Most charming bookstores in Paris

Dec 21,2015

If you have a lust for literature, the romantic city of Paris will take your breath away with its many eclectic and bohemian independent bookstores filled with antique tomes, magazines and comics.

With the idyllic and centrally located Millennium Hotel Paris Opéra as your base, scour the bookshelves for the perfect Parisian paperback. 

Shakespeare and Company 

Shakespeare and Company, located on the bank of the Seine River, just across from Notre Dame, is one of the most famous English-language bookstores in Paris, if not the most renowned. This iconic shop was founded in 1951 by American George Whitman, who once wrote: “I created this bookstore like a man would write a novel, building each room like a chapter, and I like people to open the door the way they open a book, a book that leads into a magic world in their imaginations.”

In addition to myriad new and old books, there's also a small collection of rare books, such as a first edition Goldfinger by Ian Fleming and a first edition and first printing of Watt by Samuel Beckett.

Librairie Robert Jonard

Librairie Robert Jonard is a real bohemian affair. The bookshop, located on Rue Joseph de Maistre in the 18th arrondissement, sells more than just old and new books – there are records, art prints, comic books, antique magazines, postcards and hand-painted manuscripts too.

Dotted throughout the cosy store are dusty collectables and beautiful antique leather-bound books any collector would love. Shopping at Librairie Robert Jonard is much more than a simple transaction – there's a real story and intimacy behind the pieces sold here.

Bouquinistes on the banks of the Seine

Credit: ONOKY – Fabrice LEROUGE/Getty Images

Stroll along the banks of the Seine River at night and you'll find hundreds of dark-green padlocked cubicles along the pedestrian walkways. Come morning, the boxes are opened and reveal a treasure trove of used books, art prints, magnets, postcards and stamps, turning the riverbank into a sprawling library.

There are currently 240 bouquinistes (booksellers of used and antiquarian books, each have about four boxes) spread across three kilometres of the Seine. These booksellers are part of Paris’s rich history, hawking their wares on wheelbarrows along the Seine since the 16th century. This regulated trade is relatively low rent and the high foot traffic contributes to its eight-year waiting list to become a bouquiniste.

Berkeley Books of Paris

Berkeley Books of Paris

Founded in 2006 by three lovers of literature from California who had previously worked at Paris's San Francisco Book Company is Berkeley Books of Paris on Rue Casimir Delavigne. This independent bookstore deals in second-hand English-language books and carries titles such as The Black Book by Lawrence Durrell, Nexus by Henry Miller, Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf and Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum.

The space is relaxed, with a resident cat and musicians popping in for jam sessions. If you're in the area, make it a day of culture and visit the nearby Odeon Theatre de l'Europe or the splendid Palais du Luxembourg.

San Francisco Book Company

San Francisco Book Company

On Rue Monsieur le Prince in the Latin Quarters sits the San Francisco Book Company, which was founded in 1997. Although this quaint little shop deals in English-language books that are mostly used, they stock a few new releases as well.

The walls of this shop are lined with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and stuffed with tomes of all genres and interests such as religion, children, economics, cooking, biographies and philosophy. Come for the old texts such as The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy and The Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane.

Abbey Bookshop

Canadian Brian Spence came to Paris in 1989 to bring his bookstore, Abbey Bookshop, to the people. Although it’s had many homes throughout the years, the shop is now located in the former Hotel Dubuisson on Rue de la Parcheminerie in the Latin Quarters, sandwiched between eclectic shops and eateries.

Spence's shop, which is home to tens of thousands of new and old books, literally spills out onto the street while tomes fill virtually every nook and cranny of the shop. A Canadian flag, which waves at the entrance, is a call to lovers of Canadian literature. The Abbey Bookshop is the only bookstore outside Canada that represents Canadian publishers, and here you can find over 5000 Canadian books.

With its slew of kooky independent bookstores offering unique and rare finds, Paris is a city to get lost in – not only in its romantic streets, but also in the pages of the books that fill the city's most memorable shops.

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