Are you the kind of book lover who seeks out independent bookstores the way other people seek out restaurants? Do you have an adorable reading nook built into a corner of your home? Do you have a fascination with the lives and lifestyles of the greatest writers in history?
We totally get it. We love books and those who pen them into existence. And you know which city is seriously amazing for lovers of literature?
While the City of Lights is more famous for its museums and cultural monuments — the Eiffel Tower, for example — the French capital is also a haven for all things literary! Even if you don’t speak French, this city is overflowing with the kinds of cozy corners and historic places that’ll inspire the bibliophile in you.
So get ready to start your bookish adventure! Here are some of Paris’s best bookshops and otherwise literary locations.
La Belle Hortense
If you love books and wine, then this French bookseller is the one-stop shop for you. This is a bookshop and a wine store, all in one! Located right in the middle of the charming district of Le Marais, La Belle Hortense houses hundreds of books alongside an onsite wine cellar with an extensive selection of classic wines.
The gorgeous décor, colorful setting, and comfy chairs offer the perfect setting to read a book and sip some wine. This is a real book lover’s refuge. Vous en prie!
Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots
These two spots aren’t exactly bookshops, but they do have tons of literary significance. Situated just across the street from one another in the trendy Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood, these two cafés are best known for the literary giants who used to visit them frequently. Writers like Ernest Hemingway, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and Simone de Beauvoir were frequent visitors to both Café de Flores and Les Deux Magots, alongside Surrealist artists like Pablo Picasso.
These days, the clientele isn’t quite so famous, but the literary, artistic spirit lives on. Order a chocolat chaud and imagine yourself discussing A Farewell to Arms with Hemingway!
Shakespeare and Company
If you’re exclusively an English speaker, this is the bookshop for you. Shakespeare and Company has one of the largest selections of English books in Paris, and it’s historical to boot. Its founder, Sylvia Beach, created a stomping ground for famous writers like Ernest Hemingway and Ezra Pound, and even published James Joyce’s iconic book Ulysses out of the original store. The store exists in a new location now (the original was forced to close during World War II), but its early 20th-century charm is still intact.
The inside of this shop is filled to the brim with books — from floor to ceiling — so the ambiance really doesn’t get any more literary than this. Plus, the store also has a café, so you can snag a bite to eat while you read.
If you’re a writer, you can even stay overnight in the store, for free! It’s called tumbleweeding, and basically, you’ll get free lodging in exchange for a few hours of work each day and a daily commitment to reading and writing. C’est incroyable!
Artazart Design Bookstore
Artazart is like no other bookstore in Paris. Specializing in photography, design, and art books, Artazart will appeal to your visual senses as much as your literary ones.
A popular hangout for many local art students, Artazart often displays their work inside the shop. Playing host to seasonal contemporary art exhibitions means this store is always packed — but with interesting, artsy people. Plus, Artazart is right on the waterfront along the River Seine, so you’ll have a lovely place to kick back and enjoy the new books you’ll inevitably leave with.
La Closerie des Lilas
You can munch on your croissant while you amble over to Boulevard du Montparnasse, where you’ll find La Closerie des Lilas. This café, restaurant, and brasserie was where French poets and writers like Paul Fort and Guillaume Apollinaire came together to read their works. It was also a regular rendezvous point for American writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald. It is said that the terrace at La Closerie is where Fitzgerald showed the manuscript of The Great Gatsby to Ernest Hemingway.
If reading while seated at the café has built up an appetite and you don’t mind splurging on a meal, then don’t forget to try the beef filets Hemingway-style while listening to the relaxing tunes from the piano bar.
Functioning as a meeting place for prominent writers and intellectuals since 1686, Le Procope proudly wears the title as Paris’s oldest cafe. Famous Frenchmen such as Voltaire and Paul Verlaine have walked through its doors, but it’s draw, especially for American travelers, has to be because of a literary work of great political significance; it is said that Benjamin Franklin wrote part of the US Constitution here while serving as Ambassador to France! You can also see the American statesman celebrated in a portrait in the restaurant’s window with the inscription in French that reads “Benjamin Franklin prepared the draft of the alliance of Louis XVI with the new Republic at Cafe Le Procope.”
As Le Procope is situated in the Sixth Arrondissement, you can admire the beautiful surroundings while you plunge into a good book, and picture all the great conversations and ideas that have been exchanged at this legendary spot over the centuries — what better way to enjoy Paris? C’est parfait!
Have you visited any of Paris’s legendary bookstores and places of literary importance? Share your experiences with us in the comments!