11 Unusual Bookstores You Can Visit

Sure you can buy books on Amazon, but nothing compares to going to a bookstore and picking out the right title by hand. Here are some unique bookstores that are filled with as much charm as they are books. 


This Rio de Janeiro bookstore features a rainbow made of books that wraps around the shop. Although those titles are not for sale, there are plenty of options available on the ground floor. Despite its large size, the creators wanted the store to feel cozy and welcoming. Color is an important theme of the establishment: The top-floor children’s section also features a multi-hued, striped seating area. 


Bookstores can be located in just about about any kind of building. Waanders In de Broeren has taken up residence in a renovated 15th-century cathedral northeast of Amsterdam in the municipality of Zwolle. The store preserved a lot of the church’s original features, including the nave and enormous wood organ. "We wanted all the additions made to the church to be sober, in respect to the church, modest," the architects explained


This decommissioned postal train in Auvers-Sur-Oise, France, is filled to the gills with books. It may not look like much from the outside, but La Caverne aux Livres—The Cave of Books—is home to thousands of books from all genres and eras.


Former journalist Sarah Henshaw didn't know much about boats, or owning a business, when she first opened the Book Barge in 2009. She gutted a canal boat that she bought with money borrowed from her parents, and filled it with donated books that were given in response to a plea in a newspaper. Today the floating bookshop sells carefully curated books that stray from the bestseller list. Visitors can climb aboard at the Barton Marina in Staffordshire, England, on Saturdays. 


If you want to truly be surrounded by books, consider Livraria da Vila. This São Paulo bookstore is housed in a uniquely structured building with revolving bookshelves that make up the storefront. The multi-level former house also has books lining the space from floor to ceiling, and a large circular hole in between the first floor and basement that's also lined in books. 


As the name suggests, William Faulkner once inhabited this New Orleans apartment. Although he only stayed for six months in 1925, the space kept its literary ties. Owners Joe DeSalvo and Rosemary James fixed up the apartment and transformed it into a bookstore that carries rare publications, first edition classics, and books by and about Faulkner. It’s said that the ghost of the writer still hangs around some of the female staff, and occasionally hits on them. 


Nestled in a historic mansion on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, this French and English bookshop—a project of the French embassy—is as charming as it gets. The upstairs has a beautiful zodiac mural overhead, reminiscent of the one in Grand Central. The fresco is inspired by the Italian Renaissance, when the line between science and poetry was much fuzzier. 


Bart’s Books is said to be the largest independently owned and operated outdoor bookstore in the country. Richard Bartinsdale opened the store in Ojai, California, in the '60s, when he found his personal collection was getting overwhelming. Bartinsdale initially used coffee cans instead of a register; the honor system is still in place today. With books as cheap as 35 cents, it's easy enough to cough up the change.


Literary New Yorkers have long known of the book speakeasy Brazenhead Books, once tucked away in a rent-controlled apartment. “Some nights, it’s more like a book nightclub than a bookstore,” owner Michael Seidenberg told The New York Times. The store was recently forced to close after the landlord evicted Seidenberg, but he is currently looking for a new location for his book collection.


Previously a firehouse, Spotty Dog Books & Ale in Hudson, New York, now operates as a bar-bookstore hybrid that lets you grab a beer while you peruse the shelves. The bar prides itself on serving a wide variety of craft beers, mostly from nearby breweries. Members of the former firehouse, C.H. Evans Hook & Ladder Co., will sometimes revisit the bar and reminisce over a beer. 


Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice, Italy, is known for its unusual book storage solutions. Visitors can rummage through books kept in bathtubs, boats, and other unusual containers. The nautically themed bookstore even has a full-sized gondola that floats when the store floods (the name literally means “library of high water”). This fantastic bookshop will probably have any book you need, but those with allergies should steer clear: Besides the thick coat of dust, there are also a number of cats prowling around the shelves.

