Book It! 31 Best Cities for Book Lovers
For book lovers, an ideal vacation includes lots of time to sink into a great read, but what about entire trips dedicated to the written word? Around the world, there are many literary hotspots where bibliophiles can sleep in book-themed hotels, spend days in amazing bookstores and stunning libraries, attend book festivals and participate in immersive festivals celebrating Jane Austen and Edgar Allen Poe, among other renowned writers.
Sound like your idea of fun? Let’s turn the page and uncover the best destinations for book lovers.
31. Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
Rio may be known for its beaches and parties, but book lovers will find The Royal Portuguese Reading Room equally exciting. The whole building is filled with Portuguese pride, as the library was created by Portuguese immigrants in 1837. It features sculptures of the country’s famous explorers, including Vasco da Gama and Pedro Alvares, and holds the largest collection of Portuguese literature outside of Portugal.
Taking in the limestone interior, wood arches, stained glass, floor-to-ceiling books and gorgeous cabinets of this breathtaking reading room, you’ll forget all about the beach and get lost in the literature.
30. Chicago, Illinois
Many famous writers have blown through the Windy City, making it a must-visit destination for book lovers. Visit the former home of poet Carl Sandburg, where he wrote the poem named after the city, and the American Writers Museum, where the hands-on “Tools of the Trade'' exhibit gives you access to typewriters once used by Ernest Hemmingway, Truman Capote, Mae West and more.
Or check out awesome indie bookstores like Semicolon and Open Books and attend The Printers Row Lit Fest, the biggest outdoor literary festival in the Midwest.
29. Alexandria, Egypt
This beautiful port city had the largest and most important library in ancient times until it was tragically destroyed by a fire. The much newer version (established in 2002) pays tribute to its predecessor and is also a modern marvel that’s home to more than 8 million written works.
A spectacular reading room, galleries, carvings from local artists and a reflecting pool add to the book-loving vibe. As a bonus, Alexandria is easily reached from Cairo, so you can combine a trip here with exploring Egypt’s pyramids and other ancient wonders.
28. Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota
The birthplace of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the Twin Cities offers walking tours that explore the author’s childhood haunts and how the area influenced him and other writers such as Sinclair Lewis, Patricia Hampl and August Wilson. The city is also home to many small presses and bookstores like Eat My Words, which supports local authors. Fans of drama won’t want to miss a show at the world-famous Guthrie Theater.
You can also easily spend hours at the popular Magers & Quinn Bookseller browsing best sellers and rare works.
27. New Orleans, Louisiana
Anne Rice, William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams may no longer be with us, but their legacies (and some say their spirits) live on in this soulful city. Stroll through the French Quarter (after the required beignet from Cafe Du Monde), and you’ll find charming bookstores such as Beckham’s Bookshop, which has been open since 1967 and has about 60,000 used books in a variety of topics. There's also Faulkner House of Books, housed in the author’s former home.
Plus, the city hosts The Tennessee Williams & New Orleans Literary Festival in honor of the celebrated playwright and Anne Rice-themed walking tours through the lovely Garden District.
26. Vienna, Austria
Quaint cafes, inviting bookshops and lavish libraries make Vienna a real treat for book lovers. At the enchanting Austrian National Library, you can read amongst Baroque paintings, an amazingly detailed fresco ceiling and exquisite Venetian globes.
You’ll also want to spend hours at the Literature Museum, which displays original manuscripts, letters and personal objects from writers such as Franz Kafka, Paul Celan and Ingeborg Bachmann. Also in town is Cafe Phil, a super chill bookshop and cafe that sells new and used books.
25. Los Angeles, California
L.A. may be synonymous with Hollywood and filmmaking, but books also have a starring role here (and is there any place better to sit in a coffee shop and write your own story than the City of Angels?). There are many terrific independent bookshops like The Last Bookstore, which features a “book tunnel” and other clever book-themed art installations that will make any bibliophile swoon. Plus, you can spend hours browsing its impressive labyrinth of books.
Other local favorites include Book Soup, Skylight Books and Old World Books. There’s also The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, one of the country’s largest book festivals.
24. Yangzhou, China
Traveling long distances for a single bookstore may sound outlandish, but Zhongshuge in Yangzhou is worth the trip. At this unique bookstore, black mirrored floors and arched shelves are meant to represent the town’s rivers and bridges, but the awe-inspiring architecture also has a dizzying effect.
