The best cities in the world for book lovers, according to numbers

Best cities for book lovers around the world, according to numbers
Photo: Becca Tapert, Unsplash

Read on to find out which cities pride themselves on the biggest number of libraries and bookstores per capita, in which libraries loan the most books, and what are some of the most popular libraries in the world.

Many cities compete for the title of a literary Mecca – there’s Dublin, home to geniuses such as Joyce, Yeats, and Beckett.

There’s St. Petersburg, that makes Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment, and The Queen of Spades come to life just in front of your very eyes. And there’s London, the birthplace of Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, and Miss Marple, heaven for those who enjoy a good crime story.

So it may come off as a surprise that none of these cities made top three of the report published by the World Cities Culture Forum that measures cultural engagement and means of consumption of the arts around the world.

Scroll down to explore the best cities in the world for book lovers and find out if your city made the cut. Also, make sure to check out our best literary places to visit and literary maps to explore for some more bookish inspiration.

Cities with the biggest amount of libraries per capita

Poland’s capital Warsaw comes first with 11.5 libraries per 100,000 people on average. Seoul and Brussels follow closely, with 11.0 and 10.0 libraries, accordingly.

Check out the full report here.

RankCityNo. of libraries per 100,000 inhabitants
1.Warsaw11.5
2.Seoul11.0
3.Brussels10.0
4.Paris8.5
5.Stockholm5.9
6.Milan5.4

Cities with the biggest amount of bookshops per capita

Lisbon surpasses its competitors greatly, with around 42 bookstores per 100,000 inhabitants. Melbourne and Buenos Aires come next, with 33.9 and 22.6 bookshops, accordingly.

Check out the full report here.

RankCityNo. of bookshops per 100,000 inhabitants
1.Lisbon41.6
2.Melbourne33.9
3.Buenos Aires22.6
4.Chengdu21.6
5.Hong Kong17.8
6.Taipei16.4

Cities where libraries are thriving

Surprisingly, the number of libraries per capita does not necessarily mean books are loaned more.

Asian countries beat other continents to their feet: Tokyo leads with a whopping 111.9 million library loans per year, with Shanghai and Hong Kong following close by, scoring 86.2 and 49.8, accordingly. New York takes third place, with 56.3 million loans.

The cities where libraries are thriving - Statista
Click to enlarge / Chart: Statista

Most popular libraries

New York Public Library

📍 New York, United States
👫 17.3 million visitors per year
📚 53 million items

The third-largest public library in the world, New York Public Library, gathers nearly 53 million items in 92 different locations.

The most famous one, the Main Branch, is easily recognizable by the two lion statues named Patience and Fortitude guarding its entrance.

National Library of China

📍 Beijing, China
👫 Over 5 million visitors per year
📚 Over 37 million items

Largest in Asia, the National Library of China prides itself for having the most impressive collection of Chinese literature and historical documents in the world.

Founded in 1909 by the government of the Qing dynasty, the library stores an abundance of old maps, diagrams, and rubbings from ancient inscriptions – such as the precious copies of Buddhist sutras that date back to the 6th century.

British Library

📍 London, United Kingdom
👫 1.5 million visitors per year
📚 About 170-200 million items

Estimated to contain almost 200 million items, it is the largest national library in the world by the number of items cataloged.

Some of the most interesting items in the collection include:

  • Two 1215 copies of Magna Carta
  • Diamond Sutra, the world’s earliest dated printed book (printed in 868)
  • The Gutenberg Bible, earliest printed book in Europe
  • Mozart’s musical diary
  • Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures Under Ground
  • The Beatles’ handwritten song lyrics

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