6 Great Travel Bookshops from Around the World

By James | First Published: November 29, 2017 | Last updated: November 2017
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While it’s possible to get any book you want at online bookstores like Amazon and The Book Depository, visiting a bookstore that specializes in one type of books is a very unique experience. Not only will you find what you want to read next, but you may even discover where you want to visit next as well.

There are only a handful of specialist travel bookshops around the world, located in places as expected as New York and as unlikely as Lisbon, but their unique business model is always a hit with locals and tourists alike.

Palavra de Viajante, Lisbon

Situated in Lisbon’s upmarket Santos district, this small little bookshop is one of the best travel bookshop specialists in the world. The bookshop, whose name translates as Traveler’s Word, is located next to the former home of one of Portugal’s favorite poets: Fernando Pessoa.

Although small and narrow, this bookshop contains both fiction and non-fiction books from all over the world, as well as an excellent selection of maps and guidebooks. The bookshelves are semi-organized, and it’s fun to wander around the globe and your way through each continent and its countries without ever leaving the room.

Stanley & Livingstone, The Netherlands

Named after missionaries Henry Morton Stanley and David Livingstone, and the 1939 movie Stanley and Livingstone that dramatized their stories, this bookshop in the Hague is the go-to bookstore for backpackers and diplomats in search of a good guidebook or travel fiction title.

Given its location in The Hague, a part of the Netherlands that’s home to numerous expats and foreign lawmakers, a large proportion of the books in this shop are in English – around three-quarters. As well as guidebooks and travel fiction, the bookstore also stocks many books on language and culture. It’s also known for its excellent selection of hiking and cycling maps – essential purchases when you’re visiting The Netherlands.

Stanfords, London

Having opened its doors in 1901, Standfords in Covent Garden is probably the oldest and longest-running travel bookshop in the world. Given that they’ve been in the business for more than a century, it’s little wonder that they proudly claim the title of the world’s largest stockist of maps and travel books under one roof.

As well as travel books and maps, the shop is also known for its large collection of globes, framed maps, and travel-inspired furniture – all perfect gifts for the travel lover in your life (or just for yourself).

Past customers of Stanfords include Scott of the Antarctic, David Livingstone, Ernest Shackleton, Ranulph Fiennes, Florence Nightingale, Bill Bryson, Michael Palin, and Sherlock Holmes.

(As of 1997, there is also a Stanfords in Bristol as well).

Librería Altaïr, Spain

Altair in Barcelona is an incredibly large bookshop – one of the largest travel bookshops in the world. Certainly, according to its website, it’s the largest in Europe.

The bookshop was founded in 1979 and, as well as Spanish and English-language travel books, it includes titles in many other languages including Catalan. In total, the bookshop houses more than 60,000 different books, maps, and other products.

Idlewild books

Located in NYC, Idlewild Books is an independent bookstore that specializes in travel, books on language, and language classes. The owner, David Del Vecchio, previously worked as a UN press officer who loved to travel. In 2008, he left his job at the UN top open Idlewild Books: NYC’s first bookstore to specialize solely in travel.

Every aspect of Idlewild speaks of travel, from the books themselves to the chairs which were carefully and thoughtfully salvaged from an old American Airlines international terminal.

Like many of the bookstores on this list, books are arranged by country allowing you to head to your favorite country and pick out a guidebook, novel, cookbook, or dictionary.

Distant Lands

Distant Land is a travel agency, bookstore, and a shop for other luggage essentials like suitcases and backpacks. The Pasadena-based store was opened by Adrian Kalvinskas, who has spent much of his life traveling the globe.

The bookstore is also known for its events where it hosts interesting guest speakers from around the world. Previous talks have focused on train travel in Europe, living in Vietnam, and the winelands of Mexico.

Have you found a travel bookstore on your travels? Let us, and other readers, know about it by leaving a comment below. 

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