Whenever I’m able to travel to Paris, I always make sure to stop by the Shakespeare and Company bookstore in the 5th arrondissement. This little gem is one of the few English bookstores in Paris and they sell both new and second-hand books. You may recognize it from films, such as Midnight in Paris, Before Sunset, or Julie and Julia. I adore the bookshop itself AND its location-it’s just a few steps away from the Seine and Notre Dame! During the summer, you can go and pick up or book (or two!) and then make your way over to the Paris Plages (Paris Beach) for some fun in the sun.
Tip: Be sure to ask if you can have your book stamped with their signature Shakespeare and Company stamp! You can see mine below:
The original store and lending library was opened by American Sylvia Beach. In the 1920s, it was a popular spot for writers like Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, and more. It closed in 1941 due to the German occupation of Paris.
Later, George Whitman (also American) opened another English bookstore in 1951 in the 6th arrondissement called Le Mistral. In 1964, he renamed the bookshop to Shakespeare and Company in honor of Sylvia Beach’s bookstore and the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth.
“a wonderland of books“-Henry Miller on Shakespeare and Company
An interesting fun fact: writers have been able to sleep at the bookstore in exchange for helping around the bookshop. I read that over 30,000 people have cuddled up in between the bookshelves since 1951!
Today, the shop is run by George Whitman’s daughter, Sylvia Whitman, and her partner David Delannet. It continues to be the center of the Anglo-American literary scene in Paris and is known for its writers’ workshops and events.
If you’re interested in reading more about the history of Shakespeare and Company, pick up their book Shakespeare and Company, Paris: A History of the Rag & Bone Shop of the Heart.
Shakespeare and Company is still located at George Whitman’s original location:
37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris, France
P.S. At the time I’m writing this post, it’s been reported that sales have dropped 80% since March 2020 due to COVID-19. Fortunately, when supporters discovered this, Shakespeare and Company received so many orders that they cannot take any more on their website at the moment. (A message on the website states that they expect to be back up around December 1st.) Keep checking back if you’d like to order a book! In the meantime, they are offering a Friends of Shakespeare and Company membership program to support the shop that would be a great holiday gift. It’s similar to the membership that was offered by Sylvia Beach to save the bookshop during the Great Depression.