The Kansas City Public Library
In 1873, the Kansas City Public Library was first built and established as an educational resource armed with only a set of the American Encyclopedia on a single bookcase that is still in the library today. It was also a place for entertainment and a way for Kansas City to show off its cultured and civilized side. As its collection of books expanded over the decades, the library changed locations from one street to another, growing as it went, until it became the awesome structure it is today in 2004. Every bibliomaniac loves a place full of books so of course a library is going to be one of the top picks for places to visit. This one is especially significant because of its great display of classics along the outside. Solid and ginormous proof that books truly are works of art.
The City Library of Stockholm
On March 31, 1928, Sweden's Stockholm Public Library first opened its doors to a public that, before this day, had never been provided with a library with an open shelf system where visitors did not have to ask for assistance in order to get their hands on a book. Built in the classic style without the architectural décor more common to that genre, this library stands as a great example of a shift from classicism to functionalism in architecture at the time.
With what looks like an endless supply of books surrounding a great dome, it is the perfect hang out or getaway for those who just love being surrounded by all types of writings. For those architects out there, it's also a great place to witness great architecture that reflects the time it was born in.
The British Library
The next top place on the list is yet another library full of more than just books and looks. This place is loaded with features such as the Parabola Room, which is rumored to have been the birth place of the Communist Manifesto. The British Library is shown at the right, with a giant wall of untouchable books, including a Gutenberg Bible and Captain Cook's journal, which is also shown at the right.
With more than 150 million items lining its shelves, the British Library is a great place for a lesson on history and the opportunity for a peek at those most cherished books and pieces of writing of the past.
If you're anything like me, you believe books are sacred. They can be beat up through lots of use and years of love but never burned, banned, or thrown out the window to be torn up and stomped on. What better place for those like us than a bookstore built in a Dominican church with a cafe sitting right at the altar?
This is what you'll find at Selexyz, a bookstore located in Maastricht, Holland. In order to keep the church-iness of the building in tact, clever architects built a two story steel structure on one side to house the books while the other side functions as the shop. Not only is it a place to ooo and ahh over, but you can also walk away with a piece of literature in tow if you so choose.
Shakespeare & Co. Antiquarian Books
Rumored to be one of the most photographed bookstores in the world, Shakespeare & Co. in Paris is a must see store to cozy up with a new book. So, if you're ever wandering around Paris, just look across from Notre Dame and walk on over to what is known as one of the best shops for English books. As long as you don't mind cramped spaces and possibly some heavy crowds, reviews all over the web declare it as a must see place for all book lovers.
Since its doors first opened back in 1881, the amazing bookshop, Livraria Lello in Porto, Portugal, has become a must see attraction for its beauty as much as the items it houses and sells. Its neo-gothic design with pressed copper, stained glass, and books behind glass doors entrance its visitors while it provides the widest choice of books in all of the city it resides in.
This place just might be so beautiful that it can distract the bibliomaniac from the books that reside within. A rare occasion yet highly likely with such inspiring and breathtaking features.
The Academic Bookstore
Designed by Alvar Aalto, the "father of modernism," and located in Helsinki, Finland is the Academic Bookstore (Akateeminen Kirjakauppa). This is one of the largest bookstores in Scandinavia and is possibly the largest in Europe. Its selection of books comes in a wide variety of languages and resides in a two story, bright, geometric building that is businesslike and uniquely beautiful. Yet another attraction for that book nerd or architect to see.
El Ateneo in Buenos Aires stands as yet another piece of proof that bookstores can come from anywhere. This time, instead of a church, we have a real theater, turned movie theater, turned bookstore. With theater boxes still in tact and plenty of seating, this store has over one million customers a year. Despite its changes in function, it still remains just as much a theater as it was when it opened in 1919 and took the second place spot on the British periodical, The Guardian's, World's Ten Best Bookshops in 2008.
Le Bal Des Ardents
In Lyon, France lies Le Bal Des Ardents, a bookstore known for its artistic archway and its specialized collection in alternative, fringe, art and erotic books. One review online said that the store was cozy and full of old books. Also, that it was highly unique to look at even on the inside and that it was worth a visit. It stands as obvious proof of the artistic qualities of the book and how it can be used as decoration when not in use for reading.
Livraria Da Vila
Lastly, I leave you just the way I started, with a place for bibliomaniacs to visit that appears to be made of books. This time, instead of another library it is yet another bookstore. Located in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the very front doors of the Livraria Da Vila, which are shown at the right, are actual functioning bookshelves. Everywhere you look, from floor to ceiling, books are crammed and set in every possible place. Of all the places to visit, one such as this that is practically made of books is nothing but perfect for any bibliomaniac, which makes it one of the top ten places they should visit before they die.
© 2011 Lisa
Marie Ryan from Andalusia, Spain on July 11, 2013:
Fascinating hub. Unfortunately they are all a bit too far away from me at the moment. But I am so pleasd to have read this. I think my travel plans are going to have to be slightly adjusted so I can fit in at lest ONE of these marvellous places soon!
Thanks for such an interesting piece.
travelholidays from India on May 20, 2013:
Fantastic Hub !!!! . The image of 'The Academic Bookstore' is really awesome. Thanks for all your informative guide:)
Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on April 20, 2013:
What a fascinating hub! The libraries and bookstores you feature are so unique and creative. And, what a great idea for a hub. Unfortunately, I have not seen any of these, but they are now on my list of 'must sees.' I think I could spend and entire week in each place at least. Thanks so much for this marvelous hub!
Andrew Spacey from Sheffield, UK on April 20, 2013:
Loved this bibliomaniac's world tour, a great title and idea. As a poetry and short story book collector I really appreciate the need for book mad people to go to these kinds of holy places.
One of the best ways to spend time for me is in an out of the way book shop in some obscure town browsing through title after title, looking for that elusive rare or signed volume.
Your top ten is very good.
Voted up and shared.
rmcleve on July 24, 2012:
I've only been to one: Shakespeare and Co! It's an awesome place, and I'm glad to have had that experience.
The only place that shook my inner (and outer) bibliomaniac to the core was the library at Dublin's Trinity College. Why? The Book of Kells is there and the library itself is one of the most beautiful places I'd ever been. It's a must see for all lovers of language, history, Western culture, books, old things, and musty smells!
Vinaya Ghimire from Nepal on April 18, 2012:
I enjoyed this virtual tour. Good work!
Marie Gail Stratford from Kansas City, MO on January 03, 2012:
I'm thrilled to see my city's library take top billing here. One point of interest: the Kansas City Missouri Public Library central branch, as pictured here, is currently housed in the old savings and loan building. Their audio-visual collection is displayed in the basement, complete with a small theater in the old bank vault, where family films and special-interest series are shared on a scheduled basis.
Michael S from Danville, VA on December 29, 2011:
Fascinating, Lisa! Thanks for this. When I get to travelling again, I'll have to keep these points of interest in mind.
Demas W Jasper from Today's America and The World Beyond on December 27, 2011:
Travel guide for bibliophiles! It's hard to go into a charitable store such as Goodwill, or Deseret Industries, and not come out with 3-4 (minimum) books, and often "great finds" (my own definition.) Why not become a travel guide, travel companion, etc. and store up the "stuff" for stories?
Anna from New York, NY on December 21, 2011:
Awesome guide! I loved your mention of Livraria Lello, which is in my adopted country of Portugal and Shakespeare & Co. which I stop by each time I'm in Paris. Voted up and awesome :)
Lydia on December 21, 2011:
U had no idea,this was so interesting.