Books appear as if they’re floating in air and surround visitors from floor to ceiling on all sides, giving the impression of a never-ending tunnel. Talk about a book lover’s dream come true!
23. Washington, D.C.
Washington may be the setting for real-life political thrillers, but it’s also a great place to escape real-life dramas with a good book. Book lovers won’t want to miss a stop at the Library of Congress, which was founded in 1800 and is now the world’s largest library. You’ll find more than 160 million things to read here, and it’s also the site of the National Book Festival, which attracts best-selling authors and thousands of book lovers for author talks, panel discussions and book signings.
When you get hungry, visit Busboys & Poets, a cafe and bookstore named in honor of Langston Hughes.
22. Mexico City, Mexico
The city renowned for its Day of the Dead celebrations is also filled with an impressive amount of book spirit. At the Biblioteca Vasconcelos, you can read to your heart’s content in a unique space that includes open shelves, see-through walls and local art, such as a sculpture composed of a whale skeleton, while the Biblioteca de Mexico has rooms named after famous Mexican writers such as Antonio Castro Leal, Jaime García Terrés, Carlos Monsiváis.
Prefer to read outdoors? The Porrua Chapuleptic has an inviting porch beside a lake that practically screams “crack open a great novel here,” while dozens of other bookshops line the city.
21. Key West, Florida
Fans of Ernest Hemmingway, author of "The Old Man and the Sea"and other classics, will love visiting his former home (and museum) in sunny Key West, where he lived and wrote for 10 years. Bonus if you’re a cat lover, as more than 60 felines live here. Fun fact: All of them are six-toed kitties.
Of course, this being sunny Florida you’ll probably want to spend some time reading by the pool. But at the Gates Hotel and 24° North Hotel, you can take things further by selecting a book especially made for reading in the pool, which you retrieve from an “aquarium library.”
20. Transylvania, Romania
Mention Transylvania and most people think of Count Dracula. For fans of Bram Stoker’s classic novel, there’s nothing more thrilling (or blood-curdling) than visiting Bran Castle, a soaring tower that was believed to inspire the count’s terrifying dwelling. Fun fact: Vlad the Impaler, the bloodthirsty ruler that Dracula’s tales are said to be based on, didn’t actually live in the castle (though he was imprisoned there for a few months).
To see his home, visit the town of Sighioara, which is filled with bright-colored buildings and not at all gloomy. The bright-yellow house where Vlad was born is now a museum and kitschy restaurant with a, you guessed it, vampire theme.
19. Óbidos, Portugal
In this adorable medieval town, located just an hour away from Lisbon, lies the Literary Man Hotel, a hotel/bookstore with more than 45,000 titles for your reading pleasure. There are books stacked at every turn, including in the inviting cocktail bar where you can get comfy in a leather chair with a great read in one hand and your favorite drink in the other.
Around town, stroll through cobblestone streets, and visit one of the many book shops like Livraria de Santiago, housed in a 12th-century church, and don’t miss the impressive Castelo de Óbidos, which dates back to 1375.
18. San Francisco, California
As a city that’s attracted several well-known writers such as Jack Kerouac, Michael Chabon, Allen Ginsburg, Maya Angelou, Amy Tan and Alice Walker, San Francisco is a goldmine for bookworms. Here, you can visit the former apartment of John Steinbeck, read Robert Frost in a plaza named after him and retrace your favorite writers’ steps.
The City by the Bay also has some of the country’s most famed bookstores like City Lights, the first all-paperback bookshop, which has mainstream selections as well as rare books. If you’re seeking to expand your library to include more books on progressive politics, this is the place to go!
17. Prague, Czech Republic
The City of a Hundred Spires is best known for historic squares, Gothic churches and the romantic Charles Bridge, but fans of Franz Kafka shouldn’t miss a chance to visit his namesake museum, which displays first editions of his work, letters, diaries, drawings, 3-D installations and more.
Another must-see stop is the Strahov Monastery, a collection of 12th-century religious buildings with an astounding library, complete with two halls, gilded decorations, frescoed ceilings, Biblical artwork and thousands upon thousands of antique books. If you can pry yourself away, the city has several indy bookshops like Globe and Shakespeare and Sons that are well worth a trip.
16. Bath, England
Live out your favorite Jane Austen book in this utterly charming English town, where the famous author lived and wrote several of her novels. Visit the lovely assembly rooms featured in the books, go on a Jane Austen walking tour and admire the gorgeous Georgian buildings, including The Royal Circle and 4 Sydney Place, the author’s former residence.
