8 Cool Bookstores and Libraries You Can Spend the Night In
To a bookworm, nowhere feels more like home than a bookstore, a library, or any other place stacked floor to ceiling with reading material. And if you’re heading far from home, you may find yourself wishing you could spend your nights among bookshelves instead of in unfamiliar hotels.
Depending on where you go, you might be able to live out this dream: There are a number of bookstores and libraries around the world that offer overnight accommodations. From Gladstone’s Library in Wales to the Tsutaya Book Apartment in Tokyo, here are eight worth visiting.
1. Gladstone’s Library // Hawarden, Wales
In the late 19th century, former UK prime minister William Gladstone began moving books from his private library in Wales’s Hawarden Castle to a more public location, so everyone could peruse them. He left a generous endowment so the endeavor could be finished after his death, and a library built in his honor opened its doors in 1902. His family added a residential wing a few years later, which still hosts book lovers today.
In addition to gaining access to more than 150,000 books and other written works in Gladstone’s collections, you’ll also get to hang out in the stately Reading Rooms and dine in the bistro (charmingly named Food for Thought). And to uphold Gladstone’s commitment to breaking down financial barriers for academics, the Library offers a number of discounts and even scholarships for prospective visitors.
2. Shakespeare and Company // Paris, France
George Whitman established his Paris bookshop, Shakespeare and Company, in 1951 with a motto befitting his own troubadour spirit: “Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise.” Anyone was welcome to stay for free, provided that they read a book every day, lend a hand in the bookstore for a couple hours, and leave behind a page-long autobiography so Whitman had a record of all these so-called “Tumbleweeds.” The tradition is still going strong, and the bookshop has hosted some 30,000 Tumbleweeds over the past 70 years.
Accommodations are somewhat cramped and very communal, which makes for an especially authentic bohemian experience. “Privacy is not really an option!” the website says. If you’re interested in being a Tumbleweed yourself, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org with “Tumbleweed” in the subject line for details.
3. Sylvia Beach Hotel // Newport, Oregon
Whitman’s inspiration was Sylvia Beach, who founded the original Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris in 1919. The shop was a hub for all the legendary Americans in Paris—Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, T.S. Eliot, and so on—until the Nazis took over the city in 1941. Beach’s name lives on in Oregon’s Sylvia Beach Hotel, a quaint beachfront inn that’s about as book-themed as you can get. Each room is themed for a different writer, including everyone from Emily Dickinson and Shakespeare to Ken Kesey and Amy Tan. There are also plenty of Beach’s 20th-century contemporaries on the list.
Overlooking the ocean on the third floor is the library, full of books, puzzles, homey armchairs and sofas, and a strict no-phones rule. In fact, the Sylvia Beach Hotel doesn’t offer Wi-Fi anywhere, and you won’t find TVs or telephones in its rooms. What it does offer is a chance to truly unplug (and also free breakfast served in its “Tables of Content” restaurant).
4. Tsutaya Book Apartment // Tokyo, Japan
The Tsutaya Book Apartment gives visitors a chance to escape from the urban commotion of Tokyo’s bustling Shinjuku for as long as they want—it’s open 24 hours a day, and you pay by the hour. Choose a cushioned bench among the bookshelves or shell out a little extra for a private booth; there’s also a women-only floor, showers, and luggage storage options. You can’t currently make a reservation through the website, but you’re able to request one via email: Scroll down to “If you do not know how to book, click here” on the site to generate an email template you can fill out with details.
5. The Literary Man Óbidos Hotel // Óbidos, Portugal
Near a castle in Portugal’s 700-year-old town Óbidos is The Literary Man, a hotel that boasts a collection of more than 70,000 books. They’re showcased on shelves lining virtually every wall, and the cozy furniture invites you to plop down and stick your nose in a story wherever you are. To drive home the literary theme, the cocktail menu features drinks named for famous writers and works, from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Moby-Dick.
6. The Open Book // Wigtown, Scotland
Wigtown lives up to its designation as Scotland’s National Book Town in more ways than one. But the best may be The Open Book, a bookshop where you can live out your dreams of being a bookseller without upending your entire life. Guests stay in the apartment above the shop, which they can open and run whenever they like; one guest kept it open until midnight “just because we can!” To say the reviews are glowing is a bit of an understatement. “This is a wonderful, magical experience in a wonderful, magical town,” one wrote. “The magic grows on you as you become, albeit too briefly, part of the fabric of the town. We truly felt embraced and cared about.”
7. La Librairie // Paris, France
Former residents of Paris’s very trendy Marais district include Honoré de Balzac, Victor Hugo, and Colette—which makes it an especially apt location for bookish accommodations. La Librairie is a spacious suite that blends the charm of an old-fashioned Parisian bookshop with modern-day creature comforts: a Nespresso machine, a Bose sound system, free Wi-Fi, and walls specially insulated to keep the street clamor from disturbing your quiet reading time. Bookshelves line the walls of every room—bathroom included—so you may have no need for the fancy flat-screen TV in the living room.
8. Book and Bed // Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo’s Book and Bed proves that all you need out of a hostel is a comfortable bed and a good book to help you unwind between busy days. Inside, minimalist sleeping berths are tucked between wooden shelves filled with thousands of books in Japanese and English; and you’ll also have access to a shower and a café. Jet-setting to another part of Japan? If you’re lucky, there might be a Book and Bed where you’re going—there’s another location in Osaka and a third coming soon in Kyoto.