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.

A Report from Barcelona

Barcelona Catalunya SpainBarcelona, the capital of Catalunya, was the last city we visited during our summer road trip of 2009 which started in Brussels (it actually started in Vienna, but Brussels was our first true stop) and by the time we reached it, signs of exhaustion were beginning to show more insistently. Still, Barcelona, with the lazy mornings on La Rambla and breakfasts at the abundant food market known as La Boqueria, blazing heat in the afternoon and siestas in the park or at the crowded city beach, and the vibrant night-life, turned out to be a great final stop on our journey.

Once again, as for all the previous big cities we have visited, we tried to wrap up our impressions regarding the local English bookstore scene. You can notice that the number of bookstores visited is lower than usual, but trust us, it wasn't for the lack of trying, as we explain further in the text.

Altair BarcelonaWe were really looking forward to visiting the Altair bookstore in Barcelona. It’s the only specialized travel bookstore we have visited on our summer road trip and many people have praised it. And from the moment we entered the store, we were pretty much sure that we’ll join the numerous ranks of those who praise this bookstore, and we do so gladly, because Altair deserves all the recognition it gets.

If you’re planning a trip to a foreign country, this place is perfect to begin your quest and pre-departure research. It’s not only the amount of information that is available for any given region or country that makes this place so special, as many people could argue that you can simply find all that stuff on the web. It’s the absorbing atmosphere of this bookstore that makesAltair travel bookshop Barcelona every visit a memorable one. This bookstore will make you eager to pack your bag and visit other places even if you had no such thing on your mind upon entering. Two floors of the Altair bookstore are packed with information and perhaps even more importantly also with inspiration.
Bonus info: the picture that you can see at the top of each page of this blog has been taken in Altair.

BCN Barcelona bookstoreThe walk to one of the three locations of BCN Books in Barcelona has been quite a long one, but we were rewarded by some unique architectural sights of the city. The BCN bookstore we’ve visited was the one located at Roger de Llúria 118. This two-storey bookstore occupies a very nice building on the street corner and you can peak in through the huge shop windows. The bookstore itself seemed like a nice place to browse and we especially enjoyed the relaxed Barcelona BCN Booksatmosphere. While we were flipping through the pages of some books on the history of Barcelona, both of the staff members were reading their own books. This doesn't mean that they weren't doing their job. On the contrary, we had a nice informative chat with them once we got there.
As for the stock of the bookstore, we liked the section dedicated to Catalunya and Barcelona, the bookstore also has a very decent fiction section and an extensive selection of ELT materials, study books etc. The only section that could use some improvement in our point of view was the non-fiction section.

Laie BarcelonaAnother bookstore which we have visited in Barcelona was named Laie and although we didn't write a post about it in the Guide, it's definitely worth a mention in this report. This bookstore has several locations in Barcelona and even one in Madrid, but Laie bookstores definitely don't fall into the "usual chain bookstore" category, as all the branches we have seen had a very nice and distinct ambiance. The only reason why we decided against adding Laie to our database is its rather limited stock of English titles, but if you're looking for a good selection of titles in either Spanish or Catalan, then we can only recommend it.

The next two bookstores on our Barcelona list were supposed to be among the bookstore highlights of our whole road trip but, in the end, they rank among the biggest disappointments. Both of these bookstores represent the best spots when it comes to second-hand English titles in Barcelona and probably even in the whole of Spain. Unfortunately for us, we found both of their doors closed at the time of our visit and the circumstances made this fact even more bitter. Hibernian Books has closed for holidays only a day before we elephant Books closedcame to visit it and, as we found out later from the owners, it has been the first time ever the bookstore has been closed since its opening in May 2004. The impression that our bookstore luck is running out has only been confirmed after walking to the location of the Elephant bookstore, another place with a reputation of an English second-hand wonderland. We were greeted by closed door and a "for rent" sign in Catalan. As we found out on their website in a nearby internet cafe, Elephant was being moved to a different location and here comes the bad luck part - they closed the old location two days before our arrival...

Watergate BarcelonaAfter the previous experience we weren't the least surprised to find another bookstore we wanted to visit closed twice. The Watergate Bookshop (NOW CLOSED!!) wasn't originally on our bookstore list - we stumbled upon it accidentally while roaming around Plaça Catalunya and we were really intrigued by its name and very limited working hours. However, we did make it inside after all and we can say that this bookstore offers a very refreshing The Watergate Bookshop Interiorexperience. Its owner has put together a rather eclectic collection of books and items which are quite far from the usual offer you may find at your local bookstore. The interior of the bookstore is also very visually compelling, so although its size is limited, you will surely enjoy browsing around for a while. The Watergate Bookshop is a place which in our point of view manages to keep interested even those who don't consider bookstores one of their favorite places to spend their free time, and that's definitely a good thing.