For a more immersive experience, visit during the annual Jane Austen Festival, or check out the exhibits at the Jane Austen Centre. While in town, don’t miss a tour of the Roman Baths and the chance to take a dip in the town’s famous waters at the Thermae Spa.
15. Baltimore, Maryland
If you love Edgar Allen Poe, Baltimore is the place to be. You can celebrate the macabre author with a visit to The Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum and by partaking n in the International Edgar Allan Poe Festival, which takes place on Oct. 7 (the day of his death — are you at all surprised?) and features poetry readings, a gothic ball and a reenactment of his funeral. Talk about a befitting celebration. If you’re lucky, you may even encounter his ghost at the Horse You Came in on Saloon.
If you’re not that into Poe, Baltimore is still worth visiting for the outstanding Peabody Library, which features a soaring atrium, tons of books and loads of natural light as well as quirky bookstores like Atomic Books, where comics and small presses are heavily featured and infamous filmmaker John Waters receives his fan mail.
14. London, England
There are few places with more literary pedigree than London, a city that inspired the great works of Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens, George Orwell, Ian Fleming, Zadie Smith and so many more. Bookworms will love Cecil Court, a (literal) hidden gem near Leicester Square that’s filled with antique book shops. Affectionately called Bookseller’s Row, it’s said to have inspired Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley.
After you’ve found some treasures, see a show in one of the West End’s many theaters, and have a drink at Fable Bar, where you’ll feel like you’re in a real-life fairy tale.
13. Portland, Oregon
One word: Powell’s. This giant bookstore is 68,000 square feet and sells over a million printed works. You’ll find 3,500 sections spread across three floors and nine rooms, so take as much time as you like to find your new favorite read.
If a bookstore of this magnitude doesn’t convince you that this is a city of readers, there’s also the Portland Book Festival, which attracts more than a hundred local and nationally famous authors.
12. Paris, France
From Victor Hugo’s masterpieces like "Les Miserables" to James Baldwin’s riveting "Giovanni’s Room" and Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer-prize-winning "All The Light We Cannot See," Paris has played a role in many great works of literature. Thankfully, there are plenty of places to enjoy reading these and so many other books in Paris.
Among the many bookstores is Shakespeare and Company, which was frequented by Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald in the 1920s and '30s and remains a popular place to browse a collection of lovingly cluttered shelves. Paris also has spectacular libraries, such as The Sainte-Geneviève, featuring a cast-iron reading room, and the Bibliothèque Interuniversitaire de la Sorbonne, which dates back to the 13th century and has over 3 million volumes on history, philosophy, French literature and more.
11. Buenos Aires, Argentina
After doing their best Evita impression in front of the Casa Rosada, book lovers will want to beeline to Ateneo Grand Splendid. One of the world’s most beautiful bookstores, it first opened as a theater in 1919 and, after it fell on hard times, was reinvented as a bookstore to avoid demolition.
Much of the theater layout was preserved, including beautiful frescoed ceilings and lavish red curtains, and is now filled to the rafters with books. The former boxes make for great reading nooks, while the stage is lined with cafe tables to enjoy a sweet treat with your favorite book (or play, this was a theater after all).
10. Boston, Massachusetts
Known as the birthplace of American literature, Boston is the former home of literary heavyweights such as Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Sylvia Plath. Many of them gathered at the Old Corner Bookstore, the oldest commercial building in Boston, which dates back to the 1700s and is now part of the city’s famed Freedom Trail.
The city is also home to the Boston Athenaeum, one of the country’s first free libraries, and the Brattle Bookshop, which is marked by a giant No. 2 pencil above its door. This adorable spot is one of the country’s oldest bookshops and features an impressive collection of rare books.
9. New York, New York
With Broadway, Central Park, the Empire State Building, world-class museums, haute restaurants, and tons of energy, is it any wonder so many books take place in New York? For avid readers, the city is an urban paradise. Take in the grand marble facades, lion statues and breathtaking reading room at the New York Public Library's Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, and have literary-themed cocktails and plenty of in-room reading at the nearby Library Hotel.
You can spend days browsing “18 miles of books'' at the beloved Strand Bookstore or looking through the selections at the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe & Bar in Nolita, Molasses Books in Brooklyn and the Astoria Bookshop in Queens, just to name a few.
