6 of the most beautiful bookstores in Asia

Say what you will about books, but the printed tome has lived through technologies once thought to extinguish them – radio, televisions, even the e-book.

Although brick-and-mortar stores have closed around the world, others have found a way to stay – and still others have opened, with even more pomp and grandeur. We’ve rounded up six of the most incredible ones this side of the globe, for those of us that still appreciate the tactile quality of the perusable page – and the coffee, or music, wont to go with the reading experience. Stay to the end for more images.

Sinan Books, Shanghai

Photo: CreatAR Images

An outpost of the London Review Bookshop, Sinan Books in Shanghai features four multi-coloured storeys of books across its 6,889sqft space, as well as a café and living room, a recording studio, open areas for exhibitions, and nooks for reading.

Housed in Building 25, one of the colonial Sinan Mansions, the bookstore is designed by Shanghai-based Wutopia Lab, who has each floor likened to a part of the human body: the basement level as the subconscious, with books on history and philosophy; the ground level, also the entrance level, as the heart, also home to a café and living room; the first floor as the eyes and ears, with areas dedicated to art and music, as well as spaces for book club events, exhibitions and mini concerts; and the fourth as the brain, featuring a quiet writer’s study and space for saloons. There’s also a white marble terrace on the rooftop.

Sinan Mansion, 517 Fuxing Zhong Lu, Shanghai, China

See more: Architect Mark Dytham on why bookstores are the town squares of the future

Xi’an Zhongshu Bookstore, Shaanxi

Photo: CreatAR Images

In Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi province and the capital city of 13 dynasties, Zhongshu Bookstore is a fantastical, all-white feat. Made with 300 tonnes of steel and 30,000 metres of light strips, the store is marked by bright, white curves all around, from the spiral staircase at the entrance – as though inviting shoppers to ascend into knowledge – to the curved bookshelves snaking their way across the 6,187sqft room.

There are reading benches in the form of curved blocks, a dedicated children’s books area accessible through arched entrances, and a conference room at the centre of the store, beneath a glass floor. Also designed by Wutopia Lab, this store has the mesmerising effect of bouncing light around its cool white palette and steel and glass touches – not a bad space to get one’s reading and book shopping done.

67 Ming Guang Lu, Weiyang Qu, Xian Shi, Shaanxi Sheng, China

Daikanyama T-Site, Tokyo

Photo: Nacasa & Partners

Located in Daikanyama – a neighbourhood often regarded as the Brooklyn of TokyoTsutaya‘s T-Site flagship is a bookstore set across three buildings, in what feels like part shopping centre, part fairy tale wonderland for bibliophiles. The ground-level Magazine Street connects all three volumes of the store, designed by Klein Dytham Architecture.

In addition to the books, encompassing Japanese, Asian and Western titles, there is also a café; a high-end convenience store; the Anjin Lounge, for perusing a 30,000-strong collection of vintage magazines, as well as artworks, replete with a menu of food, coffee and alcohol; a comprehensive music library spanning classical to jazz to ’80s pop genres; a movie department possibly housing every motion picture ever made, along with DVD-burning service; a stationery store and a travel concierge.

17-5 Sarugaku-cho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan

See more: The Ryokan Factor: a guide to the hot spring resorts of Kyoto

Yangzhou Zhongshuge, Yangzhou

Photo: Shao Feng

Zhongshuge’s Yangzhou outpost is located by a waterside in Zhen Yuan, inspiring its interiors: an underground tunnel-like room complete with reflective flooring to mimic the surface of water. Designed by Li Xiang of interior design firm XL-Muse, the room is dominated by mood lighting and a brooding palette; curved pillars arching upwards, creating the illusion of endless mirror tunnels; and long corridors with book shelves lined up to the ceiling. Wooden seating and tables mark the reading areas, while the children’s space is more colourful and bedecked with a dark ceiling of starry lights.

9th Alley, Guangling Qu, Yangzhou Shi, Jiangsu Sheng, China

Yueyue/Zhida Bookstore, Shanghai

Photo: Qingshan Wu

Two bookstores in one make Yueyue/Zhida Bookstore in Shanghai, which inhabits a compact volume on Guoquan Road punctuated with a bold blue door and interiors with a pop of orange. Designed by Atelier Archmixing, the concept accommodates the preferences of storeowners Zou Bin and Luo Hong; one wanted to focus on liberal arts titles, while the other preferred a more general book selection with space for hosting events and activities.

To create the two-in-one bookstore, a triangular ‘sorting’ device was designed for the entrance area, which would sit against doors that would open to either direction of the bookstore – the moody, library-like wood-toned literature and history section, or the bright, steel-clad general books section.

No. 525 Guoquan Road, Shanghai, China

See more: 8 of China’s most beautifully designed restaurants

Hangzhou Zhongshuge Bookstore, Hangzhou

Photo: Shao Feng

A vibe of smoke and mirrors fill the Hangzhou branch of Zhongshuge Bookstore, designed by XL-Muse, with more to the space than first meets the eye. Outfitted with reflective surfaces, particularly in the ceilings, shoppers are immersed in what feels like a parallel universe of books, with the bright white and brooding wood palette combination lending futuristic and fantastical touches to the ambience.

There’s a dedicated children’s library reminiscent of an amusement park, with a rollercoaster-like book display, circular bookshelves mounted to the walls and more mirrors that further create a sense of fantasy. The reading theatre, meanwhile, occupies an oval room with wraparound shelves, its dark surfaces contributing a cosy and meditative feel.

Shop 101 Building 4, Star Avenue, Binjiang District, Hangzhou, China

Sinan Books. (Photo: CreatAR Images)

Sinan Books. (Photo: CreatAR Images)

Sinan Books. (Photo: CreatAR Images)

Sinan Books. (Photo: CreatAR Images)

Sinan Books. (Photo: CreatAR Images)

Xi'an Zhongshu Bookstore. (Photo: CreatAR Images)

Xi'an Zhongshu Bookstore. (Photo: CreatAR Images)

Xi'an Zhongshu Bookstore. (Photo: CreatAR Images)

Xi'an Zhongshu Bookstore. (Photo: CreatAR Images)

Xi'an Zhongshu Bookstore. (Photo: CreatAR Images)

Daikanyama Tsutaya Books (Photo: Nacasa & Partners)

Daikanyama Tsutaya Books (Photo: Nacasa & Partners)

Daikanyama Tsutaya Books (Photo: Nacasa & Partners)

Yangzhou Zhongshuge (Photo: Shao Feng)

Yangzhou Zhongshuge (Photo: Shao Feng)

Yangzhou Zhongshuge (Photo: Shao Feng)

Yueyue/Zhida Bookstore (Photo: Qingshan Wu)

Yueyue/Zhida Bookstore (Photo: Qingshan Wu)

Yueyue/Zhida Bookstore (Photo: Qingshan Wu)

Hangzhou Zhongshuge (Photo: Shao Feng)

Hangzhou Zhongshuge (Photo: Shao Feng)

Hangzhou Zhongshuge (Photo: Shao Feng)

Hangzhou Zhongshuge (Photo: Shao Feng)

For more design guides to the world, check out our Travel section.