For some people a vacation is about taking time to give your brain a break and have some mindless fun...those aren't the kind of people who visitHay-on-Wye. Also known as "the town of books", this little village in Wales is quite possibly the most charming and simultaneously intellectually stimulating community in the world. Renowned for their many bookstores and annual literature festival (which Bill Clinton once called "the Woodstock of the Mind"), Hay is a bookworm's dream come true.
The town didn't just become a literary mecca overnight-- it all started with one man and one bookshop. In 1961, Richard Booth opened his first used bookshop in an old firehouse. Shortly after, he heard that a lot of libraries in America were closing, and Booth decided to jump on the opportunity. He set out for the US and stocked up on hundreds of books, shipping them back to town to stock his store's shelves. Soon, other businesses in town decided to get in on the action and began selling books themselves.
There are bookshops that specialize in certain topics, like rare, out of print children's books or tomes on beekeeping. The most whimsical shops, however, are the so-called "honesty bookstores". They're basically shelves and shelves of books lining the streets and sidewalks, out in the open, that operate on the honor system, so to speak. Anyone who so chooses can select a book and drop some money in the little moneybox. They're all over town-- there's even an honesty bookstore on the grounds of one of Hay's two castles. Hay-on-Wye is also home to Hay Literature Festival each May, which attracts thousands of bookworms and authors to the tiny village.
In addition to having 40+ bookstores, the town is also just plain adorable. Did I mention that they have castles? Because they do, and they're both gorgeous. After you're done getting lost amongst the bookstores and book shelves of Hay, you can cozy up just about anywhere and get lost in the pages of an unfamiliar volume.