It’s not a secret that I am a bookworm, so, whenever I am in a new country, I always do my best to find the best libraries and bookshops around. Luckily, my 2017 was pretty full of bookish action and with the year ending soon, I couldn’t wait to share my favourite ones with you!
Have a look and let me know if you have visited some of these or which ones do you consider to be the best libraries and bookshops of your 2017!
1. Trinity College Library – Dublin, Ireland
You cannot write an article about the best libraries and bookshops of any year without including Trinity College. When I first started dating Conor and he found out I like books, he told me I couldn’t leave Ireland without visiting the Trinity College Library.
Bar dates? Those are past tense! If you really want to work things out with your SO, date in a library! I know I might sound like the biggest nerd in the planet, but Trinity College library is basically the closest thing you can get to Hogwarts. Conor had to almost drag me out of the room, although I had already decided that was going to be my new home.
The Old Library contains about 200,000 books in its facilities, since it has the permission to obtain a free copy of every book published in the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom (I wonder where can I sign up to get a permit like that). Also, it exhibits 14 busts of philosophers, writers and sponsors of the college.
The entrance costs €10.00, which is a bit on the pricy side, if you ask me. But take into account that the ticket also includes the Book of Kells exhibition. Additionally, most museums in Dublin are free, so you are not investing that much in cultural attractions. You can check other budget-friendly things to do in Dublin in my previous article.
2. El Péndulo Bookshop – Mexico City, Mexico
I feel like I am cheating including a bookshop from my native country, but I have visited El Péndulo many times in my life and I just don’t get tired of it! It is a bookshop/film shop/restaurant/café with just enough hipster vibe.
Also, the restaurant is nothing but yummy! Last time I went, I had some vegetarian tacos (which are not easy to find in Mexico) and they were simply glorious. The coffee and the chai are also great and if you happen to visit around November, don’t forget to order some Death Bread. I know, I know, it sounds horrible, but it’s a traditional bread we Mexicans eat during our Day of the Deaths holiday and it does not involve any dearly departed among the ingredients, I promise.
3. National Museum Reina Sofia Library – Madrid, Spain
Originally, I wanted to go to the National Library of Spain, but I suffered from a map situation and I ended up here instead.
Granted, it is not as regal and impressive as the National Library, but it was still a great book sanctuary. It definitely deserved a spot between the best libraries and bookshops of 2017. Anybody can use the facilities; you just need to register at the front desk with an ID. I was able to use the reading rooms, plug my laptop and phone and even use their WiFi for free! Usually, I spend a lot of money on teas and coffees trying to find a nice writing spot, so this was a welcoming surprise.
Additionally, the library is right next to the Reina Sofía Museum, a great place for any art lover, since it houses the Guernica, the most famous painting of Pablo Picasso. You can get free access if you are a student, so both are super budget-friendly options if you are in Madrid. Also, the area is surrounded with nice coffee shops and restaurants. So you can have a cultural afternoon and then treat yourself with some yummy dinner!
4. Black Diamond Library – Copenhagen, Denmark
I am not that much into modern architecture. I appreciate it, but I prefer old school, dusty, Harry Potter-like libraries than the new, polished ones. Actually, I hesitated a lot about including the Black Diamond among the best libraries and bookshops of the year for that same reason. However, I have to accept that this place was a pleasant surprise during my trip to Copenhagen.
It is free to visit, however, you cannot enter the reading rooms unless you are a student or a registered member. However you can still wander around the main areas and even sunbathe in the chairs right outside the building! Can you imagine anything better than lay down in a Danish library, reading and sipping some tea while enjoying the view of the channel?
5. José Vasconcelos Library – Mexico City, Mexico
I know, another Mexican library. I am sorry, but Biblioteca Vasconcelos is also one of my favourite libraries in the world! Although more modern as well, it displays an amazing architectural work!
The shelves and sills are piled up like a crazy, literary, jenga tower and, of course, the pièce de résistance is the gorgeous whale skeleton in the middle of the reception room.
They hold different exhibitions and activities throughout the year. When I went they had this huge wall where people could write which book changed their lives. Mine was Candles in the wood, by Alexandra Manners in case you were wondering, but don’t be shy and let me know in the comments which book changed your life!
