• Constance M, A Well-Read Wanderer

7 Beautiful Bookstores to Visit in Paris, France


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Paris might be known as the City of Light or the City of Love, but for those in the know, Paris is really the City of Books!


Paris is a book lover's dream destination.


You can't throw a croissant in Paris without it hitting a bookstore (this is a hypothetical analogy, of course. Croissants should never be thrown; they should be savored to the last crumb).


And though there's an extensive and inexpensive metro system in Paris, I firmly believe it is a city best appreciated on foot. So my first suggestion for those looking for Paris bookstores is: wander. Odds are, you'll find a bookstore or "librairie" on just about every block in Paris. Sometimes the best bookshops are the ones that take you completely by surprise.


However, for my fellow earth sign bibliophiles out there searching for a good solid list of , "best bookstores in Paris," voila. Here are 7 beautiful, inspiring, get-lost-for-hours, spend-all-your-money type of bookstores I recommend seeking out in Paris.


I don't even claim this to be a definitive list of the best bookstores in Paris. There are so many, it would take years to explore them all. However, I have been to quite a few now, and these are some of my favorites. I even venture to say you'll find some lesser known, underrated Paris bookshops on this list you won't find on other lists out there.


Things to note about this list:


  • I can read in French, but as I'm a native English speaker, I confess that this list skews toward English language bookshops.

  • Most of these stores are located in St. Germain/ the Latin Quarter, where there is a great concentration of Paris bookshops, and where I spent most of my time on my last trip there.


Something to note about Paris bookshops:

It's not uncommon for shop owners of all varieties to go on holiday during the summer months and close down shop. If you're visiting during the summer, don't be terribly surprised if you excitedly approach a shop only to find a handwritten note on the door letting you know it's closed until the end of August.


Come to that, don't expect the return date to be reliable, either. I came across many shops whose store owners appear to have extended their holidays past the listed date. Take it in stride, and move along to the next bookshop. That's the Paris way!



Skip ahead to:

  1. Shakespeare & Co.

  2. San Francisco Book Co.

  3. Paris Bouqinistes

  4. F. Chanut Livres Anciens

  5. Abbey Bookshop

  6. La Mouette Rieuse

  7. The Red Wheelbarrow


And don't forget to pin this post for your next trip to Paris.


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1. Shakespeare & Company Bookstore


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The famous facade of Shakespeare & Co. in Paris

37 Rue de la Bûcherie, Paris, France


Let's start off with this, the most famous Paris bookstore, Shakespeare and Company. No list of bookstores in Paris would be complete without it. Perhaps you've heard the name or can recognize its famously Instagrammable facade, but why is Shakespeare and Co famous?


The original Shakespeare and Company of literary fame was opened by an American expat, Sylvia Beach, in 1919 at an entirely different location from the current shop. During the 1920s, writers from the "Lost Generation," like Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein spent time at Shakespeare and Company, much like the Beat Writers called San Francisco's City of Lights Bookshop home during the 1950s.


It was actually Shakespeare and Company that published James Joyce's Ulysses, his masterpiece and tome of international fame.


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James Joyce

The original Shakespeare and Company bookstore closed during the German occupation in World War II. The current bookstore as we know it was opened in 1951 by another American, George Whitman, who took on the Shakespeare and Company name in 1964 with Sylvia Beach's blessing. This new location is iconic, overlooking the Seine and the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris's 5th arrondissement.


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A peek inside Shakespeare and Company, the most famous Paris bookshop

Today, the bookshop is more tourist site than functional bookshop. They do indeed still sell English language books, but plan to spend at least 45 minutes in line outside waiting to get in, to shop in a crowded line of people. The owner also requests no photos be taken of the interior of the bookshop, so if you're going for a great Instagrammable photo of the interior of Shakespeare and Co, don't waste your time in line.


For me, it's a must see due to its history, but it's too crowded for my taste to make it ideal for book browsing. That's what the rest of the Paris bookstores on this list are for.



 

2. San Francisco Book Company


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San Francisco Books

17 Rue Monsieur le Prince, Paris, France


San Francisco Book Co. in Paris is perhaps the second most well-known English language bookstores in Paris, though it is decidedly less crowded. On my last visit to Paris, this is where I spent the most time (and the most money). It's been a left bank Paris bookstore institution since 1997.


Though not an enormous bookstore, San Francisco Book Co. has an extensive selection of second-hand English language books, and the prices are incredibly reasonable.


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A peek inside San Francisco Books in Paris

This is the bookshop for the English speaking reader who loves a beautiful used copy of a book. If you love vintage paperbacks, especially vintage Penguin paperbacks, this will be your idea of heaven. Paperbacks in the literature section where I spent most of my browsing time ranged from about 2-8 euro on average. Needless to say, I bought an entire stack. They also have a collection of rare and collectible books.


If you're curious about the selection, you can browse some of the San Francisco Book Company's inventory online.



 

3. The Paris Bouqinistes


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Some of the famous Paris Bouquinistes

Left and Right Bank, Paris, France


"Paris is the only city in the world where a river flows between two rows of books"
Blaise Cendrars

If you’ve ever found yourself strolling along the Seine near the ile de la cite or ile Saint-Louis in Paris, you know about the Paris bouquinistes, or second-hand booksellers. Made up of hundreds of independent booksellers in small stalls, collectively they form approximately 3 km of antiquarian books, art prints, and other souvenirs.


