Apr 30th, 2018, 10:40 PM

Seven Bookstores that Aren't Shakespeare & Co.

By Charnice Goldsborough
Image credit: Unsplash/Freddie Marriage
Ditch the lines and stop by one of these lesser-known English bookstores

Shakespeare & Company is one of the oldest and most famous English bookstores in Paris. But it's also the most compact, with tourists all year round which can definitely ruin the bookstore experience, making it difficult to find the book you're looking for or get any reading done. There are seven bookstores, however, which have a similar book catalogs as Shakespeare & Co. but are less frequented. Whether you're a long time resident or newcomer to Paris, these shops are great if you're searching for books for leisure, class, or as a gift.


248 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris (Closes at 7:30 p.m.)

WHSmith is the largest English bookshop in Paris since 1903. This bookstore is pretty well-known but not as famous as Shakespeare & Co. It's more spacious, too, with a capacity of 150 people. You can find this bookstore a few minutes walk from metro station Concorde on line 8 or 12.

Ambiance - Very quiet and calm, it gives the feeling of a library. The space is more commercial compared to the usual book store. There’s tearoom on the second floor, which is a nice place to go read and have a cup of tea or coffee or even buy British snacks like Hula Hoops and Cadbury chocolates. For Americans, it is considered the British counterpart to Barnes & Noble.

Book selection - It is huge, and has something for everyone, from Fine Arts to magazines to cookbooks. Each section is a decent size, too. There’s a large children section, but a small comic book section. Most of the comics are Superhero genres and Calvin & Hobbes.

Customer Service - The staff is bilingual, speaking English and French. They are helpful and polite, but distant. They likely know the answer to your question, but seem preoccupied with other things at the same time.

Price Range - €€

Most books cost the standard pricing between 10-30 euros,  but they are sometimes 60.

*The store also has nice book accessories and school supplies


2 Rue de Buci, 75006 Paris

Closes at 8pm

Ambiance - Low-lighting and spacious. Inside was no louder than murmur which was coming from mostly the staff sitting at the register, and the occasional tourist. There was a few people scattered throughout the store, silently flipping through books.

Book selection - Niche books on famous artists, architecture, culture, photography, film, fashion, erotica, and pop culture. All of the books were on display which you could flip through. Behind the display was more of the same books that you could purchase. All the of books were thick and pretty heavy since they all come with three languages inside; French, English, and German. I personally thought that was cool, especially with the larger more expensive ones.

Customer Service - They were multilingual like the books, very sociable too. But they seemed apathetic as they sat by the register, not needed by any customers.

Price Range - €€€€

You get what you pay for at this store. Most of the books are thick, medium sized for 10, 15, or 20 euros on average. There’s some books the size of your torso for 50. The rest are extravagantly made books that cost around 150 - 250 euros. The largest, most expensive book in the store was called Murals of Tibet which cost 10,000 euros.

San Francisco Book Company

17 Rue Monsieur le Prince, 75006 Paris (Closes at 9pm, 7 on Sundays)

Ambiance - Absolutely charming, very clean, and humble little bookstore. Nothing in particular stands out. The overall vibe is relaxed. You can browse or read there for hours and no one would bother you.

Book selection - Well-organized secondhand books. You can find of a lot of good fictional literature, poetry, plays, books on music, humor and film, with vintage comic books kept in mint condition. Plus a large section dedicated to culture and history organized by country. Great if you’re looking for something specific.

Customer Service - Introverted and awkward. There was only one man running the store. I tried to make light conversation with him but he seemed to get uneasy. Beforehand the man was very accommodating to a sweet elderly woman who came in looking for poetry. She was likely a regular since the man greeted by her first name, then they started chatting about their mutual love for cats.

Price Range - € 

All of the books were very budget-friendly. From what I browsed through, most of the books cost 20 euros or less.


83 Quai de Valmy, 75010 Paris (Closes at 7:30pm)

Ambiance - This store was the most quirky out of all of them, as it is full of pastel colors but minimalistic. I would describe it as an art student and hipster’s paradise based on the decor and books on display. There were about three rooms, and each a different color and decoration.

Book selection - Books on different kinds of artists such as graphic design, animation, graffiti, creating artwork, limited edition art and fashion magazines, plant care, and obscure cookbooks. The books were organized and on display, but there wasn’t any labels for each section. You had to feel it out for yourself.

Customer Service - All the staff had an artist appearance, very welcoming. Greeted each customer as they entered and left.

Price Range - €€

Librairie Galignani

224 Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris (Closes at 7pm)

Close to WHSmith.

Ambiance - Professional but traditional feel. Most of the books were on display showcasing their stylish covers. The store is close to many tourist attractions so the occasional noisy tourist could walk in. Other than that most of the people in the store were poised, contributing to the calm vibe of the store.

Book selection - Wide selection of limited edition books. All the sections were dedicated to literature from different countries, renowned French and American authors or poets, some remarkable books on fine art, film, cookbooks, history, philosophy, and science. All of the French books were available in the front of the store, while the English ones were towards the middle and back except for the comic section, which was only available in French.

Customer Service - Upbeat, spoke English, straightforward

Price Range - €€€

Most books averaged around 15 euros, some small books were less than that. But the majority of the books were between 15 to 60 euros. Likely because they were new and limited edition.

Abbey Bookshop

29 Rue de la Parcheminerie, 75005 Paris (Closes at 7pm)

Independent British-Canadian bookshop run by Canadian expats.

Ambiance - Small casual atmosphere, but a little claustrophobic. Chill blues music was playing and R’n’B. whimsical decor. It had an overall book-romantic aesthetic. If you’re clumsy or accident-prone you might knock some books down.

Book selection - A lot of old and obscure books on music, film, mythology, history, fine arts, American and Canadian authors, and a small children section. Some books are slightly used but others are limited edition. Great for browsing, but the shelves were not very organized.  Not so great if you’re look for any books in particular.

Customer Service - Just one of two people were working there. They were easy-going, chill like the music they were playing, also bilingual.

Price Range - €€

The price of books varies, small ones could be about 7 euros and the larger ones range from 40 - 50 euros