Barcelona is a great city and a very popular tourist destination and we can reassure you that if you find yourselves in need of English reading material, it won't disappoint you either. We were mostly impressed by Altair, a bookstore we recommend every traveler to add among the must sees of the city. Moreover, we regret not being able to visit the second-hand English bookstores which both look more than promising (Elephant and Hibernian) but then again, at least we have two more reasons to return to Barcelona...

European bookstoresSince this report is the last one from our summer road trip of 2008, we can't resist the temptation to summarize. We've covered our impressions from the anglophone bookstore scene in each of the major cities we visited in a series of reports (in chronological order: Report from Brussels, Report from Paris, Report from Madrid and finally the article you're reading at this very moment - Report from Barcelona). We've visited many bookstores, some of which were really exceptional, we've bought some good books on the way and most importantly, we've had a great time.

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Check out our Reports from other European cities.

Libreria Internazionale Marco Polo, Venice

Internazionale Marco Polo logo

Venice, Italy

Visited: January 2009

Libreria Internazionale Marco Polo is the sister bookstore of the Libreria Marco Polo in Venice and is located in the central part of the city in the Cannaregio district.

The International Bookstore Marco Polo is located in one of the narrow streets in Venice near the Teatro Malibran - it is also interesting to note that Marco Polo, the famous traveler himself, lived in the district (just behind the theater itself). Marco Polo is run by Claudio Moretti, a local and proud Venetian book enthusiast, also fluent in English and French and known for his warm hospitality.

This bookstore is an ideal place for independent bookstore admirers, mainly for the following (and obvious) reasons: its cozy and homely atmosphere, the smell of used books and the surrounding air of languages and knowledge. The orientation in this small store is made easier by arrows which point to the desired section.

The International Bookshop Marco Polo is a home to both new and secondhand books in four major European languages: Italian, English, French and German. Their English language section is quite an impressive one - ranging from fiction and even children's books to biographies and books on history. However, Marco Polo seemed to be lacking a section with books on economics and politics, though a few of these could be found here and there as well. The bookstore also offers creative-writing classes.

The newest addition to the Libreria Internazionale Marco Polo is the tea corner, which offers free tea to the bookshop's customers - definitely a nice gesture to keep you warm and refreshed.

Libreria Internazionale Marco Polo VeneziaLibreria Internazionale Marco Polo
Cannaregio 5886/a
(Calle del Teatro Malibran)
International Bookshop Marco Polo Venice


Phone and Email:
+39 348 5691125

Working Hours:
Mon-Sat 10-19

Extra Information: Marco Polo offers a 10% discount to the students of the Venice International University

Back to the list of bookstores in Venice

Libreria Marco Polo, Venice

Libreria Marco Polo logo

Where? Venice, Italy

January 2009

Libreria Marco Polo is the sister bookstore of the Libreria Internazionale Marco Polo in Venice and it is located near the famous Rialto bridge in Castello.

Named after the great explorer and traveler, Marco Polo, it comes as no surprise that this bookstore specializes in none other than travel literature. Thus, it's by no means an understatement to say that this place is indeed a travelers' paradise. With walls covered in maps of various parts of the world, shelves filled with globes and books which celebrate cultures and diversity, anyone can enjoy the relaxed and cool atmosphere of this little store.

Marco Polo's specialty are books on Venice, maps of the city, guides and books on its history. Furthermore, this place is great if you're looking for a book with typical Venetian recipes - yes, Marco Polo stocks a nice selection of cookbooks regarding the Venetian cuisine. There is even a small literature section near the entrance but for a reasonably better offer, head on to Libreria Internazionale. The staff in Marco Polo speak several languages and are always more than willing to give you a hand at finding the one travel book you need.

Libreria Marco Polo is the first and only bookshop in the lovely city of Venice which specializes solely in travel literature: from maps (of cities, countries) to various guidebooks and travel books in many languages (mostly of course, Italian and English). The offer, consisting of both new and second hand books at reasonable prices, is more than satisfactory for anyone who desires travel related literature.

libreria marco polo veneziaLibreria Marco Polo
Castello 5469 (Salizada San Lio)
30122 VeneziaLibreria Marco Polo Venice


Phone and Email:
041 5226343

Working Hours:
Mon-Sat 9:30-20
Sun 11-19

Extra Information: Marco Polo offers 20% discount to the members of the Touring Club, 10% off to students and holders of the Cinema Card, 10% off on guides to the holders of the Prove card and 10% off on books on trekking and hiking to the members of Trekking Italia.

