Sitting on a bench with a good book and the crunch of autumn leaves around your feet, climbing the narrow steps lined with books to the upper level, an unforgettable encounter with a favorite author, browsing through stacks of books with a view of the towers of Notre-Dame Cathedral just across the Seine, finding a little, nearly forgotten treasure in the antiquarian shop and ducking in from a sudden rainstorm to find a warm haven for book lovers, writers and artists right in the heart of Paris. These are just a few of the many charms of the Shakespeare and Company bookstore – a Paris institution since the 1950s.
It has changed so much over the years, but many things have remained, a dedication to books, to supporting writers, poets and artists from around the world and creating a home for books published in English in Paris. Picking up from Sylvia Beach’s famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore originally located nearby in the 5th arrondissement, the current Shakespeare and Company was opened in 1951 by George Whitman, an American who stayed on in Paris after WWII. He continued the tradition of encouraging new writers and inviting published authors to his bookstore.
Shakespeare and Company continues to present author book signings and readings, lectures, concerts and more. You can check their Events webpage to see what is coming up during your stay in Paris.
When you step inside it really feels like you’re entering another world – a fictional world where the bells of Notre-Dame ring out in the pages of Hugo, where Hemingway still haunts the Luxembourg gardens and madeleines are served with lime blossom tea. There are books everywhere with shelves up to the ceilings and lining the staircase that winds upstairs. It’s a “winding, twisting, climbing labyrinth of books,” as described by George’s daughter Sylvia Whitman. Books, books, books and more books. This is truly a heaven for book lovers!
George Whitman said that “the business of books is the business of life.” This captures the spirit of Shakespeare and Company bookstore and how it has served as a welcoming home for writers, artists and readers in Paris. As Anna Quindlen wrote, “Books are the plane and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.”
If you’ve visited Shakespeare and Company in Paris then I’m sure you have many of your own memories. We’d love to hear them if you would like to share in the comments below! When was your first visit and what will you always remember? Do you still have any of the books you’ve bought at Shakespeare and Company? If you haven’t visited before, do stop by the next time you’re strolling along the Seine near the Ile de la Cité!
Shakespeare and Company
37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris
Monday-Friday 10am – 11pm
Saturday & Sunday 11am – 11pm