At Our Whole Village, we plan meaningful vacations for families who want to create lifelong memories and show their kids the world in a more conscious and intentional manner.
We help families take meaningful vacations so that they can escape everyday life, show their kids the world and make lifelong memories - with care, confidence and peace of mind.
Your (free) guide to the top travel destinations for families with babies, teens and everyone in between.
One of our favorite quotes about reading has an unknown author, but the words prove no less meaningful, “A library is full of new worlds to travel.” Many writers, from Charlaine Harris to Jhumpa Lahiri, have extolled the virtues of traveling through books without leaving home. But in recent years, many individuals have begun celebrating the joys of reading while on vacation, too.
After all, a vacation can be one of the best times to catch up on some of the books you’ve longed to explore. (Especially during long flights, transportation between destinations, and beach days.) Some individuals have taken this to the next level by actively scheduling reading retreats. These include the likes of literary Laura Miller and tech mogul Bill Gates.
What about the best cities for book lovers with kids? Here are some ideas that will leave you plenty of downtime to dig into a good book while sparking literary interests in your kids.
It’s hard to beat London when it comes to places for book lovers to visit. Iconic book shops include Persephone Books, which focuses on promoting the work of 21st-century female writers. The London Bookshop comes with a thick dose of bookish ambiance without the pretense and boasts a curated selection of 20,000 titles!
What are some other reading hotspots? They include the Foyles flagship on Caring Cross, the United Kingdom’s largest bookstore at a staggering 200,000 titles. (The selection necessitates four miles of shelves.) If you want to see the oldest bookstore in London, head to Hatchards. You’ll find five floors of books, comfy leather sofas, and plenty of first editions. As the late Queen Elizabeth’s favorite bookstore, you don’t want to miss this royal spot.
The Warner Brothers Studio Tour in London is a must for fans of J.K. Rowling’s series. From sampling butter beer to flying brooms, there’s no better place to feel transported into the Wizarding World. In London proper, go on a scavenger hunt for locations from the Harry Potter movies.
These include Leadenhall Market, the entryway to Diagon Alley, and Kings Cross Station, the site of platform 9¾, where students boarded the Hogwarts Express. Check out the Reptile House from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone at the London Zoo. And don’t miss out on the Lambeth Bridge featured in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Of course, that’s just the beginning when it comes to locations in London that inspired the books and movies.
No book lover’s trip would be complete without visiting what many consider to be “the most famous bookstore in the world,” Shakespeare & Company. Situated in Paris, Shakespeare & Company enjoys a storied past.
The Parisian attraction has undergone three incarnations. The first opened in 1919 under the ownership of Sylvia Beach on Rue Dupuytren. After a few years of success, Beach expanded to a new location on Rue de l’Odéon frequented by some of the mid-20th century’s most gifted writers. Think James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, Anaïs Nin, and James Baldwin.
During the Nazi occupation of France, the bookstore shuttered, and Beach ended up in a concentration camp after refusing to sell her last copy of Finnegans Wake to a German officer. In 1951, George Whitman opened a bookstore named Le Mistral on rue de la Bûcherie. Whitman’s cozy reading nook eventually inspired Beach to offer him the name Shakespeare & Company. Voilà, the brand was reborn!
Other literary sites worth exploring include Notre Dame Cathedral, the inspiration for Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. The Maison de Victor Hugo in the Place des Vosges’ Marais District provides additional information about the genius author of classics like Les Misérables. While in the Marais or Jewish District, tuck into Israeli-style falafels at l’As du Fallafel or Chez Hanna, rival falafel restaurants vying for top-dog in the city.
Noteworthy literary locations include the cemeteries of Montparnasse and Père Lachaise, where you’ll find the graves of famed authors like Marcel Proust, Oscar Wilde, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Susan Sontag. And cafes like Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore let you revel in bookish hangouts of the recent past.
Paris also brings you face-to-face with the landscapes and monuments of some of the most beloved books from children’s literature. These include Madeline, Eloise in Paris, and The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Movies like Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hugo, and Ratatouille will also get your kids up to speed before your family’s exploration of the “City of Lights.”
