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Notting Hill’s Debut On Netflix Inspired Us To Look For Travel Book Stores Around The World (Where You Can Imagine Meeting Your Own Hugh Grant)

In the year 1999, the movie Notting Hill was first released. The movie followed William Thacker, quiet bookshop owner played by Hugh Grant, and his budding romance with stunning celebrity icon Anna Scott, played by Julia Roberts. They met and laughed and fell in love between the bookshelves and musty pages of a travel bookshop in Notting Hill. The bookstore has since become a tourist icon, and people have come here from all over the world to bask in the memories of these two cinematic lovers.

Notting Hill’s debut on Netflix sparked our own romantic memories of the film, and the quaint travel book store that the handsome but bumbling Thacker ran. It also sparked in us a curiosity if there are still remaining specialty bookstores like his that focus exclusively on the interest of gallivanting. Happily, yes, there are still some remaining, and we list them here just in case you want to envision yourself the working tourist Anna Scott perusing the tomes between the shelves and meeting a charming bookstore owner that looks like Hugh Grant.


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Stanfords, London


Stanfords Londres

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The oldest travel bookshop in the world finds its origins way back in the year 1853, almost two centuries ago. Stanfords has been growing its stock of maps and travel literature over its many decades of operation, and now proudly claims to have the largest stock of any travel bookshop in the world. It’s a multi-storey affair, with an entire floor dedicated to Western Europe, with its treasures organized according to country for easy access. They’ve got all sorts on sale here, too, from films to world music and even a stockpile of globes. Stanfords is a traveller’s paradise, and should definitely be on your travel list if you’re hopping the world in search of the perfect bookstore.


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Stanley & Livingstone, the Hague


Like its globetrotting missionary namesakes Henry Morton Stanley and David Livingstone, forever immortalized in the 1939 movie Stanley and Livingstone, this Dutch travel bookshop is well travelled. It’s a worldly alcove, selling language and culture books alongside the usual travel guides and fiction. They even got maps for hikers and bikers, perfect if you’re looking to spend an extended amount of time exploring the Netherlands. If you aren’t a native Dutch speaker, don’t worry—given how much of the population of the Hague largely consists of expats, most of the books here have been printed in English.


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Palavra de Viajante, Lisbon


Amid the arches of this unassuming Lisbon-based bookstore—named “Traveller’s World” in English—and former home to the famous poet Fernando Pessoa, are shelves loaded with all sorts of travel books, both fictional and non-fictional, from maps to guidebooks to anything else travel-related. It isn’t a very big bookshop but it’s easy to get lost in it nonetheless as the bookstore’s literary occupants take you on a trip across the world.


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Altair, Barcelona


This literary mecca along the Mediterranean coast of Spain is probably the largest travel bookshop in the world. Altair’s Barcelona branch, much larger than the quaint Madrid store, hosts an amazing 60,000 books and other travel merchandise and paraphernalia, written in everything from Spanish to Catalan to English and many other languages. The stores’ focus is on Europe, but it’s worth browsing the massive collection as you wait for something to inevitably catch your eye and possibly set you off on your own adventure.


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Distant Lands, Pasadena


If it isn’t enough for you to read about the world, you might want to listen to a real-life adventurer tell you all about it. Distant Lands in Pasadena caters to just that, inviting interesting speakers from all over the world to talk about their times abroad. The store caters to all sorts of travel needs, also serving as a travel agency and a store for general travelling equipment.


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According to a Notting Hill walking tour article on updated in May this year, there was never really a bookshop in the film location but an antiques arcade and furniture store: “The fictional bookstore in the film was based on the real Travel Bookshop nearby (13 Blenheim Crescent), which you can get to by turning back down Portobello Road, walking past Elgin Crescent, and making a left on Blenheim Crescent. The original Travel Bookshop closed in 2011 but has since reopened as the Notting Hill Bookshop.”

From London to the Hague, the world is rife with travel bookshops that are worth, well, travelling to. Whether you be on the quest for a good adventure story, a crusty old map, or simply the smell of books worn and dusty, these bookshops are certainly worth a visit. If you’re a lover of bookshops but can’t quite seem to leave the country, worry not—Notting Hill is now available on Netflix, so you can live vicariously through Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts for the meantime.


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Photos from IMDb