Depending on your style as a tourist, you may or may not be the kind of person who’s inclined to visit literary hubs when you’re traveling. Libraries often have weird hours, and even the famous bookstores you’ve probably heard about often mainly cater to speakers of the local language — not that that’s not a draw in its own right, particularly if you’re also studying it.
With that said, some people might be drawn to a bookstore with a large international book selection. Reading international authors, even if it’s just in translation, can provide all sorts of enrichment that can’t be quantified. And if you’re a language person in any capacity, you’ll probably appreciate the cross-cultural and cross-linguistic exchange.
Here are a few must-visit, famous bookstores where you can explores titles in more than one language (and especially titles that aren’t merely language learning texts).
Famous Bookstores With Multilingual Selections
The Strand — New York City, United States
The Strand has been a New York City institution since 1927, and beyond having one of the largest used book collections in the country — containing over 2.5 million new, used, and rare books — it’s also a place where you can thumb through both fiction and nonfiction works in Spanish, German and French.
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly — Montreal, Canada
Montreal itself is a famously bilingual city, and it makes sense that one of its most famous bookstores would also be bilingual in its offerings. The Librairie Drawn & Quarterly has roots in the graphic novel and comic world, but today, it’s a thriving literary hub where you can find all sorts of books in French and English.
Дом Книги (The House Of Books) — St. Petersburg, Russia
This bookstore sits inside a striking, four-story Art Nouveau building that originally housed the Singer Sewing Machine Company. Today, it’s a must-see destination for visitors to St. Petersburg. It’s the largest bookstore in the city and one of the largest in Europe, and beyond offering books in different languages, is also a good place to catch spectacular views of the city.
El Ateneo Grand Splendid — Buenos Aires, Argentina
If you put El Ateneo on your map, it’ll most likely be to experience first-hand what has largely been considered one of the world’s most beautiful bookshops. It’s situated inside a massive century-old theater with exquisite details and frescos on the ceiling. Also, importantly, it began as a publishing house that produced some of the lectures and programming that eventually morphed into the International Book Fair held in Buenos Aires each year.
Wayword & Wise — Mumbai, India
Though Mumbai’s beloved Wayword & Wise was seemingly poised to close its doors in the fall of 2020 on account of the pandemic, it recently posted a job listing for a sales manager, signaling hope for its future. In the handful of years it’s been in business, Wayword & Wise has stood out for its atypical curations and collection of books from authors around the world.
Livraria Lello — Porto, Portugal
If you’re visiting Portugal, you may want to make time for one of its most famous bookstores, which provided the inspiration for the moving staircases in the Harry Potter movie series. Its cathedral-like interior, complete with a stained glass ceiling, creates an unmistakable ambiance. It also doesn’t hurt that you can find books translated in English, Portuguese and Spanish here.
Atlantis Books — Santorini, Greece
Greece’s Atlantis Books procures literature in a wide range of languages, including Greek, English, French, Spanish, German, Chinese and Italian. Also, if you’re the type of person who dreams about eclectic bookstores that are literally crammed to the ceiling with texts, you’ll probably be drawn to this shop for the atmosphere alone.
Boekhandel Dominicanen — Maastricht, Netherlands
Boekhandel Dominicanen is one of the most famous bookstores in the Netherlands, and that’s likely thanks to a couple factors: its 13th-century monastery vibes with frescoes, stained glass and vaulted ceilings, and also its substantial collection of new and used books in Dutch, Flemish, English, French and German.
Penninn Eymundsson — Akureyri, Iceland
Iceland’s oldest bookstore chain has an outpost in most major cities around the country. It procures a collection of foreign books in multiple languages, as well as over 1,000 newspaper titles — not to mention an upstairs coffee house.