My 3 favourite English bookstores in Paris

If you’re looking for an English bookstore in Paris, you’ve come to the right place. I live in Paris, and I love books. Strolling through the city’s bookstores and libraries with my kids is what I like to do in my spare time. Paris is home to numerous bookstores offering a diverse collection of English books. So, I’m excited to share with you my top three favourite stores for buying new books – Smith & Son, The Red Wheelbarrow, and the iconic Shakespeare & Co.

If you’re searching for an English book, I assure you that you’ll find one to your liking in these English bookstores in Paris. The stores emanate warmth and charm, transforming the act of book shopping into a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I lean towards places with thoughtfully arranged layouts featuring different book categories, and the presence of a comfy chair to leisurely peruse my selection only adds to the appeal.

1. Smith & Son

Smith & Son is the largest English bookshop in Paris. Nestled on Rue de Rivoli, the store is just across from the Jardin des Tuileries and a stone’s throw away from the renowned Angelina café, where many indulge in the delectable hot chocolate.

The store was established in 1870 by the Neal brothers and later acquired by WHSmith & Son in 1903. Smith & Son regained its independence in 2020 and opened under a simplified name. The store was refurbished, emerging a year later as a revamped version of its former self.

Welcoming visitors with a spacious layout, Smith & Son provides an inviting atmosphere for book enthusiasts to explore leisurely. The open design and friendly English speaking staff create a welcoming environment for unhurried browsing.

Spanning two floors, the bookstore offers various English books across genres, neatly categorized for easy browsing. The ground floor hosts books as well as the latest international magazines, occasional deals, and curated staff selections. Beyond literature, the store features stationery, gifts, and a tempting selection of British and American confectionery.

Children’s books

Upstairs, an adorable children’s section, organized by age groups, provides a charming space for reading with little ones. Classics and new releases are available for purchase, and the store also sells soft toys corresponding to beloved book characters like the Little Prince or Peter Rabbit. Additionally, travel books and more specialized reads on fashion, history, and cookbooks are on offer.

For those with a craving, the Tea Room serves lunch and afternoon tea, featuring traditional English scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream. The menu includes a delightful selection of teas and unique creations like the London Fog Latte. The café is open Tuesday to Saturday from 12.00-19.00 (with a break from 14:30-15:30).

It’s worth noting that the bookstore exclusively sells brand new books, with no second hand section. If you can’t make it to the bookshop, place your order online and pick it up in the store. Alternatively, you can have it shipped to your home for an extra fee.

Tip: Sign up for their loyalty program, offering a 5% discount on your first and every subsequent purchase (except French newspapers and magazines).

Address: 248 Rue de Rivoli (with the second branch at 20 Rue des Rosiers)

Nearest metro: Concorde

Opening hours: 7 days a week, 10:00-19:30 (Sundays and Bank Holidays 12:30-19:00)

Link: https://www.smithandson.com/

2. The Red Wheelbarrow

Nestled in the heart of Paris’s Latin Quarter, just opposite the Jardin du Luxembourg, is another English bookstore in Paris called The Red Wheelbarrow. It’s a charming independent bookstore established by Canadian Penelope Fletcher in 2001. This literary haven sells brand new English-language books spanning various genres, from classic and contemporary literature to poetry, history, and politics. 

Inspired by William Carlos Williams’ poem “The Red Wheel Barrow,” the store initially found its home in Marais. After a temporary closure in 2012, it reopened its doors in 2018 in the Latin Quarter to the delight of its dedicated clientele. Notably, the location bears historical significance, once the last remaining second hand science bookshop in France before Fletcher and her associates revitalized it.

A unique feature of The Red Wheelbarrow is the coexistence of two distinct bookstores just a few doors away. The primary store at 11 Rue de Médicis boasts exquisite high ceilings and wooden floors, while its counterpart at 9 Rue de Médicis caters specifically to bilingual French/English children’s literature.

Children’s books

This literary oasis fosters a strong sense of community, drawing in regulars and locals who seek book recommendations and contribute to the vibrant atmosphere. The owner and staff offer personalized book suggestions. The bookstore further enriches the experience by hosting diverse events, including book launches, author readings, and creative workshops. If you find yourself with some free time, consider treating yourself to a new book and escape to the nearby Jardin du Luxembourg for some peaceful reading.

Address: 9 and 11 Rue de Médicis

Nearest metro: Odéon / Saint-Sulpice

Opening hours: Every day from 10.00 to 19.00

Link: https://theredwheelbarrowbookstore.com/

3. Shakespeare & Co

Shakespeare & Co., an iconic Parisian bookstore on the Seine, is a must-visit (ideally on a weekday). Despite the tourist influx, its Parisian charm and rich history make it a fascinating destination. Situated just opposite Notre-Dame, the bookstore has been a literary haven for decades.

Filled with books, art objects, and photographs, every inch exudes charm. Upstairs you will find a piano, cozy nooks for reading or resting and small workstations with typewriters. Crowded with book enthusiasts, a visit to this renowned little bookshop is a unique experience.

History

Opened by Sylvia Beach in 1919, it became a literary sanctuary for Lost Generation expatriate writers like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. After World War II forced a temporary closure, an American expatriate, George Whitman, revived the spirit in 1951 by opening the current store. An adventurous traveller, George shaped a community ethos and allowed guests or “Tumbleweeds” to sleep in the bookstore. You can still find beds built into the bookshelves.

It’s estimated that there are approximately 30,000 “Tumbleweeds” who have found lodging in this unique bookshop over the years. Their stay was not entirely cost-free. “Tumbleweeds” had to commit to reading a book daily, helping around the store, and writing a one-page autobiography. Today, the bookstore’s shelves boast numerous notebooks chronicling the diverse lives of those who’ve left their mark on this literary haven.

Presently, Sylvia Whitman, the daughter of George Whitman, along with her partner David Delannet, manages the shop. For a deeper dive into the bookstore’s history, read their book Shakespeare and Company, Paris: A History of the Rag & Bone Shop.

This English bookstore became a centre for anglophone literary life in Paris, even appearing in films like Before Sunset and Midnight in Paris. Hosting free weekly events, it attracts both emerging and established writers, maintaining its bohemian ambience. Unquestionably, Shakespeare & Co. is a landmark, drawing tourists and book lovers with its historical and literary allure.

What’s on offer

Shakespeare & Co hosts regular events like poetry readings and talks with authors, and there is a café where you can enjoy a cup of coffee or tea with your new favourite books.

The primary bookstore exclusively offers new books, but there is a distinct entrance leading to a section dedicated to the purchase of second-hand books.

Address: 37 rue de la Bûcherie

Nearest metro: Saint-Michel Notre Dame / Cluny La Sorbonne

Opening hours: Monday to Saturday (10.00 – 20.00), Sundays (12.00-19.00)

Link: https://www.shakespeareandcompany.com/

There are so many ways to support independent English bookstores in Paris. For example, you can buy books or buy book vouchers for your friends and your children’s teachers. Happy browsing and happy reading!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and I receive a commission if you visit a link and buy something on my recommendation. Purchasing via an affiliate link doesn’t cost you any extra, and I only recommend products and services I trust. All opinions are my own. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.For more details see my disclaimer and privacy policy.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top