What is a travel coffee table book?
If you’ve been tasked with buying someone a travel coffee table book for their birthday or Christmas gift and don’t know what it is or why you would want one – or you’ve just never heard of the idea before… then let us tell you.
A travel coffee table book is a travel-themed book designed for casual reading and displaying on a table where you’d normally have guests sitting with you. Usually full of photographs and only a little bit of text throughout, travel coffee table books are perfect for when you’re bored, fed up of TV ad breaks or in desperate need of some travel inspiration.
Although they’re usually large hardback books, our list of the best travel coffee table books below also includes some smaller paperback ones in case you’re lacking in space and budget.
Why would you want a travel coffee table book?
Coffee table books – especially travel-themed ones:
- Are full of get-it-right-now inspiration
- Look great piled up on your coffee table – especially when they match the room’s decor
- Make for the perfect flatlay or photo backdrop for Instagram
- Are a big indicator of who you are and what you’re most interested in
- Spark conversation when guests come to visit
- Are perfect for a bit of light reading
22 Beautiful (+ Inspiring!) Travel Coffee Table Books
Lonely Planet Coffee Table Books
Lonely Planet has got to be the godfather of coffee table books. Period. Their selection is vast, always full of stunning photographs and chock-full of useful travel information too.
In our view, you simply cannot have a stack of coffee table books without at least one Lonely Planet title making an appearance. Here are our pick of the bunch…
Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travel List
In this stunning blue and gold tome, Lonely Planet ranks 500 of the most unmissable sights and attractions around the world. Expect popular tourist sites to be mentioned as well as more off the beaten path destinations – what’s your number one?
Secret Marvels of the World
This Lonely Planet coffee table book seeks to showcase the best hidden gems and secrets our planet has to offer whether natural or manmade. Move over Taj Mahal, it’s time for the Karni Mata Temple to have its heyday. And what about fragments of the Berlin Wall that have been discovered in Iceland? Secret Marvels of the World is a guidebook with a fun, bizarre and kitsch twist! Plus the chic grey cover with shiny red text is understated yet beautiful.
Great Escapes: Enjoy the World at Your Leisure
One look at the city-life-meets-paradise-island cover of this Great Escapes book and you’ll know you’re in for a treat. Split into sections ranging from culture and romance to luxury travel and culinary adventures, this book has oodles of inspiration for the perfect getaway… no matter what your interests are. We feel this book is best for those of you looking for a long-haul trip, epic adventure or out-of-this-world honeymoon… but what’s a little daydreaming during TV ad breaks?
Lonely Planet’s Beautiful World
One of our most favourite Lonely Planet coffee table books is Beautiful World. From the dark sky and Milky Way in New Zealand to the gushing waterfalls of Plitvice National Park in Croatia and beyond, this book is for all our fellow nature lovers out there. Simply use this book to escape into a world of turquoise oceans, emerald forests and golden sunsets… sounds like heaven to us!
Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2020
We promised you some small – yet beautiful – coffee table travel books and this one is all these things and more. Updated by Lonely Planet each year, Best in Travel is a delightful and cute travel book, which showcases the top cities, countries, regions, adventures and travel trends for the year ahead. Knowing what makes it into the top ten each year captivates readers and the media all over the world. We think this is fantastic travel inspiration for where you might want to visit in the year ahead – all wrapped up in a small package that would fit on any size coffee table.
Amazing Train Journeys
Train travel is one of the best ways to get around – especially throughout mainland Europe. But did you know there are some downright beautiful train journeys around the world that call for you to simply enjoy the journey and actually forget about your final destination? From The Glacier Express in Switzerland to The TranzAlpine in New Zealand and Canada’s Rocky Mountaineer route, these are just some of the train journeys that really should be on your bucket list! And this stunning book of Amazing Train Journeys from Lonely Planet seeks to showcase amazing photography while offering practical advice for making your chosen rail adventure a reality.
The Best Place To Be Today
Imagine it’s March 1st. There’s nothing on the TV. You’ve looked at all your phone notifications. And you’re bored stiff. Then, you grab this fun Lonely Planet coffee table book and find out that between now and June is the best time of year to see the leopards in Yala National Park, Sri Lanka. Or you flick through some more pages and are reminded that November 1st is the infamous Day of the Dead festival in Mexico. If that doesn’t get you dreaming of your next trip then we don’t know what will.
More Travel Coffee Table Books You’ll Love
It’s not just Lonely Planet who creates inspirational coffee table books. National Geographic and Atlas Obscura are just two other examples of well-known companies who specialise in books like this. But there are tons of other lesser known – but no less fantastic – ones out there too. Here are our top picks…
Destinations of a Lifetime: 225 of the World’s Most Amazing Places
There’s no doubt that National Geographic employs the most incredible photographers – making Destinations of a Lifetime one of the most visual and inspirational coffee table books on this list. From stunning natural wonders to superb manmade feats, this book will have you flipping through the pages as fast as Usain Bolt sprinting across a racetrack! I mean, let’s face it, one quick look at this wooden restaurant carved into a cliff and you know just what you’re in for.
