Five bookshops to visit when in Paris

Karishma Jobanputra, Kettle Mag, Shakespeare and Company bookshop
Written by karishmaj

Being book-obsessed makes it very difficult to go abroad. There is the constant internal battle when packing between clothes and books, I physically miss my alphabetised bookshelf, and I want to buy every book I see when abroad, which makes for a very difficult trip back, though it has improved my muscles. However, it does allows for some very exciting discoveries of beautiful bookshops, so here are my top five bookshops you must visit when in Paris. 

1. Shakespeare and Company: 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris, France

This independent bookshop is famed as one of the best places to go in France, whether or not you’re a bibliophile. Featuring in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris and Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, it is located on the Left Bank and in the Latin Quarter (known for having the best crepes, which I can verify).

Kettlemag, Books, Paris, Karishma Jobanputra

[Image: Karishma Jobanputra]

The rustic outside is quaint and charming, with second hand books and postcards in boxes and on racks to look at if you have to queue to get inside, which is sometimes the case. With tables of books, posters on the walls and cosy wooden alcoves with ladders and hanging wooden signs, there is a sense of being taken back in time once inside.

Up the stairs, which read “I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being” there are more books, beautiful old typewriters and a big room with comfy seats and a white cat roaming around. The piano upstairs is almost always being played by a visitor and every Sunday afternoon there are tea parties where one can share their work. Author readings are also organised and usually popular. Whilst I was there, Zadie Smith came one Thursday evening to share some of her work and take questions.

An absolute must-visit and one of the most famous independent bookshops in the world, it is much more than just a conventional bookstore and is steeped in history, culture and charm. Definitely venture to the tea party, go to an author visit, play the piano or stroke the cat when you drop by. If you do visit, make sure to buy a book or notebook so you can get it stamped with the Shakespeare stamp.

2. Abbey Bookshop: 29 Rue de la Parcheminerie, 75005 Paris, France

The Abbey Bookshop is absolutely tiny but a haven for book lovers. Every available space is packed with piles of books: vertically, horizontally, sideways and every possible way you could think of. Go down a narrow staircase and there are yet more books, making it difficult not to bump into people or knock over one or two. Usually when I knock books over I run away, but definitely don’t attempt that here. You’ll end up creating a book avalanche.

Thousands of books are on shelves inside, and there are boxes and racks outside for cheaper second hand books. You would be hard pressed not to find something you want to buy and if you do think of something they don’t have in stock, they can normally order in titles. Though slightly claustrophobic, it is brimming with books and the beautiful smell of paper and wood. Worth a visit and also not far from Shakespeare and Company

[Image: Karishma Jobanputra]

3. Galignani: 224 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, France

A luxurious bookstore in the first arrondissement, this light, airy shop feels like it could be in any major city in the world and is just steps away from Angelina (worth visiting to try the hot chocolate). Though lacking a distinctive French feel, it is certainly chic and gleams with dark wood. Tables of books and big bookshelves aren’t imposing but are still striking, and there are comfy armchairs for more cosy reading areas.

The selection of books available is the biggest positive here, though. If you can’t find what you want at Shakespeare and Company, then this will probably be your best bet. It has a massive range of English ficition, non-fiction and poetry and bolsters the title of being the English language bookshop on the continent. That and the armchairs definitely justify the price tags.

4. Georges Brassens Park: 104 rue Brancion, 15th arrondissement, every weekend 9am-6pm

[Image: Karishma Jobanputra]

A bit of a cheat because not technically a bookshop, but the weekend bookmarket under the awnings at Georges Brassens Park had to make the list. Though it used to be a slaughterhouse, and even though I’m a vegetarian,there is a charm here that just cannot be found in a bookshop. With lots and lots of stalls with tables of books, there’s a chance you’ll find something rare and beautiful quite easily.

In the open air sunshine, the musty book smell is overpowering and there are lots of bargains to be found. Across the road is Poilâne bakery, which does great strawberry bread rolls, too. The only downside is that most of the books are French, which is a shame if you only speak English. C’est la vie.

5. Gibert Joseph: 26 bd Saint Michel 75006 Paris France

Finally is Gibert Joseph, which is a more general bookstore that also sells other merchandise and DVDs and CDs. Massive in size, it’s not easy to find a specific book amongst so many but it’s almost guaranteed you’ll find something you didn’t even know you were looking for.

Worth a visit if you have time and fun for a wander around, but certainly to be done only after you’ve ticked off the first four on this list.