Back to the list of bookstores in Venice

Sweden Bookshop, Stockholm

sweden bookshop logo

Where? Stockholm, Sweden

Recommended by:
Christopher Sorensen

Christopher said: "Sweden Bookshop is a part of the Svenska Institutet (Swedish Instiute), a government sponsored institute which promotes Swedish language learning and Swedish culture. The Sweden Bookshop has a large selection of Swedish literature that has been translated to over 47 languages. This includes children's books by Astrid Lindgren, author of Pippi Longstockings, Selma Lagerlöf and other Swedish-language authors. There are also lots of coffee-table picture books about Sweden, Swedish history and culture."

Stockholm is a city which is very proud of its rich history and specific culture and the same thing can be said about Sweden as a country. Concentrating all the titles dealing with Sweden under one roof and making them available in a wide variety of languages is thus a great idea. If you wish to increase your knowledge on pretty much any subject related to Sweden, its history, literature or culture, the Sweden Bookshop in Stockholm definitely seems like a great place to start. As the name indicates, this rather small bookstore located in Stockholm's Old Town (Gamla Stan) above the tourist center is specialized in titles dealing with Sweden. The simple and clear motto of this bookstore says it all: Sweden in 47 languages.

The bookstore holds around three thousand titles and although its stock is focused on a very specific topic, it offers a great variety at the same time. It contains guide books, maps, coffee-table books, non-fiction books on Swedish culture, way of life, history, or economy, course books to help you learn Swedish, books on the Swedish cuisine and lots of translated works of the great figures of Swedish literary scene. The Sweden Bookshop is closely associated with the Swedish Institute and it also sells all of its publications. In addition to books, the store also offers posters, cards, souvenirs and also CDs and DVDs with Swedish music and movies.

Sweden Bookshop StockholmSweden Bookshop
Slottsbacken 10
Sweden Bookshop


Phone and Email:
+46 8 453 78 00

Working Hours:
Mon-Fri 10-18
Sat (July to Aug) 11-16

Back to the list of bookstores in Stockholm

A Report from Madrid

Bsg in MadridOur five days in Spain's capital were indeed relaxing, thanks to our host and the unexpectedly slow pace of this big city (Madrid is by no means a slow-paced city but after arriving from Paris, any city in Europe can seem that way. Perhaps most of the Spaniards took their time off in August so we were quite comfortable to enjoy our everyday siestas alone at the pool). We've also realized that the habit of having a daily siesta is quite enjoyable and we surely wouldn't mind if something similar would catch on in our home cities. On the other hand, when it came to gathering material for our Guide and this report, the siesta proved to be a rather unwanted complication on several occasions, as we found ourselves standing in front of the closed door of a bookstore anytime between 1 and 4 PM. Madrid is a city rich in shops - from bookstores to other types of stores, abundant in both malls and in cool independent stores. Indeed we have seen some interesting shop windows in Madrid and all this has made us realize how diverse and liberal the capital of Spain is.

Bookworld MadridWe started our Madrid bookstore quest in a bookstore with a very promising name - Bookworld and our initial expectations were only confirmed even before actually entering the bookstore. At the time of our visit, the featured book which the bookstore was promoting and which occupied one full shop window was Paul Auster's latest novel - Man in the Dark. Encouraged by this demonstration of interesting taste we entered and we have to say that the positive impact of this first Bookworld Madrid bookshopimpression carried on through the whole visit. Bookworld is not a one of a kind second-hand den full of surprises and unexpected finds, it's a well-organized bookstore which only sells new books. And we were really impressed by the fact that, to put it simply - they're really good at what they're doing. By then, we had seen many bookstores in the past days, and sometimes it could happen that some of them just ended up as a blurry memory, because nothing specific made them stand out. We remember Bookworld because of its added value - the friendly relaxed atmosphere, a great selection of nicely-displayed books, special offers for very friendly prices and all these features rank it among the bookstores that really pleased us.

Petra's International Bookshop logoThe second bookstore we visited was of a completely different sort than the first one. Petra's International Bookshop is the right place for all those bookstore explorers who find pleasure in browsing through piles of books with the hope of finding some rare gem. Petra's is not a place where you can just drop in for five minutes find the book you were looking for and leave. It is one of those bookstores where the search becomes an equally important part of the whole experience. And the fact that Petra’s Bookshop has been around for quite some time becomes more than obvious even before you spot the old pictures and cut-out newspaper articles displayed on a special notice board, because it’s reflected in the bookstore’s stock. Older second-hand bookstores tend to have a stock consisting of several layers,Petras International Bookshop Madrid which, to an experienced eye, can serve as an indication of the bookstore’s age. Of course, this gives the stock a specific character, and the browser an opportunity to find titles long out of stock at regular bookstores. Most of the titles are either English or Spanish but, if you're lucky, you might even be able to find some rarer languages such as Russian, Polish and even Serbian.

