Reading is a refuge for me. As I get older, it seems to get harder to find blocks of uninterrupted reading time. But, when I do find the time, it is more therapeutic than ever. Bookstores embody the feeling of well-being that you get from reading, in a physical location. You can stand and be surrounded by the possibility of a thousand titles. Even though you probably won’t read all of them, they’re there in case you want to. And that’s comforting.
On my most recent trip to Paris, I devoted a day to walking the city and visiting bookstores. I started on the Right Bank in the late morning, and wound my way around to the Left Bank as the day progressed. What I found is that there’s something for everyone.
Bookmarc (1st Arr.) 17 Place du Marche Saint-Honore
Bookmarc is exactly what you would expect a bookstore opened by Marc Jacobs to be. It’s filled with a well-edited collection of art, design, music, and fashion books. While the books were beautiful, my favorite part of the store was the stationery and gift selection. I ended up purchasing thank you notes that read ‘Consider Yourself Thanked.’
Galignani (1st Arr.) 224 Rue de Rivoli
Galignani, which opened in 1801, bills itself as the first English language bookshop on the continent. They’ve been at their current location since 1856, and are still owned by direct descendants of the original owners. Their selection of English language books is huge and varied. I especially enjoyed browsing the English language books on French culture.
Ofr. (3rd Arr.) 20 Rue Dupetit-Thousars
Ofr. is a very attractive little shop in the 3rd Arr. but I must say that it wasn’t a great fit for me. This shop is a little too cerebral for my taste, but if you’re into obscure French art publications, books on literary theory or one-man screenplays, this place is for you.
La Belle Hortense (4th Arr.) 31 Rue Vielle de Temple
La Belle Hortense combines two of my favorite things – books and wine. So, how could I not love it? You can have a glass of wine, browse the books and relax in the tiny reading nook in the back. I had to come back two different times to find it open, but it was worth the wait!
Artazart (10th Arr.) 83 Quai de Valmy
Artazart was one of my favorite stores to visit, even if it was the furthest out of the way. I recommend making a mini adventure out of it. Take a long walk up the banks of the Canal Saint-Martin, spend a couple of hours browsing at Artazart, and then pop into one of the canal-side cafes for a long lunch or glass of wine. This store is a design-lovers dream. The shelves are overflowing with art, interior design, graphic design, typography and photography books.
Shakespeare and Co (5th Arr.) 37 Rue de la Bucherie
Shakespeare and Co is chock full of tourists, but I can’t help loving it anyway. It’s charming and quaint, and the staff are helpful and kind. Although it is not the original Shakespeare and Co like some people assume, it still continues to foster new literary talent which is an honorable mission.
The Abbey Bookshop (5th Arr.) 29 Rue du la Parcheminerie
The Abbey Bookshop is a true hidden gem. It took me about 20 minutes of wandering around the neighborhood before I finally found it down a small unmarked alley. Once I found it, I was in love. It’s a teeny tiny shop, but the owner doesn’t let that hold him back. The walls are stacked floor to ceiling with overflowing shelves, and old wooden ladders provided for the brave soul who wants to venture up to the top. It’s comical when two people need to pass in the narrow isles. Be sure to say hello to the owner, a lovely Canadian man who set up this English language shop in 1989.
Assouline (6th Arr.) 35 Rue Bonaparte
Assouline makes some of the most beautiful and interesting coffee table books in the world. Their tagline ‘The Most Sophisticated Books in the World’ hits the mark. It’s impressive to see them all in one stylishly appointed store. And the store is on one of the most picturesque streets in Saint-Germain des Pres.
Taschen (6th Arr.) 2 Rue de Buci
Taschen is über-stylish and offers some of the coolest large-format books I’ve ever found. It’s often hard to find their more unique offerings in standard bookstores in the US, but in their own store, they have them all under one roof. Their pop culture and music books are especially cool.
7L (pronounced “c’est elle”) (7th Arr.) 7 Rue de Lille
7L is very white and very quiet. It feels like a beautiful museum for books. Opened by Karl Lagerfeld, it reflects his sense of style. It’s filled with books on photography, interior design, art and furniture history, and of course, fashion.
Do you have any favorites that I missed? Be sure to let me know!