This Small Norwegian Town Turns Abandoned Buildings Into Bookstores

The population-300 village is home to 2.5 miles of books.

06-landscape-this-small-norwegian-town-turns-abandoned-buildings-into-bookstores-266989451-iPicsiPics/ShutterstockLooking at the remote village of Mundal in Fjærland, Norway, you would immediately be charmed by the enchanting waterfront wooden houses, towering mountains, and impressive glaciers. But the biggest draw for visitors just might be its reading material.

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The cute bokbyen—Norwegian for “booktown”—prides itself on the many used bookstores scattered around, but they’re no ordinary libraries. The tiny town has a population of just 300 but is home to a collection of a whopping 150,000 used books. (Mundal isn’t the world’s only booktown—learn about this other small British town with more books than people.)

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Ten years before the booktown became the reading hub it is today, you could only get to Fjærland by boat. The first road to the valley was built in 1986, and now there are bus routes to get in from the north or the south. In 1995, Mundal officially became the first “booktown” in Norway, filling old ferry waiting areas, sheds, grocery stores, and more with reading material. If you lined the shelves up side-by-side, the town’s library would span 2.5 miles of secondhand books.

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Some of the stores are large and let readers spend hours browsing the massive library. Others are humble outdoor shelves, relying on the honor system for bookworms to pay for their new reads. The booktown is officially open for business from May through mid-September, though you can buy from its extensive library online all year. (See if you can get your hands on one of these 20 books you really should have read by now from Fjærland.)

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Once you’re ready to crack open some new reading material, hunker down in an outdoor bench. Even the most gripping story might not be able to keep your eyes away from the stunning landscape. From Fjærland you can get a stunning view of Bøyabreen and Supphellebreen—branches of the largest glacier in continental Europe—jutting into the valley.

For more book-related bucket list items, check out the world’s biggest library hotel, which holds 65,000 books.

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Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s Medscape.com and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.