We are blessed with a world full of beautiful bookstores (if we have nothing else, at least we have that). Books are so loved and revered that we house them in stunning feats of architecture and among the most unique settings. Independent bookstores, in particular, have a range and a longevity that most franchised bookstores lack.
A number of these pretty, pretty bookstores have caught the eye of Instagram, which absolutely makes sense: it is a social app that focuses on photos. Book lovers (and I can say this with authority, because I am one) love taking photos of books in lovely or iconic places and visiting bookstores in general, so of course we’re going to upload those photos to IG.
We wanted to know which bookstores around the world have gotten the most love on Instagram: of all the bookstores out there (I couldn’t even hazard a guess on how many), which ones are the most featured on the app?
Luckily, someone did that research already. Last February, The Knowledge Academy, a UK business training provider and market leader, collected the total number of Instagram hashtags for bookstores around the world and found out which bookstores are the most instagrammed by the volume of hashtags attached to each bookstore. Shelf Awareness reported the findings not long after, and we were amazed at the results.
Let’s break down why exactly these bookstores in particular made the list of the 15 most instagrammed bookstores in the entire world. There are other beautiful bookstores, naturally, so what sets these 15 apart? Perhaps it’s not just how pretty they are: perhaps it’s their location, or their history, or their ties to the literary community. Come on this journey with me, fellow bookworms, and we’ll discover what makes these bookstores so instagrammable.
15. Atlantis Books
Location: Santorini, Greece
The experience begins before you even step inside Atlantis Books in Santorini, Greece. This is one of those few bookstores where the outside of the bookstore is just as, if not more, perfectly picturesque and instagrammable, and that’s precisely why it’s on this list. The bookstore’s brightly colored accent walls and bookish wall art, coupled with the classic Cycladic white walls and blue trim, make for charming and memorable photos.
14. El Péndulo
Location: Mexico City, Mexico
How can you go wrong with a bookstore that is also a cafe and a forest? Cafebrería El Péndulo in Mexico City, Mexico is a two story, open concept dream with wall-to-wall books, wooden flooring, and plants bursting from the shelves. It’s easy to see why this gorgeous bookstore is frequently photographed, especially since it encourages you to stay awhile by grabbing a coffee at the cafe and sitting down in one of the comfortable chairs to read or admire the store. There are actually two locations for this local chain, but the one you see on Instagram the most is the Polanco location on Alejandro Dumas Street. Don’t discount the San Angel location, however! It has a giant palm tree growing right in the middle of the bookstore, and some stunning architecture as well.
13. Ler Devager
Location: Lisbon, Portugal
Ler Devagar in Lisbon, Portugal isn’t just a bookstore. The space it occupies used to be a print shop, and now it’s a bookstore and a cafe and an exhibition space and a concert space (whew!). The old printing machines are still there to see, and it features a beautiful antiquated grand staircase that’s often the star of its Instagram photos. The whole building has an industrial aesthetic derived from its actual manufacturing past. Pair all of that with some beautiful art hanging from the ceilings, and you’ve got yourself a strong entry for this list.
12. El Ateneo Grand Splendid
Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina
It is a bookstore inside an old, historic theatre. You can’t get much more instagrammable than that. The Grand Splendid was built in 1919 in Buenos Aires and began its life as a performing arts theatre before becoming a movie theatre and now a bookstore. Not only does El Ateneo boast a massive book collection, but the theatre has retained its original frescoed ceiling and theatre boxes. In 2019, National Geographic named El Ateneo the world’s most beautiful bookstore. With an interior as gorgeous and grandiose as this, we can see why.
11. Barter Books
Location: Alnwick, England
Barter Books in Alnwick, England makes this list because it charmingly resides inside an old train station. The owners have restored and preserved the station to bring you the bookstore you see today on Instagram: glass skylights, working fireplaces, exposed brick, and the original timetables to give you a snapshot of the past. There’s also literary-themed art and a cafe to get a cuppa while you peruse. This bookstore gives you a slice of history along with books, so it’s no surprise that it’s landed on a list of most photographed and instagrammed bookstores.
10. Daunt Books
Location: London, England
Welcome to a uniquely Edwardian bookshop. Daunt Books in London began its life as an antiquarian bookshop that opened in 1912, and morphed into a bookshop that specializes in carrying travel books. This bookstore is frequently photographed no doubt due to its glass ceiling and the copious amounts of sunlight pouring into a gorgeous old hall full of books. They organize their travel fiction by country, and also carry other nonfiction titles as well. It’s a beauty to both photograph and wander around in.
9. City Lights Books
Location: San Francisco, California, U.S.
