This fairytale bookstore in the heart of the Romanian capital has brought an enchanted palace back to life
Cărturești Carusel doesn’t just tell the stories of the books spread across the four dazzling white floors of its history-steeped home, this extraordinary bookstore also relates the storied past of the building. In the early 20th-century, it belonged to the influential Chrissoveloni banking family who used the space to house one of their former banks until 1948. “The building was nationalized during the communist regime,” say Serban Radu and Nicoleta Iordan, who now manage Cărturești Carusel. After the revolution, it stood empty for a long time, until—in a state of severe dilapidation—it was restored to the heirs of the Chrissoveloni family.
Huge investment and over 20,000 hours of labor were required to save the building, turning this erstwhile bank into a bohemian book palace in the heart of picturesque Bucharest. The restoration project was entrusted to the firm of architects Square One, which gave the building its modern look while respecting its history. Having been closed for a quarter of a century, the doors were finally reopened in 2015, and the delightful building has been open to the public as a bookstore ever since.
Spread across more than 10,000 square feet (929,000 m²), Cărturești Carusel is a dream come true for book lovers and architecture admirers. On the top floor is a bistro, while the basement is home to a multimedia space. A gallery on the first-floor hosts exhibitions of contemporary Romanian art. The structure’s height was made possible through the use of intermediary platforms, which also enhance the stylistic elements of the space. Cărturești Carusel translates to ‘Carousel of Light,’ the serpentine shape of the floors is intended to create an atmosphere like that of a moving carousel.
Together with Cărturești Carusel, Radu and Iordan also run a number of other bookstores in Romania. Their unique combination of carefully selected titles, design, book launches, and to wine tastings, have garnered them a loyal and largely young clientele. “We see ourselves as curators offering a cultural gathering place,” they say. Their main achievement: “making reading cool again.”
Buying books should be an “experience,” they continue. “We have paid a lot of attention to architecture, interior design, lighting, and visual identity so that each Cărtureşti has a unique design concept behind it, created by renowned Romanian architects and designers, or by young emerging artists.” Radu and Iordan’s establishments are increasingly featured in international publications showcasing Europe’s most beautiful bookstores. Cărturești Carusel is often dubbed “the most Instagrammable bookstore in the world.” From the early days, they say, “the bookstore succeeded in attracting the young trendsetters of Bucharest’s fast-growing urban culture, giving them a forum where they can feel free to learn, to get in touch with each other, to read, to experiment, to create projects and events together.”
While honoring its architectural heritage, the bookstore has metamorphosed to meet the needs of a modern city. Cărturești Carusel is one of the world’s most beautiful bookstores, but also a symbolic way to cultivate a community and bring all ages together under one fairytale-like facade.