About The Guide

Hello! We are Sonja and Ivan. And this is our Bookstore Guide - an amateur guide to book shopping throughout Europe. We hope this Guide will help you find the book(stores) you are looking for.

Big Ben Bookshop, Prague

big ben bookshop prague logo

Prague, The Czech Republic

March 2008
(Read more on Big Ben Bookshop in our Report from Prague)

A cozy bookstore by the name of Big Ben is a common meeting point for expats in Prague. Unlike its name suggests, it's neither big, nor Ben. No, seriously, it is a rather small place with a pleasant, almost family-like atmosphere. For people spoiled by second hand bookstores in other parts of Central Europe (yes, we mean Budapest), the prices may seem a bit high. However, for those accustomed to regular priced bookstores with new English stock, Big Ben may not appear expensive at all.

The selection of books offered in Big Ben is actually very good, taking the limited available space into consideration. The books are arranged in several categories, we really appreciated the fiction and the children's section. Besides the usual paperbacks of your favorite titles, you can also find nice hard cover editions, for reasonable prices, which may serve as an excellent gift. Another noteworthy thing is the section devoted to Prague, its history and books on the communist era in general.

Big Ben is not the sort of bookstore where you'd come to buy books randomly, but a place where one goes with a purpose of purchasing a particular book. With this approach, we doubt that you'll be leaving disappointed.

Located only a few hundreds of meters from the Old Town Square, tucked away in the little narrow streets of Prague, the Big Ben Bookshop is a very pleasant place to browse through. The bookstore was established in 1994 and has been operating for over a decade successfully and it has maintained its independent status. In Big Ben you can find all sorts of books in English, from dictionaries, teachers resources and course books to full range of fiction and non-fiction titles, as well as a children's section.

big ben bookstore prahaBig Ben Bookshop
Malá Štupartská 5
110 00 Prague 1big ben bookshop prague


Phone and Email:( +420) 224 826 565
Working Hours:
Mon-Fri 9-18.30
Sat 10-17
Sun 12-17

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Top 5: Impressive Appearance

Livraria Lello, Porto

Livraria Lello PortoIf you were wondering why Livraria Lello came to be our undisputed numero uno, then look no further than this article which should explain it all, and if you're still not impressed, why not visit it yourself and report back to us with your pros and cons.

Livraria Lello PortoLocated near Praca dos Leoes, Livraria Lello & Irmao was established in 1906 after being designed by a Portugese engeneer Xavier Esteves. This fine example of art nouveau, with its stunning facade in a late neo gothic style is also decorated with two painted figures, one representing Art and the other representing Science. The bookstore's interior is nothing less impressive than its exterior which spreads on two levels and is connected by an amazing stairway inspired by the Parisian Galleries Lafayette. Furthermore, stained glass skylight, walls heavily decorated with carved wood, the railway track on the floor along which employees move carts filled with books are among other features of the bookstore. Even the pillars inside are decorated with bronze bas-relief ornaments of figures from Portugese literature.

Livraria Lello PortoAll in all, Livraria Lello & Irmao is one of the finest works of the “second eclecticism” style in Portugal, with beautiful art nouveau elements which, once all combined, create an amazing visual (as well and intellectual) experience indeed. Take a tour through the Livraria Lello via this YouTube Video.

Selexyz Dominicanen, Maastricht

Selexyz Domincanen MaastrichtThe close runner-up in our Top 5 can be found in Maastricht. Selexyz Dominicanen was opened up in November 2006 in a 800 year old Dominican church. Although it's hard to believe, the monumental building has been previously used for bicycle storage. Architects Merkx and Girod gave the interior of the store a full makeover and turned it into one of the most amazing bookstores worldwide. The task wasn't an easy one, maintaining the unique character of the church and creating a modern bookstore within its core is a true challenge.

Selexyz Domincanen MaastrichtWe can safely say that they have succeeded and their effort has been appreciated by all the visitors of the bookstore and also by awarding them the the Lensvelt de Architect Interior Prize 2007. Originally, the church only offered 750 m2 of floor area, which wasn't sufficient. To overcome this obstacle, a multi-floor steel structure carrying most of the books has been raised along the walls. The space problem has been thus solved by taking advantage of the monumental ceiling of the old church and using the available vertical space. The visitors can use the stairs or take an elevator and climb to the roof of the church while browsing books and at the same time admiring the majestic view below them. Selexyz Domincanen MaastrichtThe interior itself is designed in a very simple and modern manner which doesn't interfere with the historical setting. The huge shelves are plain black and made of steel, the massive walls behind them are made of solid stone. The resulting effect is a pleasant contrast which enables you to fully appreciate both the modern and the historical.

In the case of Selexyz Dominicanen, the words "sanctuary of books" are not a mere metaphor.

