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Read Your Way Around the World

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Does the scent of a new book make your heart skip a beat?  Do you spend hours lingering over the shelves at your local bookstore?  If you answered yes to either of these questions, grab your passport and join us for a virtual journey through some of the world’s most enchanting bookstores. 

El Ateneo Grand Splendid, Buenos Aires, Argentina

For our first stop, we’re exploring a bookstore that began its life as a theater over 100 years ago! Built in 1919, El Ateneo Grand Splendid wasn’t your typical theater—it doubled as both a traditional theater for live performances AND a movie theater, or cine as they say in Argentina.  Unlike other theaters, El Ateneo’s designers went all out to create the most lavish and beautifully decorated entertainment spot. Balconies adorn the oval-shaped theater where spectators are surrounded by glittery gold embellishments. Each level features a unique design and the ceiling is covered in frescoes.

Center stage in El Ateneo is, well, a stage.  When the theater was converted into a bookstore the stage remained, complete with a red velvet curtain, offering modern-day visitors a peek at the bookstore café.  It’s easy to envision the actors peeking out from behind the curtain, getting ready for their big debut.

Today, El Ateneo is one of Argentina’s most cherished historical sites.  Instead of movie-goers, books wait patiently in its aisles.  The store even has its own section dedicated to los niños, decorated with jungle scenes and filled with books to satisfy every young reader.  But if you thought a movie theater was the coolest setting for a bookstore, think again.  At our next stop, you’ll delve even deeper into the wonderful world of books.

Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice, Italy

Imagine a bookstore that is literally swimming in books.  The Libreria Acqua Alta offers a sea of books, hidden in one of the most magical cities on Earth—Venice, Italy.  A city built atop a lagoon, a gondola is how you get from place to place in this city. This boat is specially designed to navigate the twisty turns of the city’s famed canals and we’re riding our gondola over to the Libreria Acqua Alta.

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The Libreria Acqua Alta sits unsuspectingly along the canal.  When you walk through the front doors, you are greeted by a tidal wave of books, mountains higher than you, and around every corner are new treasures just waiting to be discovered: old ships’ wheels, paintings of the Venetian canals, and statues donning carnevale masks.  In the middle of the store is a gondola, complete with a candy striped pole and gondolier’s hat.  The gondola is filled to the brim with books, as are many other boats and even a bathtub! 

Why keep your books in a boat?  The secret is in the store’s name.  Acqua alta means high water in Italian.  As a city of canals, Venice has a history of intense flooding.  The bookstore itself has fallen victim to these floods, and storing books in a boat will stop them from floating away!  When the store isn’t floating, you can catch a spectacular view of the canals by climbing this staircase built from discarded books. 

Now let’s hop back on our gondola and travel across Europe and into Asia for our next destination.

Poplar Kid’s Republic, Beijing, China

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then is a picture book worth a million?  We’re not sure, but we do know where you can find a store solely dedicated to picture books.  The capital of China, Beijing is famous for creative and futuristic architecture.  Among the most captivating is the Poplar Kid’s Republic, a children’s bookstore built in 2005. 

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Poplar Kid’s Republic is no ordinary bookstore.  Besides the fact that it only sells picture books, the store uses all of the colors of the rainbow to create a fun and magical environment to spark your imagination.  Bright colors pop off the walls, floor, and ceiling.  A rainbow reading room invites you to sit and enjoy a new book.  Nestled in between book cubbies are reading bubbles, where you can curl up and read.  The shelves even form rainbow hills and valleys that are perfect to play on or act out your favorite story. 

Still not feeling fulfilled? We’ve got one more stop on this magical tour that we think you’ll be truly enchanted by.

Livraria Cultura, São Paulo, Brazil

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It’s no secret that Brazil is home to a wide array of fascinating creatures.  From pink river dolphins to jaguars, the wildlife is as unique as the country itself; but visit Livraria Cultura and you’ll find an unexpected kingdom of creatures—those of the mythical and prehistoric variety.

Walking through the front door you’ll be greeted by an enormous wooden dragon, hovering high overhead. It’s like something out of a fairy tale. Climbing the stairs it almost feels like you’re soaring alongside a newfound friend on a quest for the perfect book. Next, make your way to the children’s section where a dinosaur is waiting to be discovered.  Don’t worry, he won’t bite. In fact, you can crawl inside, pull up a comfy bean bag, and curl up with your favorite book.

Whether you’re looking for the latest bestseller or you’re just in love with the smell of a vintage book, take some travel time to browse bookstores on your next trip. You may just discover one of the world’s most enchanting bookstores—if you do, share your secret with us in the comments!

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