Bookshops in Paris: Shakespeare and company

Bookshops in Paris: Shakespeare and company

2 minutes to read

Situated on the Paris's Left Bank, just a few steps from the Notre Dame Cathedral, Shakespeare and Company is one of the most famous independent bookshops in Paris and probably in the world. This is not just any bookshop, this is a real cultural institution. Many writers were adept of this place such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Jack Kerouac. The Shakespeare and Company is selling new and second-hand books in English, has many events as public readings and a charming little café. An interesting thing about this bookshop is that it is also a place that offers a bed and a workspace for aspiring writers in exchange for their help around the bookstore. If you like books, this is the place you just have to visit in the City of Lights.

Shakespeare and Company
Shakespeare and Company
37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris, France
Cathédrale Notre Dame
Cathédrale Notre Dame
Place Notre-Dame, 38000 Grenoble, France

Bohemian center

Sylvia Beach, an American from New Jersey opened the bookshop Shakespeare and Company in 1919, and soon this place became a center where many artists and writers of the so-called “Lost Generation” were gathering. James Joyce used this bookshop as his office, and they even published his controversial book Ulysses in 1922, which was banned in the Great Britain and the United States. Sylvia Beach was forced to close her bookshop at the beginning of the World War II. In 1951, George Whitman, an American known for his free spirit, eccentricity and generosity, opened a new English bookshop in the building of the 17th-century monastery, that has quickly become a center of the bohemian Paris. After Sylvia Beach's death in 1964 and on the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's birth, Whitman renamed his store into Shakespeare and Company. In 2003, George Whitman’s daughter Sylvia Whitman, named after Sylvia Beach, founded a biennial literary festival, that has hosted the writers such as Paul Auster, Jung Chang and Marjane Satrapi. 

Tumbleweeds

The bookshop’s motto is "Be Not Inhospitable to Strangers Lest They Be Angels in Disguise," so it is not a wonder that this place has opened its doors to many writers, artists, and intellectuals. The Shakespeare and Company has become a home to many writers looking for a place to stay and create. Over the years, more than 30,000 writers and artists have stayed in the bookshop, including at that time unknowns such as Alan Sillitoe, Robert Stone, Ethan Hawke and Geoffrey Rush. These bookshop’s guests are called “Tumbleweeds”. In exchange, Tumbleweed has to read a book per day, help out in the shop for a couple of hours, and write a single-page autobiography for the bookshop archive.

The Café

George Whitman’s dream in the 1960s was to open a literary café, but his daughter Sylvia Whitman managed to do this only in 2015. The Shakespeare and Company Café is located right next to the bookshop, with an incredible look over the Notre-Dame Cathedral. The café serves coffee, tea, and fresh-squeezed juices, and organic, vegetarian and vegan food.

The Shakespeare and Company Café
The Shakespeare and Company Café
37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris, France

Cover photo © jewhyte

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The author

Sladjana Perkovic

Sladjana Perkovic

Hello, my name is Sladjana, a journalist and writer living in Paris, France. I write about French well hidden places, gastronomy and cultural events.

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