The Seine flows under the Mirabeau bridge, and readers lounge on the bank of the Quai de la Tournelle. Situated right in the heart of Paris, you can look out over the île Saint-Louis and the île de la Cité and admire the view of Notre Dame. The two river banks are studded all the way down with the famous green booksellers’ boxes. You can find second-hand books as well as posters and reviews of collections in their street stalls. The story of the bookseller harks back to the 17th century and this tradition so perfectly represents Paris that it has been classified as a UNESCO world heritage site. Discover the largest number of open-air bookshops in the whole world. An endless selection of literature to browse through in an area that is – metaphorically speaking – no bigger than a stamp.
Métro : Cité, Hôtel de ville or Pont Marie.
On the terrace of the Deux-Magots
This is so much more than just a cafe or a restaurant. This is a literary and historic institution where erudite types rub shoulders. In the 19th century, Verlaine, Rimbaud and Mallarmé clinked glasses here. Later on, Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir spent many a happy hour here, as did Gide, Picasso and Hemingway (who would often be accompanied by Joyce, as he recounted in ‘Paris est une fête’). Led by André Breton, the Surrealists often came here for a knees-up.
Situated just next door to Flore, another legendary cafe, and the Hune bookshop, come and read on the heated terrace of the Deux-Magots: and make sure you keep one eye on your book and another on your neighbours...You may well come across the writer Jim Harrison enjoying a glass of red wine, or a currently unknown literary genius writing a future classic.
6, place Saint-Germain des Prés. Métro Saint Germain de Prés.
Tel. +33 (0)1 4548 5525
In the Luxembourg Gardens
One of the most beautiful and bucolic of the capital’s meeting points, where lovers and students from the neighbouring Sorbonne mingle amongst the flower-beds, the fountains, the greenhouses and the fruit gardens.
Created by Marie de Médicis in 1612 and measuring 23 hectares, these are the largest gardens in Paris. They are located in the Latin Quarter right next door to the Senate, in which you can find one of the most elegant libraries. So inspiring, in fact, that Gérard de Nerval paid tribute to its bookshelves in one of his poems. The Luxembourg Gardens house hundreds of statues, notably those of Baudelaire and Flaubert. Reading under the watchful eyes of the writers of ‘Fleurs du Mal’ and ‘Madame Bovary’: what could be chicer?
Enter at rue de Vaugirard. Métro : Odéon.
On the forecourt of the National Library of France
Tread carefully! Here you are surrounded by ten million books. Situated in the 13th arrondissement and recently refurbished, the French National Library at Tolbiac boasts one of the largest collections in the world and prides itself on its anthology of rare books, including early printed books, banned works and historical prints. The whole site measures 60,000 square metres, and as you read you can look out over the Seine or admire the 79-metre-high towers which resemble open books. An urban, architectural and literary experience. Make sure you don’t miss any pages, especially not in the presence of worldwide literature.
Métro : Quai de la gare et Bibliothèque François-Mitterrand.
Tel. +33 (0)1 5379 5959
Paris City Guide