The Bookàbar Bookshop, Rome

The Bookàbar BookshopLocated in the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, the largest inter-disciplinary exhibition area in central Rome, the Bookabar Bookshop definitely deserves a mention as one of the most impressive bookstores appearance wise. The whole Palazzo has been designed by Firouz Galdo, an architect from Rome. The bookstore, accompanied by a bar, spreads on some four hundred and fifty square meters (just a little less than 5000 square feet).

The Bookàbar BookshopThe Bookàbar BookshopThe fact that it's closely associated with artistic exhibitions and becomes pretty obvious upon entering, since it is a work of art itself. The surroundings seem surreal: spacious with white walls and shelves among which many books find their place, the curved ceiling with modern lightning in three rooms of which the bookstore consists, this bookstore is indeed an appeal to every eye which craves for a modern look. The snow-white interior and minimalistic design make the exposed books naturally shine and stand out in this 'one of a kind' bookstore.

Being relatively new, the Bookabar Bookshop will certainly draw more attention in the future and perhaps we have made one of the first steps of placing this bookstore in a place it truly deserves to be - among one of the best looking bookstores in Europe.

Daunt Books, London

Daunt Books LondonFor the next bookstore on our list we are moving to London. The city of London has a whole collection of exceptional bookstores, and logically enough, books in English are not as rare as in continental Europe... However, our choice in the "impressive appearance" Top 5 unhesitatingly fell on Daunt Books.

Daunt Books LondonLocated in central London, in the Marylebone High Street, this independent bookstore is a true gem. Daunt Books LondonThis bookstore almost manages to provide its visitors with a time-travel experience, since they find themselves immersed in London from the beginning of the 20th century. The elegant Edwardian interior with its almost endless rows of shelves and impressive galleries, both made of oak wood, underline the majestic look. The unique arrangement of books, where all the genres are displayed according to countries, also contributes to the overall atmosphere of singularity. Streams of natural light pouring down from the glass skylights symbolize the enlightement you're about to experience while browsig through the store's carefully selected offer.

Daunt Books also maintains a strict no-music policy, which helps to create a calm ambience, so much different from the lively streets of the city. Three floors of elegance, history and knowledge and a peaceful refuge in the middle of London. See for yourself.

Galignani, Paris

Galignani ParisThere were several canditates for the last available spot on our list. In the end, Galignani from Paris managed to break its way through. Galignani is the first English bookstore established on the continent, and besides a rich history it also offers a aesthetic experience to remember.

Librairie Galignani ParisFor Galignani, even the first impression counts, and the owner of this bookstore makes sure that once you pass by it, you will be tempted to enter. Special care payed to the window displays at Galignani is a part of the bookstore's tradition and you can check out some of their impressive captures on their website.

Librairie Galignani ParisHidden behind old arches, Galignani is situated at Rue Rivoli since 1856 and its interior breathes with history. The long wooden shelves along with the mezzanine create an air of exclusiveness, style and elegance. The offer of the bookstore is mostly praised for its wide selection of books on art, and it is also a favorite place for many artists and fashion designers to browse. If there was a category based solely on elegance, Galignani would undisputedly occupy one of the initial positions. To view a video of the Galignani bookstore, visit their official website.

Check out our other Top5s:

Top 5: Travel Bookstores

Top 5: Oldest Bookstores on the Continent
(with an Additional Reader's Pick)

Top 5: Central Europe

Back to the list of all Top5 categories

Pasajes Libreria Internacional, Madrid

Pasajes libreria madrid logo
Where? Madrid

Recommended by
Miguel Marcos

Miguel said: "Pasajes sells books in Spanish and other languages, including English. They have a good fiction section."

This bookstore is known all over Madrid for its international character, since it offers books in English, French, Italian, German, Portuguese, Catalonian and even Russian. It's very popular among students of foreign languages as well, since they stock all sorts of dictionaries, language resources and study books. Besides the teaching materials, the English section contains several other fictional and non-fictional categories. The fiction section consists mainly of a fine choice of classic and modern authors, you can also find science fiction and fantasy, or a separate corner dedicated to children's books. Pasajes can also pride itself on its humanities section, which is divided into philosophy, history, politics, sociology, psychology and religion. In fact, many locals claim that Pasajes offers the most extensive selection of books in English in the city. Movies, audio books and magazines in English and other featured languages can also be found in this smaller version of Babylon.The bookstore only offers new books at regular prices, but the selection is anything but regular.

Located close to the Alonso Martinez metro station, this bookstore which truly deserves the right to call itself international occupies two floors in Genova street.

Pasajes Libreria Internacional MadridPasajes Libreria Internacional

C/ Genova 3,
28004 Madrid


Phone and Email:
(+34) 91 310 12 45

Working Hours:
Mon-Fri: 10-20

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