The next place we’re about to describe - J&J Books and Coffee, is definitely the most hip place with English books we J&J Bar Madridfound in Madrid. Suffice to say that our visit, which was a part of one of our long night strolls through the streets of Madrid, took place way past midnight. As the name suggests, J&J doesn’t only offer books – in fact, upon entering you’ll find yourself in a regular bar. However, there’s a small stall with several staff-picked titles near the entrance which you can’t miss, as well as an arrow directing you down to the underground bookstore. DueJ&J Bookshop Madrid to the late hour, we found ourselves all alone in the spacious basement filled with English titles. The white shelves lining the walls are filled with all sorts of English books, and we have to add that, for Madrid standards, they come at very affordable prices. There’s even one separate smaller room where all the books are offered at significantly reduced prices. So by the time we climbed back up to the lively ground floor where the barman was still serving drinks, we had our hands full of books.

Booksellers Bookshop MadridThe next day, we actually managed to wake up early enough to visit the next bookstore on our list - Booksellers before the afternoon siesta. Maybe it was caused by the fact that the whole city still seemed to be mostly at sleep or that we ourselves were rather burned out, but this bookstore hasn’t left such a deep impression on us. The place was empty during our visit and for some reason it seemed a bit sterile, meaning that it seemed to lack the usual specific atmosphere of a Booksellers Madridbookstore where the books are worshiped both by the staff and the visitors. We tend to believe that this feeling was just a matter of the bad timing of our visit. When it comes to the stock at Booksellers, it’s definitely the best place to go for those trying to improve their English language skills, as the offer of ELT materials, dictionaries and all sorts of course books was definitely the best one we’ve seen in Madrid. There also is a considerable fiction section and a few shelves of non-fiction titles, but we found this selection rather narrow, although sufficient to provide the customer with all the latest bestsellers and interesting new releases.

Lavapies MadridIt would be rather harsh to say that La Libreria de Lavapies turned out to be a disappointment, especially since we’re talking about a very nice independent bookstore located in the multicultural and extremely lively neighbourhood of Lavapies. It’s just that this bookstore is not among your top options if you’re looking for English books. We loved the atmosphere of this place and we’re pretty sure that when it comes to books in Spanish, Libreria Libreria de Lavapies Madridde Lavapies is the place to head to in this part of the city. However, the English section doesn’t match the rest of the bookstore’s offer neither in quality nor in scope. It’s concentrated in a small room and it consists of a rather poor selection of a few shelves filled with second-hand titles. But let us stress once again, that if you’re looking for a quality selection of titles in Spanish, you will surely appreciate this pretty independent bookstore a lot. The small square with a nice fountain right next to the bookstore is a great place to flip through the pages of the newly acquired books.

As our stay in Madrid only lasted for five days and there are simply too many attractions that this city has to offer, we weren’t able to see all the bookstores we intended to visit. However, from what we did manage to see, we can conclude that Madrid offers several interesting options to those searching for books in English. Whether you’re looking for a specific recently released title or you just feel like trying your luck on a random browse through piles of second-hand titles, we hope that our report will help you get a better idea as where to turn.

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Check out our Reports from other European cities.

Libreria Mondadori, Venice

Mondadori Venice Logo
Where? Venice, Italy

January 2009

While walking around in Venice, I accidentally stumbled upon Libreria Mondadori - a three floor building, the largest bookstore in the city and a home to thousands of books in various languages. Another interesting thing about this bookstore is that it's illuminated by natural light, which enters through huge windows and the glass ceiling i.e. a skylark on the top. so if the weather conditions are favorable you can enjoy your browsing in daylight.

The ground floor of the bookstore is primarily occupied by books on Venice (and Italy itself): guidebooks, calendars, books on the history of the city, the arts, people, etc. These can be found in Italian, English, German, French and many other languages. The second floor is home to fiction and non-fiction titles, with the Italian section occupying most of the space. In the far back, just past the internet spot (yes, there are computers you can use there), a small room holds mostly titles in English, German and French. Although small, the selection is well-worth checking out, as every passer-by in need of an English read should be able to find something for his or her liking.

This specific Mondadori bookstore can be found near the famous Piazza San Marco, in a building which formerly housed the San Marco cinema. The space has been turned into a huge bookstore which opened its door to visitors on the 13th of February 2004. Libreria Mondadori also plays an important role in the local cultural sphere as it organizes readings, discussions, conferences and other events usually related to litterature or the history of Venice, which are held at the SpazioEventi - a huge room of about 300 square meters above the bookstore. Besides the mentioned internet point there is also a reading room, so Libreria Mondadori really offers a complete service to all its visitors.

Libreria Mondadori VeneziaLibreria Mondadori
San Marco 1345
30124 Venezia
Mondadori Venice Italy


Phone and Email:
041 522 2193

Working Hours:
Low Season
Mon-Sat 10-19:30
Sun 11-19:30

High Season
Mon-Sat 10-20 (ground floor 10-23)
Sun 10-19:30