A Guide to the 5 Best Independent Bookstores in Paris

Shakespeare and Company: one of the best independent bookstores in Paris.
GARDEL Bertrand/Getty Images

If you're a book lover, a trip to Paris might seem like the perfect opportunity to pick up a couple of good novels, collections of poetry, or even an antique volume or two for your treasured collection. But unless you speak and read fluently in French or are primarily looking for collectors' items, it can be difficult to find independent sellers that specialize in English and languages outside of French. We've taken the guesswork out of the equation by putting together a list of the best independent bookstores in Paris—from shops specialized in fiction and non-fiction to ones proffering old and rare books. Before you head off to browse, here's one potential point of confusion to be aware of: in French, librairie means bookstore, not library!

01 of 05

Shakespeare and Company: A Place of Literary Legends

Shakespeare and Company bookshop, Paris

Courtesy of Shakespeare and Company 

37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris, France
Phone +33 1 43 25 40 93

At the gateway to the Latin Quarter and right across the Seine from Notre-Dame Cathedral lies a place steeped in literary legends.

Opened in 1951 by George Whitman, the famous shop with the iconic green awning and outdoor terrace is now run by Whitman's daughter Sylvia. It was initially called "Le Mistral," but the owner changed its named to honor the original shop run by publisher Sylvia Beach during the early 20th century. While the former was itself celebrated for hosting and publishing novelists such as James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway, its successor has become just as important as a center for English-speaking writers and literature lovers in Paris.

Inside, narrow, uneven wooden shelves are stacked with countless volumes of literature and non-fiction in English, from bestsellers to eclectic and rare titles. You can often see (and pet, if you wish) cats napping on the display tables or around the cash register.

Staff members—often resident writers, or "tumbleweeds," who lodge in the rooms upstairs—are generally friendly and helpful, eager to make recommendations, or help you to find something in particular. This is also a great place to enjoy free readings and book signings from noted authors; check the events schedule ahead of your trip to see if any interest you.

02 of 05

The Red Wheelbarrow: For Small Press Books & a Friendly Vibe

The Red Wheelbarrow bookshop, Paris

Tomato Kumato 

9 rue de Medicis, 75006, two doors up from, 11 Rue de Médicis No. 9, 75006 Paris, France
Phone +33 1 42 01 81 47

After having closed for several years, this beloved independent bookseller re-opened in a different location in 2018, to the delight of bibliophiles in the French capital. Named after the eponymous poem from William Carlos Williams, the shop is a favorite among English-native writers, editors, and others working in the literary field.

The shop, located right across from the leafy Luxembourg Garden in the Latin Quarter, offers a curated but generous range of classic and contemporary literature in English. It's also a great place to head when you're looking for children's books in French and English, cookbooks, or more specialized tomes on literary theory, poetry, history, or politics. It stocks a large number of books from small and independent presses, too, making it a good pick for more discerning readers. Readings here are intimate and memorable.

03 of 05

Galignani: Paris' Oldest English-Language Bookshop

Librairie Galignani, Rue de Rivoli, Paris

Courtesy of Galignani

224 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, France
Phone +33 1 42 60 76 07

Claiming to be the oldest English-language bookshop in continental Europe, this elegant, airy librairie is situated on Rue de Rivoli, just across from the Louvre Museum and the Tuileries Gardens. First opened in 1801 by a Venetian publisher, Galignani is beloved for its wide selection of books in both English and French, from fiction to non-fiction and history. The shop is also mainly specialized in fine arts and design. The current location on Rue de Rivoli has been open since 1856.

The friendly staff is bilingual and happy to assist you with finding a particular book or making recommendations, whatever your bookwormish heart may currently desire.

04 of 05

San Francisco Books Company: For a Great Selection of Used Titles

San Francisco Book Company, Paris

Courtesy of San Francisco Book Company

17 Rue Monsieur le Prince, 75006 Paris, France
Phone +33 1 43 29 15 70

This cheerful used bookshop nearby Paris' Sorbonne University is an ideal port of call when you're looking for a good book on a tight budget. Thousands of volumes line the shelves at the friendly shop first opened in 1997—and most are in English.

Whatever your interests—from sci-fi and philosophy to theater, food, music, theology, and poetry—you're likely to find something worth taking off the shelf here. If you're looking for more obscure and collectible titles, make sure to ask a member of staff about what they have in stock. They may just have a copy of the odd volume you're after. Special orders can also be made, and you can look for a title ahead of time on the shop's searchable online database.

In addition to its used-book selection, San Francisco Books Company also stocks a more limited range of new titles. The shop is open seven days a week, year-round.

Continue to 5 of 5 below.
05 of 05

La Librairie du Passage: For Art Books & Antiquarian Findings

The Librairie du Passage is located right next to the Musée Grevin wax museum in Paris.

Wikimedia Commons 

48 Pass. Jouffroy, 75009 Paris, France

If it's art or antique books you're after, this historic bookshop in one of Paris' ornate covered passageways is an excellent place to start looking. Right next door to the odd Parisian wax museum, Grévin, La Librairie du Passage Gribaudo-Vandamme sells both new and old volumes, with a particular focus on the visual arts, architecture and ancient tomes. It partners with the nearby Drouot auction house to sell its rarest and most valuable acquisitions.

The shop, run by a small but passionate staff of experts, makes new acquisitions frequently. It's a beautiful place to browse, get inspired, or make a purchase, whether you're adding to your collection or seeking an unusual gift for a book or art enthusiast.

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A Guide to the 5 Best Independent Bookstores in Paris