A Book Lover’s Travel Bucket List
I love living in London, I really do. But recently - and I don’t know why this is - I’ve had the desire to explore the world outside the bubble of the Big Smoke. Let’s face it, this probably has a lot to do with all the time I’ve spent scrolling through Instagram, but over the next year I want to do more travelling than I’ve ever done before.
So after a bit of dreaming I’ve come up with a list of 9 bookish destinations that I want to visit around the globe. It’s not exhaustive, but this list does cover many of the cities that I’m most desperate to see. I’ve had a lot of fun researching each of the locations, from the glitz of the Big Apple to a quaint little town of bookshops in Wales, and I hope that it inspires your own travels too!
New York City, US
There’s only one location that could swipe the top spot on my bookish travel bucket list, and that is New York City. I’m very keen to sample some of the city’s many bookshops, including the Insta famous Books Are Magic - that’s the one with the cool mural outside that everyone online takes photos of. There’s also the glorious Strand Bookstore, which holds literally 18 miles of books, as well as McNally Jackson books (the Soho branch looks especially cool) and Book Culture.
Other bookish things to see in the city include two glorious libraries, the New York Public Library and the Morgan Library and Museum. There’s Housing Works, a volunteer run bookshop and cafe, and the Shakespeare Garden in Central Park.
When it comes to finding a place to stay, I’d love to spend a night in the luxurious Library Hotel. Equipped with over 6,000 books and a number of lounges for guests to enjoy, including a reading room, writers den and poetry garden, this sounds like the most amazing place. Plus, each of the guest rooms is themed around a different subject, ranging from languages and social sciences to fairy tales and classic fiction! I’m salivating just thinking about it; this is a place that I need to go.
Los Angeles, US
LA first caught my attention because of one very Instagram famous bookshop: The Last Bookstore. There are a lot of bookshops in this world but this one really does look unique.
After a bit of research I’ve found that there are heaps of other bookish locations in the area that would make it really worth planning a trip out to LA. For library lovers, the Los Angeles Central Library and the Huntington Library both sound spectacular. I’d particularly love to visit the botanical garden attached to the Huntington!
Other bookshops said to be worth a visit are Book Soup, which is located on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood, Diesel and Skylight Books. Oh and there’s a little indie publisher that I would love to see called & Pens Press. They have a few shops - one in LA - and specialise in books about art and design.
There’s also an amazing sounding bar with an English manor house theme. It’s named the Wellingbourne after a village near to Stratford-Upon-Avon (where Shakespeare was born) and is lined with shelves of beautiful old books.
Ahh, Paris. The city of love, croissants and adorable bookshops. Naturally I’m very keen to visit Shakespeare and Company (yet another Instagram famous location) but I’d also love to peruse the shelves of the Abbey Bookshop and nibble on some cake at the Used Book Cafe.
After a little bit of research I’ve found a number of lovely bookish hotels in Paris including the Apostrophe Hôtel, which is quite affordable and boasts a number of rooms that are each decorated with a different literary theme. Then there’s the gorgeous 4 star Pavillon des Lettres, which has 26 rooms, each one named after a writer from a different letter of the alphabet! Guests can even order books to their rooms here, which sounds exactly like my kind of room service. And then there’s the divine Paris Boutik, which is a hotel with rooms spread throughout the city. I particularly love their Marais apartment aptly named La Librairie which comes with its very own library suite and looks like the home of my dreams. I fear that if I stay there I might never find the will to leave.
Other recommended spots for book lovers include a few really beautiful libraries, the Bibliotheque Mazarine, and the Château de Chantilly Library. I’ve also read about the city’s riverside booksellers - there are 250 of them selling second hand books along the river Siene and I’m very keen to stroll along and have a browse (while eating a pastry of course).
I’ve always wanted to visit Venice with its canals and beautiful architecture, but I’ve only recently been alerted to the bookish side of the city.
I’m very keen to check out the picture perfect Libreria Acqua Alta, a second hand bookshop that’s reached by climbing up a staircase of books. Other sweet looking bookshops include Libreria Emiliana, which is the oldest bookshop in Venice and specialises in rare and antique books, Libreria Studium and Libreria Toletta.
I do of course have a library on my list of places to visit in Venice - The National Library of St Mark’s (Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana) which holds one of the largest collections of classical texts in the world.
That’s all that I’ve found so far for Venice so do let me know if there are any locations that I should add!
I once visited the lovely Amsterdam on a school trip but for reasons that I can’t fathom, we didn’t get a chance to see most of the bookish spots on this list.
The first crime is that we didn’t stop by a single bookshop, of which there are many. I really want to visit the American Book Center (which apparently has a tree that extends right up through the ceiling), the New English Bookstore and the Book Exchange. All of these sell a huge range of English language books! There’s also a little place called the Oudemanhuispoort book market, where second hand books are sold from stalls and I. Am. Into. That.
You know by now that I love a good library and the stunning Rijksmuseum Research Library (on the left) looks well worth a visit. For fans of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, the perfectly ordinary yet iconic bench that features in the movie can be found near the intersection of the Herengracht and Leidsegracht canals. It’s literally just an ordinary bench but I need to see it with my own eyes.
Amsterdam is clearly a dream city for bookworms as there’s also a fab literary hotel that I would jump at the chance to stay in. The Ambassade Hotel is located in the heart of Amsterdam’s Canal District; the rooms themselves look beautiful and there’s an in-house library bar for guests to recline in. Lucy from The Literary Edit has written a great review on her website that I would highly recommend reading.
One place that I actually have been and can personally recommend in Amsterdam is the Anne Frank House, a museum dedicated to the late Anne Frank who perished in Nazi Germany during World War Two. The museum is based in the actual house where Anne’s family hid; you can climb through to the annex behind the bookshelf and view the original diary that she wrote in.
A little bit closer to home, Dublin is just a short plane ride away from England and is home to the glorious Trinity College Library.
Other spots that I’d like to check out in the city include various bookshops: the Winding Stair, Chapters, Books Upstairs, Hodges Figgis (which is owned by Waterstones) and the Gutter Bookshop, although there are many more!
For a bit of history there’s the James Joyce Centre, Dublin Writer's Museum and another library, the Chester Beatty, which holds a variety of texts from all over Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.
The moment I laid eyes on the B2 Boutique Hotel and Spa in Zurich I knew that it was a place for me. No, I haven’t actually been there yet, but even so I would dare to describe it as the book lover’s hotel of dreams.
The main draw of the hotel, to me, is the gorgeous and expansive Wine Library. Filled with more than 33,000 books, guests can eat their breakfast and stop for coffee in this breathtaking space. If that wasn’t enough of a draw, the spa and rooms themselves look similarly gorgeous.
Aside from the hotel there are a number of other bookish spots that I would love to visit in Zurich. Many of these are of course bookshops: Orell Füssli, Duplicate Book & Stationery and Pile of Books. Sphères sounds like a fab bookish place to stop for a cup of tea and is high up on my list!
Of course, there’s also an amazing library that I need to see in the city - it's called Zurich Central Library (Zentralbibliothek Zürich) and it’s beautiful.
Lisbon, Porto and Óbidos , Portugal
I couldn’t choose just the one location in Portugal. Instead, it looks like I need to go on a whole tour!
First up is the capital, Lisbon. I’d really like to pay the wonderful Livraria Ler Devagar bookshop a visit which, again, is another spot that I’ve seen all over Instagram. It has an iconic look and apparently stocks a decent selection of English language books.
The second location that I’m keen to visit is Porto, to check out a gorgeous bookshop that is said to have inspired J.K. Rowling while she was writing Harry Potter. The Lello & Irmão Bookstore looks positively regal and is definitely somewhere that I want to explore in the flesh.
And finally, the cherry on my Portuguese cake is Óbidos. As well as being a town that’s chock full of bookshops, it’s also home to the fab Literary Man Hotel. This place looks truly amazing. Boasting a collection of more than 45,000 books donated from around the world, this hotel is effectively one huge bookstore as all of the books are available to purchase. In addition to their extensive collection of books, this 4 star hotel offers a restaurant and bar with literary themed cocktails. My lovely friend Laura from What’s Hot? has actually written a great review of her stay at this very hotel and the surrounding area, give it a read here.
Finally, a location that’s based in Britain! While travel overseas can feel a lot more exhilarating, there are so many places nearer to home that I would love to visit.
Hay-on-Wye is the UK’s town of bookshops, housing more than 20 of them despite having a population of less then 2000 people. I’m intrigued by the sheer array of different bookshops that there are, from the Hay Cinema Bookshop which is, literally, in a cinema to Murder and Mayhem, a specialist mystery, crime and horror stockist. I can only imagine how much fun it must be to potter around the little town, popping in and out of bookshops and picking up some bargains. It’s definitely a place that I want to try and get myself to in 2020!
The town also hosts a major literary festival, the Hay Festival, every summer, and an annual bookstagram meet up in the spring which I’m desperate to attend as it always looks like fun.
a few suggestions from Twitter and Instagram…
@unfinishedbookshelf: Prince Edward Island, Canada
@redheadreads_: Leakey’s Bookshop in Inverness, Scotland
@watchingsparks: Books of Wonder and the Strand, US
@melodramaticbookworm: Shakespeare and Co, France
@ninasanderhoff: Bath, UK (because of Jane Austen)
@lingonook: Cartagena de Indias, Colombia
@am.jammin.books: Nantucket, US (to see the places featured in Elin Hilderbrand’s books)
@snugglingonthesofa: Stuttgart (to see the extremely white library) and Beijing (there’s a bookstore that’s open until 1am)
@_headinthepages: Wigtown (to stay in the bookshop that you can also run)