The Best Travel Bookshops

Back in 2011, the cynical take on the demise of Notting Hill’s Travel Bookshop was that the market had spoken. After all, rarely are we parted from our phones or iPads, even on holiday—who needs travel books when you can Google your destination or have a look on Twitter or Instagram? If one of the world’s most famous bookshops couldn’t stay afloat, they said, what hope for the rest of them?

Real travellers know better. The good news is that the best travel bookshops are presently thriving, suggesting there’s still a healthy market for a more contemplative approach to travel plans. The real feel-good factor of a great travel bookshop is the fact that there’s almost as much fun in the research and anticipation as there is in the trip itself. Here are our favourites…

Shakespeare and Company, Paris

Famously provides free board for its volunteer staff, but unless you are on a year out, you’ll probably be happy just to visit. Wanderlust is a part of the ethos of the whole place, so the travel-writing section is a stand-out, and the shop’s distinctive stamp is the mark of any well-travelled library. Travel writing is divided into journeys “by foot”, “by beast” and “by machine”, which gives pause for thought in planning your next jaunt. The sociable opening hours (it’s open till 11 every night) and number of cosy corners in which to perch make it the perfect place to lose a few hours hard at work on “research”. 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris; shakespeareandcompany.com

Stanley & Livingstone, The Hague

This is the diplomat’s choice of bookshops, and a favourite of The Hague’s huge expat community. Their vast selection of maps (new and vintage) and guides make it a treasure trove, whether for collecting or more practical purposes. Schoolstraat 21, 2511 AW Den Haag; stanley-livingstone.eu

City Lights, San Francisco

As publisher of Allen Ginsberg, Frank O’Hara and many more, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and his bookstore City Lights (named after the Chaplin film) occupy a legendary place in the history of Beat writing. As both an independent publisher and bookshop, it’s retained its place as the centre of San Francisco literary life for 60 years. Kerouac and friends have their own floor. 261 Columbus Avenue at Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133; citylights.com

Book Soup, Los Angeles

Part of the charm of Book Soup is the unexpectedness of such a brilliant literary bookstore amidst the neon billboards of Sunset Boulevard. Booksellers to the “great and infamous” since 1975, they now have a lively LAX branch, so just when you think you cannot possibly carry any more, you can smuggle home a few more slim ones. 8818 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069; booksoup.com

Robinson Crusoe 389, Istanbul

A calm roof garden, great stock in both English and Turkish and a location on the top floor of one of Istanbul’s must-see contemporary spaces, Salt. It’s also within strolling distance of Soho House, so you can retire to the pool-with-a-view, in possession of your new reading material. 4th floor, 136 Istiklal St, Beyoglu, Istanbul 34433; rob389.com

Stanfords, London

Originally dealing in maps (which remain a specialism), this place has been part of London’s landscape since 1853. Explorers may have finished mapping the globe, but Stanfords retains an infectious sense of excitement about travel. Their kids’ gifts are also brilliant for inspiring the next Captain Scott or Amelia Earhart. 12-14 Long Acre, Covent Garden, London WC2E 9LP; stanfords.co.uk

By Olivia Cole

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