A booklover’s paradise : Shakespeare and Company, Paris

Shakespeare and Company
Shakespeare and Company, Paris

I walked along the streets of Paris one cold Sunday morning. The warmth of the sun provided some respite for someone like me who isn’t so used to temperatures that are closer to zero. But the hustle of the Parisian streets with its many cafes, eateries and other shops made the atmosphere lively. I had taken a hurried tour of the treasures that the Louvre had to offer. The amazement and wonder of looking down at Paris from atop the Eiffel Tower hadn’t completely died down. But there was one little treasure that I had yet to explore. Surprisingly or rather owing to my ignorance, this was a place that I had never heard of earlier though I should have! When my friend told me about it, “Let’s go” was all that I could say. Who could say no to a bookstore, especially one that had a history of its own?

Situated within a walking distance of the famous Notre Dame, the bookstore Shakespeare and Company is a world of its own.  With its colourful doors, blackboards filed with quotes, a cute bench to sit on and read, the bookstore welcomes you with an embrace if you are a book lover like me! With a history that is almost a century old, there are so many stories that the bookstore holds. The current bookstore is not the first Shakespeare and Company. The first one was started in 1919 by an American called Sylvia Beach and it was a meeting place for many famous writers of those times. But unfortunately the bookstore closed down in 1941 during the German Occupation of Paris. The current bookstore was started by George Whitman in 1951 and was originally called “Le Mistral” . Sylvia Beach later let George Whitman rename his bookstore Shakespeare and Company, which he gladly did as a tribute to her. Currently George Whitman’s daughter, Sylvia Whitman runs the store. 

I couldn’t contain my happiness looking at the bookstore

When I reached the bookstore, I took some time to stand outside it and gaze at it in awe. Bookstores usually have some kind of effect on me, but this one mesmerized me. There were a few second-hand books kept outside the store. But what caught my fancy was the bench outside the store and the blackboards with some brilliant quotes. As I stepped through the colourful door, thousands of books greeted me. The ground floor mainly has new books spread across different genres.  Fiction, Self help, Science or just lots and lots of Shakespeare – there are a lot of books in this tiny little place. There is a small room that has books about art and culture. The way the books are arranged there and the way the room is set overall is art in itself. There was a ancient looking table and chair kept at a height in this room and I just wanted to go up there and read. If that wasn’t enough, it was Enid Blyton’s books lead the way to the top floor which proved to be even better!

A huge collection of poetry books, from times old and new welcome you to the first floor. There’s a reading library here where the store’s motto “Be Not Inhospitable to Strangers Lest They Be Angels in Disguise” is prominently written. There is typewriter in a corner and then there is a piano in the adjacent room. And yes, there is also a cat! There is a box where you can write and drop notes to strangers and these notes will be kept in different books sent to people from all over the world. Interesting, isn’t it? There is also an antique books section which unfortunately was closed on the day that I went. There is a cafe by the name “Shakespeare and Company” run by the bookstore and is adjacent to the bookstore. 

It was only later that I got to know about the program called as “Tumbleweeds” where aspiring writers can stay in the bookstore provided they work for some time in the bookstore and write a short autobiography. Maybe someday I’ll go there again and be a Tumbleweed writing out my book. Well, that is the dream! The bookstore has a charm of its own that draws the book lover in you and makes you fall in love with its quaintness. As a souvenir, I bought a called “Browse : Love letters to bookshops around the world” (So apt, isn’t it?) and I got it stamped! 

This is a place that I would like to again and again. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take any pictures inside the store as it is prohibited.  If you are book lover and you end up going to Paris, this a place you should not miss! And if you aren’t a book lover, maybe you should still go there. Who knows you might fall in love with books! 

10 responses to “A booklover’s paradise : Shakespeare and Company, Paris”

  1. Vishal Kataria says:

    The number of bookstores has dropped so much that the sheer sight of them is exciting. Lovely memoir, Reema.

  2. Shalzmojo says:

    Wow!! I have been to Paris and even I didnt know about this – what history this place has. And the snapshots of its interiors are simply gorgeous Reema.

    I am book marking it for a visit if I ever do get to travel to Paris again!!

  3. Vinitha says:

    One of the things I loved while living in England was the bookstores. Every corner there was one and I just loved visiting them. If I ever visit Paris I will definitely visit this bookshop. You have described so deliciously, Reema, I have to at least visit a nearby bookstore soon. 🙂 Glad to know that you are having the time of your life in Europe. 🙂 Enjoy!

  4. Modern Gypsy says:

    I’ve heard so much about this bookstore! You’re so lucky to have been able to visit. I hope I can make it to Paris some day soon so I can spend some time wandering around the aisles and soaking in the ambience of the store in person!

  5. I saw this bookstore in the movie ‘Before Sunset’ and remember it to be a fascinating place. Your description makes it a compelling visit. I am not sure if I will go to Paris ever but have shared your post on my Facebook timeline tagging a family member who is a book lover and loves traveling 🙂

  6. Oh, it looks gorgeous! I love bookshops and especially cute and independent ones like this. Loved knowing the history too!

  7. Must check out Tumbleweed right now! Hahaha! Weirdly, I think if I found my way to Paris, I’d be completely willing to give up a round of the Eiffel Tower, but would definitely want to have this bookshop on my list of places to see. Did you pick up any of the books here? Are books very expensive in this part of the world?

    • Hahaha! I thought so too! But I visited both- the bookstore and the Eiffel tower. I picked up one book as a souvenir from here but yeah books are expensive in Europe 🙁

  8. […] I like visiting lovely bookshops to. You can read about one such beautiful book store here. […]

  9. Oh How wonderful! How did we miss this bookstore in our Paris trip! Would have loved to c one here and spend a good afternoon…

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