The Norwegian Booktown You Have to See
Looking 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. (Check out the ten best cities for book lovers.)
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. (Discover 13 unusual international customs you never knew existed.)
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 four kilometres of secondhand books.
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 14 famous books in Fjærland.)
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.
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Originally published as This Small Norwegian Town Turns Abandoned Buildings Into Bookstores on ReadersDigest.com.