11 Beautiful Bookstores in Paris Every Book Lover Should Visit

La librairie de la Halle Saint-Pierre. Photo credit: Jenny Hughes for Frenchly

France is a bibliophile’s paradise: there are bookstores every few blocks. When you need a little more to the book shopping experience than simply wandering in and picking up the latest bestseller or an old favorite, seek out these 11 bookstores — they’re the most beautiful in the city.

1. Le Pont Traversé

 

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An old butcher’s shop turned bookstore, Le Pont Traversé is exactly what you imagine a time-traveling Paris bookshop would look like. A chandelier hangs from the ceiling next to meat hooks (it was a butcher shop, after all). The books, mostly by the French greats, are old — and pricey — but if you really love Maupassant or de Beauvoir, you’ll find your pleasure here. Thriftier patrons can peruse the postcards; some are written on, but if anything that makes it a little bit of history you can call your own for just a few euros. True to its time-traveling essence, there is a clearly posted sign declaring that no photos should be taken. Respect the shopkeeper and only photograph the exterior, which is impressive in its own rite thanks to its intricate doorframe. — 62 rue de Vaugirard, 75006

2. Librairie Gallimard

 

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Minimalists will feel right at home at Librairie Gallimard. The beauty of one of these books is undeniable: the recognizable white and beige covers with a red rectangle border and title in a Times New Roman-adjacent font… now imagine thousands of them, carefully tucked into dark brown shelves lining cream-colored walls. Step into the back room of floor-to-ceiling white book spines to get a more modestly priced paperback. On the left side of the store, visit the stairwell of black and white author portraits. — 15 boulevard Raspail, 75007

3. Librairie Delamain

 

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Towering bookshelves, white spines with colorful accents, dark brown livres anciens resting on the highest shelves, rolling ladders on every wall, tables of bestsellers and books of all kinds — on politics, the arts, philosophy and travel, plus mysteries, graphic novels and kids’ books and stands of postcards you actually want to buy. Librairie Delamain has been selling books to Parisians since 1710. Ask the helpful staff for a recommendation or just read the notes stuck to book covers detailing why you should take this book home. The store hosts several literary events per week (the calendar of events is online). Buy a paperback then head to the kittycorner Palais Royal — the inner gardens are the perfect place to read. — 155 Rue Saint Honoré, 75001

4. Librairie Jousseaume

 

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In Galerie Vivienne, underneath the heading “librairie ancienne moderne,” this bookstore sits at the intersection of the covered walkways branching from rue Vivienne and rue la Feuillade. Tables of used books rest between rotating displays of some of the most unique postcards from Paris you could possibly find. Inside Librairie Jousseaume there’s a real bookstore-of-secrets vibe. It’s much bigger than it looks from the outside, offering several dimly lit rooms to peruse and many higher shelves of books accessible by spiral staircase. There’s no register selling bookmarks and chocolates, just a bookseller sitting at his desk surrounded by his work. Even if you don’t want a used book or livre ancien, go if only to buy a postcard from the same store where Colette once perused the shelves. — 45-46-47 Galerie Vivienne, 75002

5. The Red Wheelbarrow

 

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An independent Angolophone bookstore, the Red Wheelbarrow bookstore is a recent addition to the list of the city’s English-language bookstores. A blue facade with red-type above the windows will tempt you inside, large paned windows illuminate the one-room bookstore’s multi-colored fixtures, and brightly colored books fill the tables and shelves lining the walls. The American books, thanks to their illustrated and photographed covers, make the store even more radiant. Books about France or by Angolophone expat authors residing in the country, several of whom have had (or will likely at  have) events for their books in the store, have their own dedicated shelf. — 9 rue de Médicis, 75006

6. La Librairie de la Halle Saint-Pierre

 

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Though every bookstore is different, nearly all offer, at minimum, bestsellers, French classics and translations of famous works. La Librairie de la Halle Saint-Pierre does not. Located at the bottom of Sacré-Coeur in Halle Saint-Pierre, the shop offers  about art, photography, design, Paris’s history and culture, and children’s books. It has a notable variety of books about non-white artists and non-European artforms, and a few fiction works are available as well. Sit down at the café just across the atrium of Halle Saint-Pierre to peruse your gorgeous coffee table book and obscure finds with a hot drink and light bite. Consider allocating a little extra time to see Halle Saint-Pierre’s museum of outsider art, a type of art that’s created outside the boundaries of what’s considered official culture. — 2 rue Ronsard, 75018

7. Shakespeare and Co

 

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In its early days when it was referred to as Sylvia Beach’s bookstore, Shakespeare and Company was a hub for Anglophone expats of the Lost Generation; today, the bookstore pays homage to them by featuring their books and essays on the shelves just inside the entry. Besides a small section by the register of French-language works, the shop only offers books in English: fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, poetry, history, philosophy, social sciences… Upstairs, pull a book to read in the Sylvia Beach reading room, where you will likely cross paths with the bookstore cat. The primary hub of Anglophone literary events in Paris, the store welcomes book groups, like the Feminist Book Club, and international bestselling authors, like Zadie Smith. Two things you can’t get elsewhere: late-night hours (open until 10 p.m. most nights) and the unique Shakespeare and Company stamp added to the inside cover of any purchase. Stop by its café next door for a coffee drink and pastry. (Note: no photos are allowed inside, but the Paris-green and yellow facade, shaded in spring by a cherry blossom tree, is perhaps even more perfect for a picture.) — 37 rue de la Bûcherie, 75005

8. Librairie Galignani

 

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On the highly trafficked rue de Rivoli across from the Jardin des Tuileries, Librairie Galignani has been selling English language books since 1801, claiming the mantle of first English bookstore on the continent. (Presently they do sell French books as well.) High ceilings that slant in toward a skylight, worn parquet floors, espresso shelves lined with rolling ladders, and a few leafy palms welcome you into the store. Large and colorful fashion books, anthologies, best sellers, art books, fiction, philosophy, memoirs, children’s books and works by small publishing houses make up just a selection of the bookstores offerings. Make your way to the back of the store to climb the stairs that warp around the last skylight-lit room. — 224 rue de Rivoli, 75001

9. Les bouquinistes

 

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You can’t visit Paris without visiting les bouquinistes, the several hundred Paris-green boxes lining the sidewalk along the Seine. The booksellers in tourist-filled areas will carry glossy postcards, mass-produced prints of Paris and magnets. Trek east or west — away from Notre-Dame Cathedrale — and you’ll uncover bouqunistes with antique poetry anthologies, used classics for a few euros, graphic novels (bande dessiné) and vintage magazines. The perusing can take time, but there’s nothing better than telling someone, “I’m reading this great book I bought from a bouquiniste in Paris.” — the Right Bank, from Pont Marie to Quai du Louvre; the Left Bank, from Quai de la Tournelle to Quai Voltaire

10. L’ecume des pages

 

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Next to the Café de Flore in the 6th arrondissement, L’écume des pages is a perfect modern library. Emerald green walls lined with cherry red shelves filled with books on all topics in a variety of langauges. Display tables with low lamps hovering above will draw your eye to the latest Grand Prix literary prizewinners. A wide range of translated literature from countries like Russia, Spain, Turkey, Mexico and the U.S. fill the shelves. The late hours (10 a.m. to midnight, Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays) are perfect for evening perusing. Make sure to head to the back for the poches romans, small paperback editions which have more affordable pricetags. — 174 boulevard St. Germain, 75006

11. Ofr.

 

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Unlike many of Paris’s bookstores, Ofr. is a well-lit wonder with big windows (trust us, it’s unique). Art books are the name of the game here. Photography, fashion, nudes, retrospectives, anthologies — every kind of coffee table book someone with an annual membership to an art museum could want. There are a few self-published works, posters, postcards and pieces of pottery available for sale as well. Even if you wouldn’t call yourself an art lover, it’s still worth stopping by Ofr. It has something for every coffee table. — 20 rue Dupetit-Thouars, 75003

BONUS: Merci Used Book Café

 

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An honorable mention goes out to the Merci Used Book Café. Nothing can be purchased from the floor-to-ceiling shelves, but it’s a bibliophiles dream lunch spot (and an Instagrammers dream literary pic). — 111 boulevard Beaumarchais, 75003