30 rooms to explore, from the magnificent Painted Hall, regal State Rooms, newly restored Sketch Galleries and beautiful Sculpture Gallery. Chatsworth has one of Europe’s most significant art collections.


St Deiniol’s Library in Hawarden, Wales

St Deniel's Library

St Deiniol’s Library. Photo by Christopher John

William Ewart Gladstone (1809 – 98) was arguably Britain’s greatest statesman. Four times Prime Minister, four times Chancellor of the Exchequer and a Parliamentarian for 63 years, few politicians have achieved as many lasting reforms as Gladstone.

In 1895, at the age of 85, Gladstone bequeathed £40,000 (equivalent to approximately £3.91 million today) and much of his library to found St Deiniol’s Library in Hawarden, Wales, the only residential library in Britain. Despite his advanced age, he himself hauled most of his 32,000 books a quarter of a mile to their new home, using his wheelbarrow.

‘What man,’ he wrote, ‘who really loves his books delegates to any other human being, as long as there is breath in his body, the office of introducing them into their homes?”


State Library, Sydney, Australia 


Mitchell Reading Rooms, State Library by Sasha Fernandez

Opened in 1910, the Mitchell Library houses unsurpassed collections of Australiana bequeathed to the people of New South Wales by David Scott Mitchell.

The Mitchell Library holds Australia’s greatest documentary record of cultural heritage. It also holds the world’s most significant collections of Australian and Pacific material, including the original journals of Abel Tasman, James Cook and Matthew Flinders.


Boston Public Library, USA


Boston Public Library, photo by Ryan Clark

Founded in 1848, the Boston Public Library was the first large free municipal library in the United States. The present Copley Square location has been home to the library since 1895, when architect Charles Follen McKim completed his “palace for the people.”

In addition to its 8.9 million books, the library boasts a wealth of rare books and manuscripts, maps, musical scores and prints. Among its large collections, the BPL holds several first edition folios by William Shakespeare, original music scores from Mozart to Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf;” and, in its rare book collection, the personal library of John Adams..


Barter Book Store, Alnwick, England


Barter Books.

Barter Books. Photo by Caryan Watts 

Situated in the old Victorian railway station, Barter Books store has been called ‘The British Library of secondhand bookshops’. The shop has an open fire, a cafe, and a stunning mural featuring famous writers – see how many you can recognise.


Library of Congress, Washington DC, USA

Library of Congress, Washington DC, USA

Library of Congress, Washington DC, USA – Photo from Lode Vermeiren

The Library of Congress was established by an act of Congress in 1800. Established with $5,000 appropriated by the legislation, the original library was housed in the new Capitol until August 1814, when invading British troops set fire to the Capitol Building, burning and pillaging the contents of the small library.

Within a month, retired President Thomas Jefferson offered his personal library as a replacement. Jefferson had spent 50 years accumulating books, “putting by everything which related to America, and indeed whatever was rare and valuable in every science”; his library was considered to be one of the finest in the United States.

Today’s Library of Congress is an unparalleled world resource. The collection of more than 155 million items includes more than 35 million cataloged books and other print materials in 460 languages; more than 68 million manuscripts; the largest rare book collection in North America; and the world’s largest collection of legal materials, films, maps, sheet music and sound recordings.


 Stone Library at John Adams Birthplace, USA 


Stone Library, Quincy, USA. Photo by Carolyn Weiss

Adams National Historical Park was the home of two American presidents and subsequent generations of their descendants from 1720 to 1927.

The Stone Library is home to over 14,000 volumes. John Quincy Adams had requested in his will that a fireproof structure be constructed separate from the house for his books and papers. 


 Royal Library Copenhagen, Denmark

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Royal Library in Copenhagen, photo by Stefan Z

Copenhagen University Library (Danish: Københavns Universitetsbibliotek) in Copenhagen, Denmark, is the main research library of the University of Copenhagen. Founded in 1582, it is the oldest library in Denmark.

The old main building of the library is located in Fiolstræde in central Copenhagen. It was designed by Johan Daniel Herholdt and completed in 1861.


The Geisel Library, UC San Diego 


On December 1 1995, The University Library Building was renamed Geisel Library in honour of Audrey and Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) for the generous contributions they have made to the library and their devotion to improving literacy.

The library, designed in the late 1960’s by William Pereira, is an eight-story, concrete structure sited at the head of a canyon near the centre of the campus. The lower two stories form a pedestal for the six-story, stepped tower that has become a visual symbol for Geisel Library.


 Daunt Bookstore, London UK 

Daunts Bookstore, London

Daunts Bookstore, London. Photo by Jmm

Daunt Books is an original Edwardian bookshop with long oak galleries and graceful skylights situated in Marylebone High Street, London.


 The Montague Bookmill  Montague Book Mill. Photo by JonnyCashAshes

Montague Book Mill. Photo by JonnyCashsAshes

The Montague Bookmill is a used bookstore housed in an 1842 gristmill, set on the banks of the Sawmill River, a few miles north of Northampton and Amherst, Massachusetts. The original building was built on the banks of the Sawmill River in 1832. Alvah Stone was the first proprietor and it became known as Stone’s Gristmill. Families from Montague would come by horse and buggy to get grain. Whole grain came in from railroad cars and was brought down to the mill to be ground into flour.

In the early 1930s, Martin Machine Co. bought the building. The machines manufactured here, hydraulic marking machines, were sold all over the world. In 1987, Martin Machine moved to the Turners Falls Industrial Park where Roy Cowdry, who took over after Mr. Martin’s death, is still in charge.

The mill was sold in 1987, and converted into a book store. Renovations included the sandblasting of the mill’s chestnut beams to remove peeling paint and machine oil.  A deck was built overlooking the river, and the shelves were filled with books.


 Waanders in de Broeren, Netherlands

Waanders in de Broeren. Photo by Jan Stockhorst

Waanders in de Broeren. Photo by Jan Stockhorst

 In the city of Zwolle, near Amsterdam, a bookshop opened this year in a 15th century church, Broerenkerk. The church was built in 1465, and abandoned in 1982. Architects BK Architecten were given the challenge to turn the empty shell into a bookstore, with the condition that they had to leave certain original features such as the stained glass windows and the pipe organ intact.


Liverpool Central Library, England

Liverpool Central Library

Liverpool Central Library. Photo by Beverly Goodwin

Recently refurbished, and impossible to photograph in a way that shows the awesome building. More pics here. 


El Ateneo Bookstore, Buenos Aires, Argentina 

El Ateneo Bookstore, Brazil. Photo by

El Ateneo Bookstore, Brazil. Photo by Aaron

The El Ateneo Bookstore was, as you can probably guess, a theatre. In 2000, the building was renovated and converted into a book and music shop. Over a million people shop here every year.


Boat Library, Bangladesh

Bangladesh Library Boat. Photo by Gates Foundation

Bangladesh Library Boat. Photo by Gates Foundation

Libraries don’t have to be in grand buildings, or clad in marble to be impressive. The organisation Shidhulai  in Bangladesh converted boats into libraries (and into schools, health and training centres) to reach villages that are often cut off by floods.  The boats rely on generators or solar energy and mobile phones for internet access.


Or these mini libraries –  in Moscow, Russia and in Memphis, USA.


Moscow Mini Library. Photo by Charles Hutchins

Moscow Mini Library. Photo by Charles Hutchins



Memphis Little Free Library

Memphis Little Free Library. Photo by Memphis CVB




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