For the 50+ Traveler

With so many people turning to e-readers opposed to “real” books you can hold in your hands, bookstores have become a dying breed. That said, the Chongqing Zhongshuge Bookstore in China doesn’t seem to be phased by the massive decline in the popularity of printed books. According to the journal The Cool Hunter, this gem was completed in 2016 and is one of a collection of five unparalleled bookstores that went out on a limb -- hoping people would find intrigue in its offerings and want to go there. And it turns out that this bookstore has one thing besides books that elevates it to the next level, making it a bucket list destination people are willing to travel across the world for.

What makes this bookstore so special compared to the rest? Well, it doubles as an architectural masterpiece! Read on to learn about this jaw-dropping bookstore and some of its best features.

Inside China's Zhongshuge bookstore.

The Bookstore Has A Unique History

Two big questions are: Who designed this work of art? and Why? As bookstores are dying out, it seems strange that this one popped up in 2016, but its debut was strategic. No one just woke up and said, China needs a new bookstore! No -- the team behind it decided to build a bookstore that would serve as a memorable attraction.

The store was designed by X+Living, a Shanghai-based firm.

Li Xiang, president of X+Living and chief bookstore designer told Architectural Digest, “The clients asked me and my team to create a bookstore that was also a landmark.”

The Chongqing bookstore is one of the five bookstores created by X+Living in a Zhongshuge Bookstore chain that is strewn across five cities in China according to Architectural Record. Each bookstore uses the signature optical illusion approach with room designs incorporating a sense of fantasy in every nook and corner. Other locations include Hangzhou, Shanghai, Chengdu, and Yangzhou.

Inside China's Zhongshuge bookstore.

How To Visit

The stunning Chongqing Zhongshuge Bookstore is located in the city of Chongqing. More specifically, it can be found in the Zodi Plaza on the third and fourth floors. Chongqing city is swiftly developing according to Architectural Digest, so it makes sense for an innovative design project to be situated here. Even in its early days, the bookstore showed promise. As an X+Living representative told Lonely Planet, “nearly 200,000 people ... visited the bookshop within the first 15 days of opening. Such big crowds even forced the operator to limit the number of visitors in a day.”

Inside China's Zhongshuge bookstore.

It’s Architectural Design Is Unrivaled

Besides Chongqing Zhongshuge Bookstore’s collection of books, its design is what draws people in. The designers of the bookstore have managed to create optical illusions throughout the entire experience.

According to Architectural Digest, “one's perceptions can be questioned: All the volumes on the shelves seem to double as the mirrored ceiling reflects every shape and movement below.”

The article goes on to say the store occupies 36,000 square feet and that X+Living has managed to fill the entire area with views that will have you questioning what’s real versus what’s an illusion when it comes to your surroundings.

Xiang told Architectural Digest, "The glass ceiling enlarges the space while creating something that appears more magical than it does real."

Inside China's Zhongshuge bookstore.

It’s Known For Its Unusual Stairs

The illusions throughout the bookstore are like those out of a picture -- literally. Many people marvel at the zigzagged staircases, which are actually average staircases, though their angles would have you think otherwise. The mirrors in the store warp the staircases, making them look topsy turvy. The stairs and other illusions created in the space have been compared to works by the Dutch artist M.C. Escher. Several of his art pieces depict “impossible constructions” -- one of his most famous pieces shows people going up and down staircases that simply couldn’t be traversed based on the laws of gravity. The stairs at Zhongshuge Bookstore are reminiscent of the picture.

Inside China's Zhongshuge bookstore.

It Has Other Tantalizing Features, Too

When walking into the bookstore, you’ll initially find yourself in a dark brown lobby that has a quiet reading corridor with books in one corner. The other corner is a colorful children’s reading room with images of Chongqing drawn all over.

The Cool Hunter notes that “the saccharine children’s area also uses floor-to-ceiling shelving and mirrored ceilings to create a sense of expansion and infinity.”

Also, who doesn’t love enjoying a warm cup of joe and perhaps a snack while reading? The bookstore has a coffee shop and leisure area that visitors can sit in as they enjoy their coffee and tea.

For another beautiful bookstore with astonishing architectural elements, meet Livraria Lello: Portugal’s stunning bookshop, and get ready to add another a magical bookstore to your bucket list!