6. Acqua Alta Book Shop – Venice, Italy
I had heard a lot about Acqua Alta way before I arrived to Venice. If you are a huge nerd as well, you might have heard about this crowded, second-hand bookshop with a real gondola filled with books in the middle of the store! I had to see it with my own eyes, so the two-hour walk to get there didn’t discourage me (you never get tired to walk around Venice, anyways).
The gondola was indeed amazing, but what I liked the most was the fact that you were basically at the same level than the channels. Therefore, you could sit next to the window and look at the real gondolas passing by. Also, at the back of the shop, you could find a staircase literally made out of books.
7. National and University Library of Slovenia – Ljubljana, Slovenia
Lets start with the fact that the outside of the National Library of Slovenia is designed to resemble the shape of an open book. How cool is that?
The building is a piece by Jože Plečnik, the most famous Slovenian architect. He was also in charge of designing the iconic triple bridge. You cannot get into the reading rooms either, which is a shame because I caught a glimpse and they were beautiful. However, it has some nice hallways and some activities open for the public. Oh and admission is also free!
8. Public Library of Amsterdam – Amsterdam, Netherlands
I know the Rijksmuseum Library is breath-taking, but I thought the Public Library deserved a spot. The place had open, white spaces with a more avant-garde design.
I liked most of the building, but the kids’ section was my absolute favourite and the reason I included this place among the best libraries and bookshops of the year. They not only had children’s books, but also interactive toys and resting zones with cushions, poofs and sofas for the mums. I would have preferred a play day than in any park!
This place is also free of charge and you can browse around the books and read them to your leisure.
9. The Abbey Bookshop – Paris, France
I debated a lot between choosing The Abbey Bookshop or Shakespeare & Co. for this number. However, first of all, Shakespeare & Co. is well-known already and on the edge of becoming a cliché. Additionally, I had a bittersweet experience with them last summer, since I couldn’t be part of their volunteer’s programme and ended up homeless in Paris.
Anyways, homeless or not, I found the Abbey Bookshop while I was strolling around the city with my best friend and it was so cute and adorable that I thought it deserved a mention among the best libraries and bookshops of 2017. This bookshop was originally Canadian, which means it has hundreds of volumes in English! Great for any expat bookworm!
The Abbey Bookshop has its home in The Latin Quarter, one of the coolest neighbourhoods in Paris. The bookshop also hosts different events, and not all of them are literary. Although they offer book-related activities, they also host other events like hikes and dances! It is seriously worth the look if you are already wandering around the area.
10. The Queen’s Library, Christiansborg Palace – Copenhagen, Denmark
I left the best for the end. From all my time in Europe, this was my favourite library of them all. I did not expect to find a book sanctuary when I went to visit the Palace, but the moment I entered the room I may or may not have had a Beauty and the Beast moment.
It was not the biggest library I visited or the most extravagant, but it had a fairy tale charm and such a classic elegance with just enough posh to make me want to wear pearls and gloves.
You could not touch the books of course, but you could admire them from the shelves. Just the sight of those leather covers with golden details made me drool while singing Be Our Guest. Some of the books are treasured, signed first editions, including Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales, which is one of my favourite authors since I was a little kid! (If you haven’t read The Wild Swans… What are you waiting for?)
Although there are more than three kilometres of shelves in the library, only 10% of the Queen’s book collection lives in Christiansborg. The rest of the books have their home at Amalienborg Palace. Bucket list anyone?
However, do not fear! The rest of the palace is gorgeous and big enough to entertain you for at least a few hours! I only visited the Reception Rooms, but you also have access to the kitchens, the stables and a tiny theatre museum full of knickknacks.
More of the best libraries and bookshops yet to discover
2017 was a great year to explore some of the best libraries and bookshops in Europe and my own continent! I can’t wait to see the ones I will discover in 2018. Let me know in the comments which were the best libraries and bookshops you visited during the year! I will gladly add them to my bucket list!
In the meantime, I guess I’ll see you on the road!
Love it? Pin it!