The Bucket List: 1000 Adventures Big & Small
When did a photo of the bright blue lakes of Banff National Park in Canada never look good sitting on your coffee table? That’s just some of what you’re getting with The Bucket List book. From glassblowing in the Czech Republic and swimming with dolphins in New Zealand, to driving through clouds in Sri Lanka and more, there’s something for everyone in this inspiring – yet informative – coffee table travel book. Are you ready to see your bucket list grow?
The New York Times: 36 Hours Europe
For those of you – like us! – who have limited travel time due to work commitments and annual leave days, 36 Hours Europe is for you. Inside, you’ll find three day itineraries and hotel recommendations for over 130 cities throughout Europe. From wine tasting in Burgundy to literary adventures in Dublin and beyond, you’re sure to find a bunch of inspiration for your next weekend getaway. Plus the Seville-inspired orange cover is sure to brighten up any drab coffee table!
Looking for even more weekend getaway inspiration? NYT has also written a bunch of other 36 Hours books – here are a couple more to sink your teeth into:
World’s Best Travel Experiences: 400 Extraordinary Places
Another day, another National Geographic book. Aimed at making your bucket list that much longer, this book of the World’s Best Travel Experiences has hundreds of stunning photographs and tantalizing descriptions of some of the most incredible places, experiences and things to do in the world. Just like the first National Geographic book, this one will also have you flipping through the pages – fast!
Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders
We’ve been big fans of the Atlas Obscura website for some years now and its book of the same name is no disappointment. Just like Lonely Planet’s Secret Marvels of the World, Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders is also aimed at showcasing hidden gems, secrets and obscure traditions throughout the world you’ll never expect to find. Like where the smallest police station in London is. Or how to see the Baby Jumping Festival in Spain. Or that there’s a 40 year old hole of fire in Turkmenistan called the ‘Gates of Hell’. What this book lacks in extraordinary photography more than makes up for with uniqueness and obscurity. We think the first edition has the most coffee table appeal though. The cream cover peels back to reveal the vermillion-red book underneath, which is simply striking. While the second edition is red all over and missing an air of mystery that the first book showcases best.
Rarely Seen Photographs of the Extraordinary
From a desert flower that only blooms once a year to the volcanic lightning phenomenon, Rarely Seen Photographs of the Extraordinary will have you in total awe of our amazing planet. You might not be able to recreate these photos or see some of these rare phenomena in real-life, but this book is sure to inspire your own extraordinary adventure.
How To Be Parisian Wherever You Are
Style is as synonymous with Paris as the Eiffel Tower is. And How To Be Parisian Wherever You Are is your bible when it comes to the Parisian style, sense of humour, attitude and culture. Although you won’t find photos of Parisian cityscapes within the pages, you will find plenty of portrait photographs, illustrations and short essays that you can dive into as and when you please – with a good cup of coffee in hand. Plus, the monochrome cover is understated yet classic – perfect for any stylish home.
Paris in Color AND Paris in Bloom
If Instagram is your ultimate form of travel inspiration, then you’ll love these cute travel books by different authors: Paris in Color and Paris in Bloom. Both books are aimed at showcasing the most Instagrammable places in Paris – whether you want a certain colour as your next backdrop or want to find the best places in the city for cherry blossom. What these books lack in practical advice more than make up for with stunning photographs and total Paris travel inspiration!
Pretty City London: Discovering London’s Beautiful Places
For a beautiful and fresh take on London, Pretty City London: Discovering London’s Beautiful Places should definitely make its way onto your coffee table. It showcases lots of off the beaten path places to visit in London, as well as stunning Instagrammable locations that you’ll want to check out during your next visit. The combination of beautiful photography with hand-drawn maps makes this is a must for any London lover and pretty in pink home.
My Bucketlist (Insert Your Story)
After all that reading about and gazing at other people’s adventures, you’ll want to make a note of your own that you plan on having. This charming black and gold journal is filled with travel prompts, success stories, inspiring quotes and more – and is just calling out for you to use when planning your next adventure.
Looking for other beautiful travel journals to make notes in at the coffee table? Try this white and gold one aimed at planning the ultimate road trip or this cream one for a more general adventure. Both are created by the same author as the bucket list version mentioned above.
Over to you now… what are some of your favourite travel-themed coffee table books? Let us know in the comments so we can check them out too.
Another travel book to add to your wish list is 203 Travel Challenges. Check out our review here!
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