City Lights in San Francisco is an iconic west coast bookstore with a famous history, which is surely what brought it to this list. Opened by Beat poets Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin in 1953, it draws literary tourists from all over the place to visit one of the bookish homes of the Beat generation. The bookstore also has a homey, welcoming feel to it with the store’s history lining the walls across three floors of bookish goodness.
8. Books Actually
This quaint little bookstore in Singapore is packed with books, giving it a cozy, intimate atmosphere. Books Actually also features something unique just outside of the bookshop: a vending machine for books. Not just any books — gift-wrapped books, so you can buy yourself a surprise blind date with a book. I dare say that the book vending machine, the gifts, the unique collectibles, the books, and that handsome bookstore cat are all solid reasons why Books Actually finds itself frequently on Instagram.
7. Cărturești Carusel
Location: Bucharest, Romania
Oh, this one’s a beauty. Cărturești Carusel in Bucharest, Romania is three floors of Greek columns and spiral staircases, undulating railings across the second and third floors, and sheer elegance. It was built in 1903 as a bank, then confiscated from the family that built it in the 1950s, and then reinstated by the grandson of the original builders in 2007. He had the building renovated and turned into the stunning bookshop it is today. The top floor hosts a beautiful teahouse lined with potted plants along the wooden railing, allowing you to sip your drink and look down on the bookstore below. A strong entry for most instagrammed bookstores.
6. Libreria Acqua Alta
Location: Venice, Italy
And now we come to Venice to visit a gloriously disheveled, completely singular bookshop along a canal. Libreria Acqua Alta offers you small rooms filled with books of all kinds. Because flooding is so frequent, the books are housed inside boats, bathtubs, and one large gondola to protect them in case water finds it way into the bookshop. The back of the shop also boasts a walkway lined on either side with old, waterlogged books, leading to a staircase made of books and, ultimately, the canal. With such a unique way of preserving and presenting their books, it’s earned its place on this list.
5. Livraria Lello
Location: Porto, Portugal
This bookstore is so intensely gorgeous that we’ve written an entire post about it before. Livraria Lello was built in 1906 by the Lello brothers, and whether they set out to do it or not, they built one of the most ornate bookstores in the world. Visitors are treated to Neo-Gothic and Art Deco interiors, a stained glass roof, and that stunning grand red staircase in the center. Finally: a bookstore that matches the outside to the grandiosity and magic that resides inside books. Since the entire building is a work of art itself, being the fifth most instagrammed bookstore in the world is no surprise.
4. Shakespeare and Company
Location: Paris, France
Shakespeare and Company almost needs no introduction. This Parisian English-language bookstore has been a pilgrimage spot for book lovers the world over for a long time, and nothing about that has changed. It’s wonderfully positioned right along the Seine, with the Notre Dame Cathedral rising in the background. It’s a winding, cozy, cramped, outrageously fun bookstore, and since it’s Paris’s most famous bookstore, it’s made its way here. It’s also one of the few bookstores that allows people to live in it for a spell, as long as they offer to work there for a few hours a day to earn their stay.
3. Book and Bed
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Speaking of bookstores that will let you stay in them: Book and Bed in Tokyo functions as both a hotel and a bookstore. You can book a single, one-person capsule room here for around $40 USD a night, surrounded by books. You can also just go in and peruse their bookish offerings, as well as get a drink at their cafe. With books and book pages hanging from the ceiling and an opportunity to sleep overnight in a bookstore, coming in at number three makes perfect sense.
Location: Portland, Oregon, U.S.
The world’s largest independent bookstore comes in at number two. Powell’s in Portland on Burnside Street is a beautiful maze, an icon of a bookstore with one of the widest book selections an indie bookstore could offer you. It is an entity unto itself: it occupies an entire city block and carries one million books at any given time. You read that right. It has 3,500 different sections and a renowned rare book room. It is a book lover’s paradise.
1. The Last Bookstore
Location: Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Welcome to the most instagrammed bookstore in the world. The Last Bookstore in L.A. lives inside an old bank, so visitors are perusing books around regal marble pillars under a vaulted ceiling. You’ll find books hiding in the old bank vault, books arranged by color, and books artfully displayed in extremely instagrammable ways. But most famous of all is The Last Bookstore’s oval-shaped cutout among the book stacks (perfect for selfies!) and the arched book tunnel, both of which probably count for well over half of this bookstore’s IG photos. It’s a delightfully fun, maze-like bookstore where you can easily lose hours exploring and admiring: you’re bound to take some pictures of it while you’re there.
We’ve taken you all over the world with the most instagrammed bookstores. But you and I both know there’s more beauty and wonder to be had out there. For more bookstores to visit, check out these posts: