10 Unmissable Bookstores in Paris
When visiting a new city we all have our genre of activities we like to head to first. For some it’s the club, for others perhaps the markets — for me… it’s the bookshops.
This is a subject I seem to learn more and more about everyday simply through conversation and recommendation with others who share my same interest. Just when I think I’ve seen all the bookshops there are to see in Paris, another finds its way into my awareness and I’m off on what can only be described as a scavenger hunt.
Paris is such a romantic city and I think this brings out the bookworm in any who visit. The opportunity for public reading is so vast, it’s almost silly to not carry a book with you at all times.
Many share this notion; strolling the Seine at sunset will reveal endless readers lost amongst the pages of their novels. The the Champs De Mars park is another good spot to watch the world go by as locals and tourists alike lose themselves in literature underneath the Eiffel Tower.
In order to ensure I always have a book with me — I need to buy many books! The bookshops of Paris are as romantic as the city in which they exist. All across the city there a little nooks that will sell you new and used books every day of the week.
This is a list of 10 unmissable bookstores in Paris. Whether you’re buying or just browsing, you’ll be happy you went.
1. Shakespeare and Company in Paris
37 rue de la Bûcherie
You’ll probably find it hard to engage in conversion about the Parisian book scene without Shakespeare and Company coming up at some point. It is somewhat of an institution, founded in 1951 and still serving the public to this day.
The book store is situated in the heart of Notre Dame, just across the bridge from the Cathedral. There are many free guided walking tours in the area that will take you right past these destinations.
Shakespeare and Company is a hybrid bookstore and sells both new and used literature. It’s safe to call this spot the most famous English literature bookstore in the whole of France.
The shops claim to fame is that it was once frequented by some of the best in the business. Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce (to name a few) were loyal patrons to the store during the mid to late 1900s.
A famous attraction within the store is the wall of Shakespeare. It features an array of murals and collective quotes from the writers best works. Take some time here to appreciate all that he did for literater as we know and love it.
Some days there is even a live pianist who plays on the second floor for customers to enjoy.
2. Abbey Bookshop in Paris
29 Rue de la Parcheminerie
The Abbey Bookshop is situated just a few minutes walk away from the Shakespeare and Company store. You’ll be able to do two bookshops in one day? Oui, ma chérie!
What I love about the Abbey is that it has the same eccentric appeal as Shakespeare and Company, but is none of the crowding or chaos. It is a much lesser known nook tucked into one of the side streets of the Latin Quarter.
The shop is built into an old 18th century building with narrow walls and low ceilings. It is exceptionally cosy and hard to pull yourself out of once the collection of new and used books pulls you in.
The sidewalk specials are also easy on the pocket and a great place to find some discarded gems.
3. San Francisco Book Company in Paris
17 Rue Monsieur le Prince
Patrons of the San Francisco Book Company are generally locals and customers for life. This is because the store prides itself on its seven day a week, 365 day a year policy. Come rain or shine, public holiday or national crisis — this bookshop is open for business.
It is just one metro stop away from the afore mentioned Abbey Bookstore, right on the cusp of the 5th and 7th arrondissements.
The sense of community is strong in this bookshop. The clerks are also only too willing to help with all your searches and will order whatever they don’t have in store if necessary.
While we’re in the neighborhood I must digress; just a short walk from the San Francisco Book Company is my favorite tapas restaurant in all of Paris, L’avant Comptoir De La Mer. This is a tiny little restaurant where the menus hang from the ceiling and the wine pairs perfectly with each dish.
Try and stop by with your new book purchase from the San Francisco store, read while you wait for your tapas!
4. Berkeley Books in Paris
8 Rue Casimir Delavigne
Berkeley books is the lovechild of three passionate Californians who met in 2006 and had a collective dream of owning a bookshop in Paris.
This is a place where you can head to both buy and sell books of your own as they are not one to turn away any literature that comes in.
Berkley Books also makes an effort to be part of community upliftment. They host regular reading sessions, musical gigs and writer tributes throughout the month where like-minded book lovers can gather together in a safe environment.
The atmosphere is welcoming, the staff are friendly, and the best part about the location? You’re in walking distance from Luxembourg Gardens. The perfect place to take your new novel and laze about in the Parisian sun.
Berkley Books is closed on Mondays, so just don’t try visit then!
5. WHSmith in Paris
248 Rue de Rivoli
WHSmith is an all encompassing little book shop in the 1st arrondissement. It is three stories high and basically has everything you could possibly need from a book shop.
The store itself is situated just a few meters from the Louvre museum and is a great place to go if you’re looking to take a specific collection of works home with you.
