Paris has a rich literary history spanning centuries. This beautiful city has inspired writers all over Europe and many beyond Europe as well. You’d expect the Paris that inspired the likes of Hemingway and F Scott Fitzgerald to be teeming with bookshops and, of course, it is! Here are just 5 of the most famous (and most beautiful) English Language bookshops in Paris you must visit.
uh isn’t this post about bookshops in Paris?
WHSmith is the place to go for all things British if you’re living in Paris and missing home. They’ll cost you a fortune, but it’s the easiest place to find your favourite foods, magazines and books. In general I tried to stay away from here and buy from French shops. However, if you’re craving real British cheddar cheese (and not the bright orange grated stuff occasionally found in French supermarkets), then this is your best bet.
Wait – wasn’t I supposed to be talking about books?
WHSmith in Paris stocks pretty much all the same books you’ll find in WHSmith in England. It’ll have all the new releases, bestsellers and more. It’s a very large bookstore with the books covering the entire bottom floor and food and other products covering the top floor. If you’re desperate to get your hands on a new release as soon as it’s published, then WHSmith would be your best bet.
Unfortunately, as these are “foreign” language books being sold in France, they are really quite expensive. Whilst in England there are usually discounts on the RRP, in France, they will sell at RRP plus costs for importation. Taking these factors into account and the poor exchange rate at the moment, it will cost you far more to purchase a book here than the same book in the UK. For this reason, I wouldn’t hugely recommend shopping here unless if you’re desperate or seriously craving something British and willing to splash some cash.
248, Rue de Rivoli
Monday – Saturday, 10:30am-7:30pm
Librairie Galignani is the only bookshop on this list that stocks both English and French books. It’s located on the famous rue de Rivoli in Paris, just down the road from WHSmith actually. The bookshop run by the Galginani family has been around since the beginning of the 19th century and it’s certainly the most grand out of the bookshops listed here. Indeed, outside it’s front doors, it boldly claims to be the first English bookshop established on the continent.
The inside is absolutely breathtaking with a beautiful dark green colour palette. It’s very brightly lit which makes this a gorgeous space to browse the latest releases in French, English and the arts. Is it possible for a shop to ooze sophistication? If so, then Librairie Galignani is at the top of its game.
This is one of my favourite bookshops in Paris that stocks new copies and is the first place I’d look for new English releases (and French releases too!). Again, English books in Paris are sold at RRP plus more, since they have been imported so it’s not the cheapest place for English literature. If you’re an English ex-pat living in France though, it would be my go-to shop since book prices don’t vary hugely across France.
224, rue de Rivoli
Monday – Saturday, 10am-7pm
The Abbey Bookshop
The Abbey Bookshop is my absolute favourite bookshop in Paris. It’s a second-hand English language bookshop but a very large portion of the books found here are new releases that look brand new! I’m astounded by the wide selection of recently published books every time I go into this shop. I’m not sure if I’m more appalled that these books have already managed to find their way into a second hand book shop or pleased that they’re available to buy already.
Books seem to cover every single inch of this tiny store and if you’re wearing a backpack you’d be well advised to remove it before entering the bookshop! There are books piled high in every nook and cranny of the place and one misstep could bring tonnes of books down upon you. I love how narrow this bookstore is and admire them for trying to cram so many titles into one space. You’ll find every genre of book here from new releases to classics to general fiction to history.
If I lived in Paris this is 100% where I’d buy all my books!
29, rue de la Parcheminerie
10am-7pm, Monday – Saturday
San Francisco Book Co
San Francisco Book Company is fairly similar to The Abbey Bookshop in that it stocks second hand English books. It’s within a 5-10 minute walk of both Shakespeare and Co and The Abbey Bookshop so it’s well worth visiting these three all together if you’re in the Latin Quarter of Paris. The difference between this one and The Abbey Bookshop is that “new” books are hard to come by in this one. This shop seems reserved for the older, worn titles of classics and other books from eras gone by.
I love the pop of colour this bookshop brings to an otherwise classically beige, Parisian street and the rows and rows of books outside the store are so enticing! This book has layer upon layer of books upon its shelves and you could easily pass a few hours in here digging behind books to see what could be hidden further behind on the shelves.
This is the sort of place you’d come to look for a book if you’re not really sure what you’re in the mood for and you’re looking for something to take your fancy. There’s bound to be a hidden gem in here somewhere just calling your name!
Berkley Books of Paris is another store founded by the same people who founded and worked at San Francisco Book Company so that’s another one to check out if you’ve got time.
17, rue Monsieur le Prince
Monday – Saturday, 11am – 9pm
Sunday 2pm to 7:30pm
Shakespeare and Company
Shakespeare and Company is undoubtedly the most famous English bookstore in Paris. When it opened in 1951, it became a sort of hub for ex-pats living in France. It was inspired by the original Shakespeare and Company store by Sylvia Beach where writers such as Joyce, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Eliot and Pound would gather. George Whitman’s new store pays homage to her and continues to attract numerous anglophone readers, writers and tourists every day.
Here you’ll find the most popular new releases as well as all the classics. Shakespeare and Co stocks some of the most beautiful editions of books that are hard to come by in most other bookshops so it’s the sort of place you should check out if you’re shopping for gifts or you’d like to treat yourself. Each and every book purchase made at Shakespeare and Co will be stamped with their own bookshop stamp so you’ll never forget where you purchased it!
What’s special about Shakespeare and Company is that it offers young writers and artists a place to sleep at night if they’ve nowhere else to go. George Whitman wanted to use his bookshop to create a community and these guests were referred to as “Tumbleweeds”. Over the years, the shop has hosted over 30,000 Tumbleweeds! In exchange, these Tumbleweeds must do three things: read a book a day, help at the shop for a few hours a day, and produce a one-page autobiography. Seems like pretty good deal in exchange for sleeping in this beautiful shop free of charge!
This bookshop has become a sort of tourist attraction because of its rich history and connection with ex-pat writers and intellectuals in Paris. It’s crowded on most days, full of either avid bookworms or curious travellers. They also host at least one free literary event a week, often with some very famous writers, so you should definitely check out their events page before you visit.
Recently, a café has opened up next to the bookshop called the Shakespeare and Company Cafe. This cafe is run in collaboration with Bob’s Bake Shop . A little pricey as you’d expect, but a lovely place to sit down for a coffee and catch up or a place to squirrel away with your new read!
37 rue de la Bûcherie
75005 Paris, France
Every day, 10am to 10pm
Monday to Friday, 9:30am-7pm
Saturday and Sunday, 9:30am-8pm
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