7 Must-Visit Bookstores in Paris
Lured by the beauty and splendor of the city, writers like Ernest Hemingway, Victor Hugo, Oscar Wilde, and Gertrude Stein have found both inspiration and a home in Paris. Because of their presence, it seems like there are two distinct parts to Paris: the dazzling nightlife and chic boutiques, and the quieter side, primed for creative inspiration.
You can’t have one without the other and for anyone who wants to fully understand the allure of Paris, a stop at one of the many bookstores is a must. Ranging from small hole-in-the-walls to large, modern designs, Parisians love their bookstores almost as much as they love a good baguette. Here are some of the very best Paris has to offer.
A must for the tourist
Nowhere in Paris is the love of literature more evident than the Left Bank’s Shakespeare and Company bookstore. Small, but bursting with personality, Shakespeare and Company has been open on and off since 1919 and offers primarily English-language books in a wide range of genres, making it a prime spot for tourists. Closed during World War II, the original shop, owned by Sylvia Beach, was mentioned in Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. Reopened in 1951 by George Whitman, the now famous shop still maintains it’s original quaint and dusty char.
Conveniently located by the Eiffel Tower, The American Library was created toward the end of World War I as a way to deliver books to the troops. Over 100 years later, it is still the largest English-language library in Europe. If you need to escape the rain, dodge the cold or just want to pass the time browsing one of the most historic libraries in the world, The American Library is the place for you.
To support the starving artist
Somewhere in Paris there is an author waiting for his or her big break and independent publishing is the way to make a name for yourself. Help them became the next Oscar Wilde by stopping in Pippa, one of the most popular independent publishers in Paris. Most of the titles will be in French, but the little, red bookstore will make you feel like a true Parisian.
For the fashion lover
Combining the city’s mutual appreciation for fashion and literature, Librairie de la Mode offers exclusively fashion forward selections. The aspiring designer will adore the color charts, illustrations and fabric samples, while clothing enthusiasts could spend hours flipping through designer look books. Located in the 1st arrondissement, Paris’ most fashionable bookstore is the perfect break from a busy day sightseeing and a whole lot of window shopping.
The best for children
Whether you’re traveling with the kids or simply have a few bookworms waiting for you at home, Chantelivre is your one stop shop. Up until 1974, Parisian bookstores looked down upon selling childrens books, until Chantelivre entered the market and changed everything. The shop boasts three locations and has nearly all of the 50,000 titles available, but for the full experience, head to the main location on Rue de Sevres.
For the treasure hunter
Easily one of the coolest things you’ll do in Paris, Les Bouqinistes is the mile-long gathering spot of hundreds of outdoor booksellers. Offering thousands of second-hand and rare collectibles along the River Seine, the Parisian book sellers have been a mainstay on the Left and Right Banks for over 300 years. While most of the 400,000 titles are, yes, in French, scouring the stalls for a copy of your favorite novel or finding a new French favorite as a souvenir can be a welcome break from the nonstop bustle of the city.
Two for one: Dinner and a book
What’s better than classic French cuisine and a good book? Really, not much, and at Le Cafe Livres you can have one of the most unique and laid back dining experiences in all of Paris. Surrounded by 13,000 books and comfy chairs, you and your companion can settle down to a meal in the library — just waiting for you to pull one off the shelf and start reading! As if to the experience could be made any better, the cafe encourages readers to swap one of their own books for anything on the shelves, so you can take a little piece of Paris with you wherever you go.
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