The bouquinistes are an age-old Paris tradition, dating back for hundreds of years. It’s such a quintessential part of the city’s history and culture that the Paris bouquinistes are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


While the Left Bank is the most famous location for these pop-up Paris bookshops, you can actually find them along both sides of the Seine surrounding the two main islands of Paris.


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Paris Bouquinistes with a view of the Eiffel Tower

The bouquiniste hours are roughly “sunrise to sunset,” but in practice, each bouquiniste opens and closes when they like each day, simply locking their iconic green book boxes when they aren’t actively selling books and art prints.


The profession has been threatened in recent years, both by the rapid increase of book customers shopping online and by the pandemic limiting travel. Any book lover who comes to Paris should keep this time-honored literary tradition alive and see what you can find at the bouquinistes!

 

4. F. Chanut Livres Anciens

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The beautiful antiquarian bookstore in Paris, F. Chanut Livres Anciens

41 Rue Mazarine, Paris, France


F. Chanut Livres is an absolutely stunning antique bookstore in Paris, and I confess to my own dismay I have only gotten to peer longingly through its windows.


Sadly, the shop owners seem to have been enjoying their summer holiday so much they had decided not to return and reopen when they originally planned. Delightful enough for them, I daresay, but devastating to this bibliophile.

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It's small, but I could see from peering through the windows that it's filled with some of the most beautiful antiquarian books you can find in Paris. Even the window displays had me giddy. I was so enchanted with what I could see through the windows that even without stepping inside this bookshop makes it onto my list of 7 bookshops to visit in Paris.


If you are a fan of beautiful antiquarian books, you must visit this bookstore on your next trip to Paris.


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Gazing longingly inside this beautiful Paris bookshop


 

5. Abbey Bookshop


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Abbey Bookshop in Paris's Latin Quarter

29 Rue de la Parcheminerie, Paris, France


If you find yourself deterred by the long lines and dense crowds at Shakespeare and Co. bookshop, simply walk around the corner and check out the equally charming but less crowded Abbey Bookshop, another English language bookshop that sells new, used, and rare books.


The Abbey Bookshop has had a home in Paris's Latin Quarter since Brian Spence, an expat Canadian, opened it in the building of a historic hotel in 1989. It's appropriately located on the Rue de la Parcheminerie, so named for the scribes, scriveners, and parchment makers of old who set up shop on this historic Paris street.


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The basement of the Abbey Bookshop

It’s tight quarters in the Abbey Bookshop, but they have a LOT of books. How do they manage it? Sliding bookshelves, of course!

There's even kettles and pot of coffee in the alleyway outside so you can pour yourself a hot beverage after browsing.


You can also check out the Abbey Bookshop's inventory online from home.



 


6. La Mouette Rieuse

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La Mouette Rieuse, a unique Paris bookshop

17bis Rue Pavé, Paris, France


This is an independent bookstore that snuck up on me unawares while I was walking aimlessly, my favorite pastime in Paris. Upon seeing its alluring window displays and cozy looking cafe, I couldn’t help but go inside.


La Mouette Rieuse is really so much more than a bookstore; across its multiple levels, you can find not only lots of delightful (new) books, but also a cafe with terrace, a dedicated coworking space, a fantastic children’s section, and an extensive collection of art prints and unique souvenirs.


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Part of the magical children's area of La Mouette Rieuse

You can even find art from local artists on display and for sale throughout the store.


I'm usually partial to used bookstores, but La Mouette Rieuse is exactly what I look for in a bookstore that sells new. It's a wonderful addition to this list of beautiful Paris bookshops to visit.


Tip for visiting: If you’re in Paris with kids, you will definitely want to check out the second floor of La Mouette Rieuse, which has not only books but a play space and toys set up. It's a wonderful place to let a child's imagination run wild.


Books are primarily in French, with some English language books available.



 

7. The Red Wheelbarrow


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The Children's branch of the Red Wheelbarrow Bookshop

1 Rue de Médicis No. 9 & No. 11, Paris, France


Located across from Paris's incredible Luxembourg Gardens within throwing distance of the beautiful Medicis Fountain is the Red Wheelbarrow bookshop, a store that specializes in new literature, gastronomy, and children's books in French and English.


The Red Wheelbarrow has recently grown to occupy two store spaces, with a French language bookstore sandwiched in between them. In No. 11, you'll find adult fiction and gastronomy, primarily in English, whereas No. 9 is dedicated to children's books.


so much depends upon
a red wheel barrow glazed with rain water beside the white chickens.
- William Carlos Williams
(the poem, The Red Wheelbarrow, from which this bookshop takes its name)

I was particularly enchanted with No, 9, the children's branch of this beautiful Paris bookshop.


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Inside the children's branch of The Red Wheelbarrow Bookstore

I discovered a fantastic children's series here and had a lovely, long chat with the bookstore's owner about life and some fascinating figures in her family history. It was a very pleasant way to pass the afternoon, browsing and chatting.


If you're on Paris's left bank visiting the Luxembourg Gardens (which you absolutely should be!) pop into the Red Wheelbarrow and check it out for yourself. It makes my list of some of my favorite bookshops in Paris.



 

That concludes my list of 7 beautiful bookstores you should visit on your next trip to Paris, France. As I mentioned before, Paris is oozing with bookstores. Do you have any favorites that aren't on this list?


Be sure to pin this post so you can reference it when planning your next trip to Paris.


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Hi, thanks for dropping by!

I'm an avid reader and traveler, writing all about literary travel, books, tea, and chocolate.