8. Iowa City, Iowa
This midwestern city was the first in the U.S. to be declared a UNESCO City of Literature. The University of Iowa’s famed Writer’s Workshop has produced numerous Pulitzer prize winners and famous authors such as Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Paule Engle, Jane Smiley and John Irving, and you can read their work (and much more) at great bookstores such as Prairie Lights and the Haunted Bookshop.
There’s also Iowa City Literary Walks, which features quotes from authors who have a connection to Iowa, while the city’s Book Festival attracts top-notch writers and avid readers from around the world.
7. Hay-on-Wye, Wales
Founded by Richard Booth in 1961, this small town between England and Wales is now the world's largest secondhand and antiquarian book center. Over a dozen bookstores line the streets of “Book Town” complete with an honesty box for grabbing a great read on the go.
Shops include Murder and Mayhem for detective fiction, true crime and horror as well as Addyman Annexe for children's literature, science fiction and performing arts in the interior of a Transylvanian Church. There’s also an annual literary festival where renowned authors come to town for readings, discussions and book signings.
6. Melbourne, Australia
A UNESCO City of Literature, Melbourne is home to a wide range of writers, indie bookshops and publishers, book clubs and libraries. Residents here consume more books than in any other city in Australia, making it an ideal destination for bookworms.
The State Library of Victoria, which dates back to 1854 and was one of the first free libraries in the world, is a breathtaking place to read, check out exhibits on books and, if you’re lucky, get an appointment to view the rare book collection that includes work from William Shakespeare and Charles Darwin. There are also dozens of bookstores, including local favorites Paperback Bookshop, Metropolis Bookshop and Hill of Content, the city’s oldest bookstore that’s been open for nearly a century.
5. Seattle, Washington
Though Amazon is headquartered here, this Pacific Northwest city brims with indie bookshops that offer something for everyone. The bright and airy Elliot Bay Book Company has enticed readers since 1973 and has over 150,000 titles to choose from, while specialty shop Ada’s Technical Books and Cafe sells science-minded literature and has a vegetarian cafe.
Other local favorites include Left Bank Books, Secret Garden Bookshop, Ophelia’s Books and Lion Heart Bookstore. Grab some of the city’s famed coffee, and visit them all!
4. Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo is one of the most technologically advanced places in the world, but thankfully for bibliophiles, the city still loves paper books. The Jimbocho district, known as Tokyo’s Book Town, is home to nearly 200 bookstores. At Book and Bed, you’ll sleep in an “accommodation bookstore,” where comfy mattresses are built capsule-style in between wooden bookcases. There are nearly 2,000 English and Japanese books on offer, so you may never leave your bed.
If you want even more books to choose from, head to the stunning Musashino Art University Library. Designed by architect Sou Fujimoto, the space is elegantly simple with walls made from bookshelves, reading areas that resemble bridges and an all-glass exterior.
3. Edinburgh, Scotland
A UNESCO City of Literature, Edinburgh’s famous writers include Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes series, and J.K. Rowling, who created a wizarding series you may have heard of. The Elephant House, known as “the birthplace of Harry Potter'' is a must-see for fans of the book (especially the bathrooms, which are covered in HP graffiti).
If you prefer more classic authors, you can retrace the steps of J.M. Barrie and Ian Rankin on literary walking tours. Visit in August for the Edinburgh International Book Festival, “the largest public celebration of the written word in the world.” While in town, don’t miss a chance to get lost in the magic of Edinburgh Castle.
2. Dublin, Ireland
Ireland’s literary pedigree is on full display in Dublin, home to must-see attractions like the Dublin Writers Museum and the Trinity College Library, a visual stunner that contains some of the world’s oldest and most cherished works of literature, including the medieval Book of Kells.
If you prefer your books with a pint, there are several literary pub crawls that celebrate the work of James Joyce and other famous Irish authors. Just go with a lot of energy because they’re a real "Odyssey."
1. Oxford, England
With more than 100 libraries and hordes of acclaimed book shops like the cavernous Blackwells, Oxford is truly a book lover’s paradise. The city that produced renowned writers like C.S Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien is also home to one of the world’s most famous literary institutions, The Bodleian Library. Established in the early 14th century, the library woos readers with its striking Gothic architecture and impressive collection of reading material, including 12 million books and some of the world’s rarest texts such as the Gutenberg Bible, Egyptian papyrus scrolls and Shakespeare's First Folio.
Film buffs love it here, too, as it was used in the Harry Potter series, "X-Men: First Class" and several other movies.