This post is the second in a four-part series on why bibliophiles find France and England compelling destinations that feed their love of books and literature.
England, France, and Spain are ideal destinations for bibliophiles: all three countries have a rich history of supporting a system of patronage for poets, playwrights, novelists, and essayists. And compelling and successful writers continue to find patronage in the present day, along with the classics that many of us know and enjoy.
Bookstores are abundant across Europe and you could easily plan a trip centered around visiting some of the oldest and most well-known, and that would still just scratch the surface of the possibilities. Whether you are traveling to discover a new reading spot or to take in some rich history, there are many options available. And even if you find yourself with only a small window to visit one of these stores on your trip, it will be worth it.
England, Land of the Classics
Much of our canonical literature has roots in England, so choosing a bookstore to visit is no easy task — there are just so many options! But we have singled out a few that are well worth your time.
Honesty Bookshop, Hay-on-Wye, Wales — the town of Hay-on-Wye has 40 bookstores in a town of just 1,400 residents, but Honesty Bookshop is well worth the train ride to Wales. The book sales are done on an honor system, with loads of books stacked on shelves outside.
Barter Books, Alnwick — located in a reconverted Victorian train station, this shop is the one that rediscovered the “Keep Calm and Carry On” war posters.
Word on the Water, London — It’s a traveling bookstore on a boat, where you can soak in the words while you also enjoy the sunshine on the grassy banks of the river.
France, Where Poets Reign
If you are visiting France on your trip, then there are many bookstores that await you. From poet haunts to famous shelves, there’s something for everyone.
Shakespeare and Company, Paris — This bookstore holds its own as a store and a tourist attraction, too. Right next to the Notre Dame Cathedral, this shop is often packed but worth enduring the crowds. From the iconic shelves to the wishing well below, few visitors regret making the journey.
Abbey Bookshop, Paris — located just a few blocks away from the above store, this quiet (and less touristy) store sits in an old 18th century building. Boasting floor-to-ceiling books and mazes of rows of books, any bibliophile won’t want to leave.
Spain, Bridging Books with Travel and Cinema
Many of Spain’s bookstores combine historical spaces with new publications that create a sense of charm and intellect in perfect balance. Shops also enjoy expanding their offerings to attract cinema aficionados and wine enthusiasts as well.
Librería AltaÏr, Barcelona — this bookstore is known for inspiring travelers for many decades and just also happens to be one of the most beautiful bookstores in Europe.
Tipos Infames, Madrid — you can browse books with a delightful glass of wine in hand. The charm in this store is intoxicating, too.
La Central, Barcelona — this shop used to be a maternity hospital and you can see some structural remains, but the vaulted ceilings and old wood floors will quickly imbue you with warmth and a desire to curl up with a book and not leave for hours.
At BellaTerra, we love making your European dream come to life by designing custom trips that suit your particular hobbies, passions, and interests. If you’re a bibliophile looking to tour Europe’s literary culture and history, contact us today and we’ll get started.