WHSmith is open seven days a week, which is impressive for Paris as most businesses enjoy at least one day off. On top of a large collection of fiction and non-fiction (both English and French) the store also features over 500 international press titles available for purchase.
You’ll need quite some time to meander through this bookshop, the three stories can swallow you whole and spit you out five hours later.
6. Librairie Galignani in Paris
224 Rue de Rivoli
Librairie Galignani holds the very proud title of the first English bookstore on the European continent. It is a charming little store that is as cosy on the inside as it looks on the outside. You’ll love finding solace through these doors on a particularly cold and gloomy day in Paris.
This bookstore opened its doors way back in 1810. While its collection is eclectic, it pays special attention to the classic novels that we all know and love.
Their collection of French books is also something worth looking at; these can be found just as you enter the shop right at the front.
Galignani can be found in the 1st arrondissement, right by the Tuileries metro stop. There are a lot of wonderful cafes and tea gardens in this area that provide the perfect spot to dive into your new purchases. Just don’t save your book shopping for a Sunday because Galignani takes this day off.
7. Le Monte en L’Air in Paris
2 Rue de la Mare
I am a huge fan of this bookshop located in Menilmontant. This is a district in Paris that is often overlooked as it is not considered to be one of the main attractions of the city.
Regardless, Menilmontant is by far one of the most interesting neighborhoods in Paris in my opinion. It is also the home town of Parisian music legend, Edith Piaf. You can visit her childhood apartment over on Rue Crespin du Gast.
A short walk from the Piaf residence is the Le Monte en L’Air book store. I use the term bookstore loosely, as the vicinity also doubles as a theatre and art gallery. Its hard to know when to look when inside of this space!
The theatre within the bookshop hosts regular theatrical productions as well as music concerts every so often. It is a trendy, up and coming spot that is frequented by locals of the 20th arrondissement.
Menilmontant is endlessly exciting, I encourage anyone with some time on their hands to arrange a walking tour of the neighborhood and uncover all it has to offer (Read more about Discover walking tours).
8. Librairie du Marais in Paris
89 Rue Saint-Antoine
I actually found this bookshop accidentally while roaming one of my favorite Parisian districts, Le Marais. There are so many bookshops in this area — I’m lucky to have wandered into this one.
The store is run by a man named Bertrand Lamure. The bookshop is his dream come true; a space in which he wanted customers to find everything they needed under one roof.
It is exactly that, whether you’re looking for sci-fi, cooking, architecture, biographies or even children’s literature Librairie du Marais has got you covered.
Bertrand tries to keep things interesting with regular reading evenings and cultural interactions. Supporting small businesses when in Paris is important. It keeps the locals in competition with the bigger outlets and lets the soul of the city continue to flow — pay Bertrand a visit when you’re passing through Le Marais.
9. Taschen in Paris
2 Rue de Buci
Taschen is more of a concept store than a conventional book store. The space is elegant, minimal and perfectly curated. It can be found in the heart of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district quite close to the Seine.
I come to Taschen when I’m in the mood to page through artists books and photography catalogues. Their collection is undoubtably the best out of all of the bookstores I’ve visited. Their collection of travel books is also what brings in the clientele.
For this reason, Taschen wouldn’t be the place I go when in need of a fictional novel to get lost in. It is a more collective type bookstore where one can go for exquisite coffee table books or items to give as gifts.
10. Used Book Cafe in Paris
111 Boulevard Beaumarchais
Okay, so you can’t actually purchase any books at this store — but you can enjoy them just the same, maybe even more than in an actual book shop.
Le Used Book Cafe is a concept store that incorporates a cafe into a library environment. Over 10 000 books line the walls of the cafe and the idea is to settle in with one as you enjoy a pot of tea or brunch meal. It is such fun!
The cafe is also located in Le Marais, inside of a much bigger concept store called Merci. Even though you can’t purchase any of the books from the cafe, the items found around the rest of the concept store are all for sale. Their range of furniture and home items are exquisite.
The Used Book Cafe is a place you go for the experience. I somewhat like the freedom of picking up any book with zero obligation of having to purchase in order to enjoy it. At the Used Book Cafe you are technically the partial owner of 10 000 pieces of literature for the duration of your time in the cafe — j’adore!
Whether you’re looking to purchase or simply to just hang out with some books for the day — Paris is the place to be. An endless parade of speciality, concept and general literature stores.
Try work one or two of these unmissable spots into your Parisian experience — the beauty of them being that they are all so centrally located that they are never more than a few minutes from the cities main attractions!