With bookstores or libraries on every few blocks, Paris is a bibliophile’s paradise. But, when you want a little bit more from your book shopping experience than simply wandering in and picking up the latest bestseller or an old favorite, seek out these 9 bookstores — they’re the most beautiful and well stacked bookstores in the city.
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
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
An independent Anglophone 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 Anglophone expat authors residing in the country—many of whom host events for their books in the store—have their own dedicated shelf. — 9 rue de Médicis, 75006
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
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
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
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