Paying homage to print is a cinch in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This South American capital is known fondly as the “Bookshop Capital of the World.” And there’s good reason for this.
There are 25 bookshops for every 100,000 people! This far exceeds New York, Moscow, and even Paris and London. The only city that comes close to this ratio is Hong Kong, with 22 bookstores for every 100,000 people.
Clearly, books remain integral to the Argentina experience. Juan Pablo Marciani, manager of El Ateneo Gran Splendid, a posh bookstore in the Recoleta neighborhood, explains, “Books represent us like the tango. We have a culture very rooted in print.”
Today, Argentina prints 129 million books annually, making the nation one of the world’s most prolific book printers. And get ready for a unique experience when touring local bookstores. Many carry texts that are hundreds of years old. At Libreria Alberto Casares, you’ll find a French translation of Garcilaso de la Vega dating to 1650. The shop also houses Gregorian chants printed on papyrus in 1722!
Besides books, some of our favorite kid-friendly attractions include soaking up the vibrant colors and murals of La Boca. At the Mercado de San Telmo, savor delish eats and treats (e.g., coffees, pastries, pizza, pasta, salads, burgers, and more). After exploring the market and indulging in Argentine cuisine, head to the Museo Participativo Ciencias. An innovative and engaging location whose motto is “Do Touch.”
Writers have showcased Venice, Italy, in their masterworks for centuries. Think Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice and Othello, Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice, or Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley. Of course, adult literature doesn’t have a monopoly on this city.
Fantastic Venetian-based youth fiction includes Cornelia Funke’s The Thief Lord, Sophia Bennett’s Unveiling Venus, Michelle Lourie’s The Undrowned Child, and Mary Hoffman’s Stravaganza: City of Masks. A visit to Venice necessitates a reading list and a map. That way, you and your children can visit hotspots from your most beloved books.
Venice also boasts the most unique bookstore in Italy, Libreria Acqua Alta (literally “Bookstore of High Water”). This hidden gem is tucked away in one of the many small alleyways of the city, a true book lover’s paradise. It houses thousands of tomes. Many are stored in waterproof containers (including bathtubs and gondolas) due to the floating (and flooding) nature of the shop and the city.
Check out the staircase made entirely of books at the back of the store. Visitors are invited to climb the stairs and take photos. The staircase offers fantastic views of the canals from the top, and you may get lucky enough to scope out a passing gondola. The Libreria Acqua Alta has the charm you’d expect from the self-declared “most beautiful bookstore in the world.” And you’ll find plenty of unique memorabilia, from century-old editions of celebrated classics to distinct postcards, textbooks, poetry volumes, and more.
When it comes to trips for book lovers, don’t forget about Tokyo’s Jimbocho District! Known alternately as Tokyo’s Book Town, Jimbocho hosts almost 200 bookstores. These shops have sprung up over the years, fueled by nearby universities.
And you don’t have to read Japanese to make the most of your visit. Places like the Paper Press Café feature a modern, stylish feel and piles of magazines, books, maps, and English language books. Coffee comes with refills, and the cafe invites visitors to tuck into their new purchases.
Sanseido stands out as a landmark in Jimbocho. This flagship bookstore is massive, featuring favorite reads and lifestyle goods. On the fifth floor, check out the wide selection of English language books.
If you and your kids can’t get enough of furry friends, head to Anegawa Bookstore. This shop features an adorable cat theme, earning it the fond title Nyankodo (“Little Meow Shop”). Of course, no venue focused on cats would be complete without a real-life whiskered mascot, and Anegawa has that, too.
And for tweens or teens interested in anime and manga? Explore Akihabara. Filled with vibrant anime- and manga-inspired venues, your older kids will love with this neighborhood. Find out more about planning the ideal Japan family trip.
From the streets and shops that inspired J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series in London to the eclectic bookshops of Buenos Aires and Tokyo, your family will never run out of fantastic spots to excite a lifelong love of reading. And when you head to the best cities for book lovers and their kids? Get ready for plenty of fun (and reading) to be had by all.
Which of these destinations is right for your family? We’re here to help. Contact us now to learn more about where to go for reading vacations.
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