Paris is for (Book) Lovers
Even on vacation a girl’s gotta read! Paris has got you covered with great spots for reading or picking up a new book whether you live here or are just passing through.
As a famed literary capital, you can spend days visiting where authors lived, drank, wrote and died in the City of Light. But for just curling up with a good book in a beautiful location, here are my picks for where to read in Paris:
The Cafés and Restaurants
I love how cafés don’t rush you out in Paris the way you often are in America. You can order a coffee and read until your little heart is content.
- Merci Used Book Café, the beloved shop also has a gorgeous cafe with floor to ceiling bookshelves, over 10,000 books and cozy seating (plus a ladder tempting you to re-enact the library scene from Beauty and the Beast). Nibble a cake, sip some tea and grab a book straight off the shelf to read if you forgot yours at home. | 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais, 75003 Paris
- La Belle Hortense, an intimate wine bar and bookshop in one located in le Marais and open 5pm to 2am for those of you who like to read late (though it can get loud in the wee hours). Drinking wine while reading, très French. | 31 Rue Vieille du Temple, 75004 Paris
- Le Café Suédois at the Institut Suédois: Post up at one of the cozy private or communal tables inside, or in the courtyard for some fresh air. During the summer, the Institut opens its garden to readers with books to browse as well. | 11 rue Payenne, 75003 Paris
The Libraries and Bookshops
- The American Library of Paris: This non-profit cultural association is the largest English-language lending library on the European mainland. Gertude Stein and Ernest Hemingway wrote for its literary journal, and Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin and James Baldwin worked from there. Best for residents or students who want access to a large number of books in English, the events and the community because day and week passes do not include borrowing privileges. | 10 Rue du Général Camou, 75007 Paris
- Shakespeare and Company: No book lover’s trip to Paris is complete without a stop at this famed English bookshop. The shop itself is too cramped to accommodate readers, but the bookstore café next door has tables inside and out where you can read with a view of Notre Dame cathedral. The shop also hosts author events with writers across genres and nationalities. | 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris
- La Mouette Rieuse: Book and giftshop with an upstairs cafe/reading area and large glass wall that overlooks a garden. | 17bis Rue Pavée, 75004 Paris
- If you live in Paris, there are some beautiful French public libraries that require you to get a card. A beautiful and quiet one that I adore: The Hotel de Ville library.
The Parks and Gardens
Weather permitting, reading en plein air while sitting in a famed green park chair (the reclined ones are most coveted) is one of the city’s best simple pleasures.
- Tuileries: You’ll be in good company with tourists and Parisians alike flocking to the gardens with a newspaper or book. The main fountain is a good spot for half reading, half people watching.
- Jardin du Luxembourg: Along the Medici fountain is my pick.
- Jardin du Palais Royal: The fountain is an obvious choice, but I prefer the benches in the walkways that cut through the garden.
- Parc des Buttes-Chaumont: A quieter choice, bring a blanket to this gem of a park in the northeast of Paris.
The Summer Spot
- Paris Plage: In July and August you can watch the world float by along the Seine in a beach lounger. Paris Plage is a summer hangout set up for Parisians who can’t escape to the beach. Lending libraries are also set up along the way so sunbathers can escape with their minds too.
Other book-themed places of note
- Hotel Le Pavillon des Lettres: A hotel celebrating French and international literature. The rooms are themed around specific writers, from Zola to Rousseau to Woolf, with their writings displayed on the walls and books on the shelves. Most interestingly, guests can fill out a questionnaire on their literary tastes and a book concierge will deliver a hand-picked novel to your room in the evening. | 12 Rue des Saussaies, 75008 Paris
- The Bouquinistes of Paris: Along the banks of the Seine, these riverside book stalls carry mostly used and rare gems. They run from the Quai de la Tournelle to Quai Voltaire.
Where is your favorite place to read or pick up books in Paris? Leave a comment to share it with me!