The most beautiful bookstore in the world

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012. Filed under: Architecture Europe Netherlands

Stepping into Boekhandel Dominicanen in Maastricht, Netherlands, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Occupying a Dominican church dating from 1294, the shop well deserves its reputation as the most beautiful bookstore in the world.

A 700-year-old Dutch church is home to a heavenly bookshop.

The medieval church lacked a congregation and was actually being used for public bike storage before undergoing refurbishment for the Selexyz book chain by Dutch architects Merkx + Girod in 2006.  Update April 2015: Selexyz closed their branch and the Boekhandel Dominicanen is being proposed for crowdfunding.

The architects were confronted by the challenge of installing a second floor, a step that could potentially chop the church’s interior height in half. The solution was a monumental metal bookcase offset to one side. The giant bookshelf increases the store’s rack space without altering the church’s character and beauty.

The upper racks.

Climbing to the upper racks affords shoppers a closer look at faded ceiling frescoes while a coffee stand in the former choir area features a modern reading table shaped like a cross. The café hosts art shows and weekly events.

Reading tables are a common feature in Dutch cafes.

As part of the Selexyz chain, Dominicanen offered a vast array of books and magazines in Dutch as well as English, French and Spanish languages, making it a very useful address for international travelers.  (Its status as an operating retail outlet as of April 2015 is uncertain; see links at the end of this article re crowdfunding.)  The shop is located near Vrijthof Square, beside the Entre Deux shopping centre, another example of innovative refurbishment of historic architecture in Maastricht.

Selexyz Dominicanen offers reading material in Dutch, English, French and Spanish.

Maastricht, Netherlands, is a vibrant university town famed for its Roman past and Carnival celebrations. TEFAF Maastricht, the world’s leading fine art and antiques fair, takes place here every March. From Amsterdam, Maastricht is about two and a half hours by car or train. It’s also easily accessible from other European cities like Paris, Brussels, Dusseldorf and Cologne.  For more on this relaxing yet sophisticated Dutch city, see Maastricht Tourism.

Also see Holland.com, official website of the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions.

For more on the bookstore’s current status, including crowdfunding efforts, see Boekhandel Dominicanen on Facebook and on Twitter as

The square outside Selexyz Dominicanen bookstore.

 

Looking down in the Selexyz store can be a grave matter.

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