This place needs no introduction. There isn’t a
The world-famous bookshop is, however, often mistaken for the original bookstore opened and run by American expat Sylvia Beach and frequented by the likes of Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, the Fitzgeralds, and many other great writers who called Paris home at the time. That original store closed in
Today’s much-loved incarnation of the storied Parisian bookstore didn’t come to life until 1951. Initially called Le Mistral, it became Shakespeare and Company in 1964 when owner George Whitman renamed the shop to mark William Shakespeare’s 400th birthday and to honor Sylvia Beach, the original store’s owner, who passed away in 1962.
Standing in a crooked old building on the banks of the Seine opposite Notre Dame, Shakespeare and Company gives off an almost whimsical, lost-in-time aura, inviting you to come in and get lost in the pages of a good book.
Past the pretty cherry tree outside, making for perfect pictures in spring, the colorful façade of the shop greets you with a few bins full of second-hand books on the sidewalk. Inside, two floors full of stories await.
Selling new and used English-language books, Shakespeare and Company has sections dedicated to the writers who frequented the original store, to the City of Paris, to the classics, and to the latest releases. The store is always full, probably because there’s something for everyone here, be it tourists who want that legendary bookshop experience, travelers who have run out of things to read, or expatriates in Paris who need something in English for a change.
The store welcomes all, whether you want a souvenir stamp in your new purchase or not.
But Shakespeare and Company is so much more than just a bookstore. It’s also home to Aggie the cat – be sure to say hello and give her a pet while you’re there – as well as a temporary residence for aspiring writers, letting them sleep among the bookshelves in exchange for helping out in the store.
If you’re not a writer yourself, you can always come and meet authors at one of the bookshop’s regular readings, or improve your writing skills at one of their workshops.
After choosing a book or attending an atelier, sit down next door at the Shakespeare and Company café and start reading or writing over a coffee and a slice of homemade cake… Perfection.
Urbansider Tip: You’re not allowed to take photos of the inside of the shop, so put your phone away and enjoy browsing through the books!