Morfeus Arkitekter. Photo: Silja Lena Løken / Statens vegvesen
Norway Opens Another Spectacular Roadside Bathroom
Morfeus Arkitekter. Photo: Silja Lena Løken / Statens vegvesen
Morfeus Arkitekter. Photo: Silja Lena Løken / Statens vegvesen

Norway’s National Tourist Routes will change how you think about rest stops. As part of a decades-long program, the Norwegian government has been hiring architects and designers to create beautiful roadside lookouts, bathrooms, and other amenities for travelers along 18 scenic highways throughout the country. One of the latest of the projects unveiled, spotted by Dezeen, is a glitzy restroom located on the Arctic island of Andøya in northern Norway.

The facility, designed by the Oslo-based Morfeus Arkitekter, is located near a rock formation called Bukkekjerka, once used as a sacrificial site by the indigenous Sami people. The angular concrete and steel structure is designed to fit in with the jagged mountains that surround it.

The mirrored exterior wall of the bathroom serves a dual purpose. On the one hand, it reflects the scenery around the building, helping it blend into the landscape. But it also has a hidden feature. It’s a one-way mirror, allowing those inside the restroom to have a private view out over the ocean or back into the mountains while they pee.

The newly landscaped rest area near the bathroom will serve as an event space in the future. The Bukkekjerka site is already home to an annual open-air church service, and with the new construction, the space will also be used for weddings and other events. Because this is the Arctic Circle, though, the restroom is only open in the late spring and summer, closing from October to May. Check it out in the photos below.

A bathroom nestled in a hilly landscape
Morfeus Arkitekter. Photo: Hugo Fagermo / Statens vegvesen

The mirrored facade of a rest stop reflects concrete steps leading down a pathway.
Morfeus Arkitekter. Photo: Hugo Fagermo / Statens vegvesen

A person stands outside the bathroom's reflective wall.
Morfeus Arkitekter. Photo: Hugo Fagermo / Statens vegvesen

A wide view of a rest stop at the base of a coastal mountain
Morfeus Arkitekter. Photo: Trine Kanter Zerwekh / Statens vegvesen

[h/t Dezeen]

Norway's New Hotel in the Arctic Circle Will Produce More Energy Than It Uses

A new hotel coming to Norway’s section of the Arctic Circle will be more than just a place to stay for a stunning fjord view. The Svart hotel, which is being billed as the world’s first "energy-positive" hotel, is designed to “set a new standard in sustainable travel,” according to Robb Report.

Built by a tourism company called Arctic Adventure Norway and designed by Snøhetta, an international architecture firm headquartered in Oslo, it’s one of the first buildings created according to the standards of Powerhouse, a coalition of firms (including Snøhetta) devoted to putting up buildings that will produce more power over the course of 60 years than they take to build, run, and eventually demolish. It will be located on a fjord at the base of Svartisen, one of the largest glaciers on Norway’s mainland and part of Saltfjellet-Svartisen National Park.

A hotel stretches out above the water of a fjord.

The design of the hotel is geared toward making the facility as energy-efficient as possible. The architects mapped how the Sun shines through the mountains throughout the year to come up with the circular structure. When the Sun is high in the winter, the terraces outside the rooms provide shadows that reduce the need for air conditioning, while the windows are angled to catch the low winter Sun, keeping the building warm during cold Arctic winters. In total, it is expected to use 85 percent less energy than a traditional hotel.

The sun reflects off the roof of a hotel at the base of a glacier on a sunny day.

Svart will also produce its own energy through rooftop solar panels, though it won’t have excess energy on hand year-round. Since it’s located in the Arctic Circle, the hotel will have an abundance of sunlight during the summer, at which point it will sell its excess energy to the local electricity grid. In the winter, when it’s too dark for solar energy production, the hotel will buy energy back from the grid. Over the course of the year, it will still produce more energy than it uses, and over time, it will eventually produce enough excess energy to offset the energy that was used to build the structure (including the creation of the building materials).

“Building in such a precious environment comes with some clear obligations in terms of preserving the natural beauty and the fauna and flora of the site,” Snøhetta co-founder Kjetil Trædal Thorsen explains in the firm’s description of the design. “Building an energy-positive and low-impact hotel is an essential factor to create a sustainable tourist destination respecting the unique features” of the area.

Svart is set to open in 2021.

[h/t Robb Report]


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