Escaping Into the Beautiful Book Meccas Around the World

A beautiful bookshop in Portugal, the oldest bookstore in Edinburgh, and a historic U.S. library attract bibliophiles from around the world.<span class="c-message__edited_label" dir="ltr" data-sk="tooltip_parent"> </span>

New York Times bestselling novelist Gabrielle Zevin once said, “You don’t choose a book. The book chooses you.” She couldn’t be more right. This is also often the case with a bookstore or library. A magnetic force pulls you toward it, filled with excitement, wonder, and eagerness to explore this newfound place, offering a grand passageway to thousands of books waiting to be perused.

Here are three notable literary locations:

Porto, Portugal: Livraria Lello

In Portugal’s second-largest city, Porto, Livraria Lello not only prides itself on being called the most beautiful bookshop in the world but has also been in business for more than a century. Since 1906, it has occupied a neo-gothic building designed by engineer Francisco Xavier Esteves that took two years to complete and was designated a Public Interest Monument in 2013. Each ticket purchase goes toward a book purchase as an impressive souvenir.




Inside, a grand staircase in the centre of the shop resembles something from a Harry Potter book. Although J.K. Rowling lived in Porto and wrote the first three chapters of the Harry Potter series there, she never actually visited the bookstore. Red-painted stairs lead to a small landing before splitting into two paths accessing either side of the second floor. Look up to see the long art deco stained-glass window in Porto’s colours: blue, white, red, green, and gold.

On the main floor, the bookshop stores its historic collections behind glass. The Little Prince themed room is enchanting, and there are, of course, classics by Shakespeare, George Orwell, Lewis Carroll, Edgar Allan Poe, Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, and Oscar Wilde.




Edinburgh, Scotland: Blackwell’s, South Bridge

In 2004, Edinburgh became the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature. The city has been the home to renowned authors such as Arthur Conan Doyle and J.K. Rowling, and is also the location of the National Library of Scotland, Scottish Poetry Library, Scottish Storytelling Centre, Makar’s Court, and the Writers’ Museum. During the month of August, over 800 authors appear at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.




There are more than 50 bookshops throughout the city, including Blackwell’s, founded by Benjamin Henry Blackwell in 1879. The Blackwell’s South Bridge location in the centre of Old Town is the book seller’s Scottish flagship store and the oldest bookshop in Edinburgh.

With more than 250,000 titles spread across three floors, Blackwell’s has something to satisfy every bookworm. From the current bestseller to Scottish fiction in the Scottish Room, American history, medical texts, children’s and travel books, Blackwell’s transports its visitors to the magical world of literature.




Baltimore, Maryland: George Peabody Library

Located in the historic neighbourhood of Mount Vernon, Baltimore’s George Peabody Library (linked to Johns Hopkins University) is in good company, near the George Washington Monument and the Norman-Gothic Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church. In 1857, the Peabody Institute was founded and dedicated to the people of Baltimore by George Peabody, a philanthropist from Massachusetts. The library followed in 1878, designed by the Baltimore architect Edmund G. Lind.



The magnificent stack room soars 61 feet high, illuminated by a skylight that runs the entire length of the coffered ceiling. The room is surrounded by five levels of cast-iron balconies, behind which are stored thousands of books. The library’s collection houses 300,000 volumes, predominately from the 19th century.