Thanks to social networks we have had the opportunity to see numerous images of beautiful cities turned into libraries . And the truth is that these cities in the books look beautiful in photographs, but they should be more so in real life. For this reason, our intention with this article is not that you just think “oh, how beautiful” when you see the photos, but that your curiosity is aroused and you look for a way to get there. Luckily, many of these paper cities (or towns) are tantalizingly close to some of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. Here we leave you a list of the most charming book cities in the world . Each description explains how far away are the main cities and nearby airports, so that you can more easily plan your trip for book lovers.
1. Hay-on-Wye (UK)
Hay-on-Wye is considered the first of the world’s book cities . Established in the 1970s on the border between Wales and England, it has become so famous that it has its own literary festival, the Hay festival. You can find all the necessary information on how to get to Hay and activities to do there in this article.
2. Jinbōchō (Japan)
Although Hay-on-Wye has always been believed to pioneer the book cities, the fact is that the Tokyo neighborhood of Jinbōchō became a flourishing bookstore much earlier, in the early 19th century. XX. Jinbōchō’s beginnings as a publishing district date back to 1913, when university professor Shigeo Iwanami opened a small publishing house and inspired other publishers to do the same. Bookstores and cafes soon followed. Therefore, around 1920, the district attracted many students and people with higher education and became a cultural neighborhood.
Today, there are more than 170 second-hand bookstores and publishing houses in the Jinbōchō neighborhood. Most are around the intersection of Yasukuni and Hakusan streets, and many of them offer books in other languages. Among the bookstores worth visiting are: At Wonder (the one with outdoor shelves), Bunken Shoin and Yaguchi Bookstore .
- Location : Jinbōchō Metro, north of the Imperial Palace. A 25-minute walk from Tokyo’s main train station.
3. Urueña (Spain)
Just two hours by car from Madrid, in the Community of Castilla y León we can find this beautiful medieval town. The small town has 200 inhabitants and 12 second-hand and antique bookstores. The idea of transforming Urueña into the first of the cities of books in Spain arose in 2007. The professor at the University of Valladolid Jorge Manrique proposed it to the city council, which did not hesitate to support the initiative and subsidize it. Thanks to this, the quintessential Spanish “Villa del Libro” attracts an increasing number of book lovers. Urueña bookstores specialize in used books and rarities . One of the places that is most worth visiting is the E-LEA center, a 1200 square meter space where, in addition to selling books , exhibitions and workshops on reading and writing are held.
- Location: 200 kilometers from Madrid and 28 kilometers from Valladolid Airport.
4. Óbidos (Portugal)
Óbidos is the youngest of the cities in the books on this list, but its literary history dates back to Roman times. The project to convert the city into Vila Literária began in 2013, at the hands of the Óbidos City Council and the Ler Devagar bookstore. In October, the city of Óbidos welcomes book lovers from all over the world to its own literary festival , the largest in all of Portugal: The Óbidos International Literary Festival .
- Location: 85 kilometers from Lisbon (about 45 minutes by car). The closest airport is Lisba Portela
5. Redu (Belgium)
Redu is a small town of 400 inhabitants in the Ardennes region of Belgium and is considered the first city of books on the European continent. It was established in 1984 with an exhibition held over Easter that attracted some 15,000 visitors. Currently, there are 24 second-hand book stores offering new, used, antique, rarity, and even comic books. Add cozy cafes, good restaurants and craft markets, and you’ll understand why more than 200,000 book lovers visit them every year. It deserves to go to know it especially during its literary festival (Fête du Livre), which is celebrated every year during Holy Week.
- Location: 130 kilometers from Brussels. The closest airport is Brussels South (Charleroi).
6. Mundal (Norway)
Mundal is located in Fjærland, in the Sogne Fjord and very close to the Jostedalsbreen glacier. It was christened “The Norwegian City of Books” in 1995. The small town has only 300 inhabitants, and it is rumored throughout the country that it is probably “the most beautiful bookstore in all of Norway”. Mundal bookstores are curious that they are located in abandoned buildings , from old shipyards to old bank or post office branches. In total, Mundal offers two and a half kilometers of shelves full of books throughout the city
- Location: 250 kilometers from Bergen (4 hours by car or boat)