8 Literary Places In Paris Every Book-Lover Must Visit While She's There

A dreamy Paris vacation is probably every girl's dream, but the glorious French capital seems to hold a particular sway for the lit-lovers among us. Its winding streets and cozy cafés have inspired some of the greatest minds in literary history, and given birth to many of our most treasured books. So, given that I love books as least as much as I love adventuring into uncharted territories of cheese, I was super-excited to bask in the literary glow of the City of Lights on a recent 10-day trip there. And while I wasn't literally whisked away to a midnight rendezvous with my Lost Generation idols à la Owen Wilson, I got into the spirit by toting my camera along to a few of the city's countless literary landmarks. If you're planning a bookish wander by the banks of the Seine — even if only in your imagination — here are some awesome places to start!

Images: Tania Strauss

by Tania Strauss

Shakespeare and Company

Perhaps the most famous independent bookstore in the world,” according to Vanity Fair, Shakespeare and Company is a bibliophile’s Mecca. The epicenter of English-language literary life in Paris for nearly a century, the Left Bank store has been a favorite hangout of everyone from Hemingway to Alan Ginsburg to Dave Eggers. Its two floors feature a labyrinth of new and used titles, a cozy reading room, a piano which customers are encouraged to play, and even beds – approximately 30,000 artists, writers, and intellectuals have found temporary lodging at the store in exchange for a few hours of volunteer labor. An appealing prospect, because after 15 minutes in this artfully cluttered literary paradise, you’ll pretty much want to move in.

The Bouquinistes

Forming a long line of painted green stands that stretches along both sides of the Seine, booksellers pedal used and rare volumes, posters, maps, postcards, and other odds and ends. The Bouquinistes, which have existed in some form since the 16th century, are ideal for an hour or two of leisurely browsing — especially on a sunny afternoon when you can luxuriate in the beautiful river-side views.

Cimetière du Père Lachaise

Pilgrims from around the globe come to the world’s most visited cemetery to pay homage to the cultural and political luminaries buried in its park-like grounds. A leisurely stroll on a moody, rain-swept afternoon will take you past the final resting places of Oscar Wilde, Honoré de Balzac, Colette, Marcel Proust, Gertrude Stein, and Richard Wright, among many others.

Also: cats. Live ones, just so we’re clear.

Cimetière du Montparnasse

Paris’s second-largest cemetery is (in my opinion) prettier than its more famous counterpart, and considerably less overrun by tourists. Located in the Montparnasse neighborhood, which served as the artistic and intellectual center of Paris for several decades of the 20th century, the winding pathways contain the graves of literary lights like Charles Baudelaire, Simone de Beauvoir, Samuel Becket, Guy de Maupassant, and Susan Sontag.

Le Rosebud

After a moody walk through the cemetery, stop for a cocktail at Montparnasse speakeasy Le Rosebud. The street that houses it — the Rue Delambre — served as address to the likes of Henry Miller and Paul Gaugin, and is where Fitzgerald and Hemingway met for the first time in 1925. The bar retains the Jazz Age vibe it had when Sartre drank there in the mid-20th century, and the whole place feels like a time capsule to one of the most legendary periods in Paris’ cultural history.

Café de Flore

This posh Left Bank café is one of the most famous literary hangouts in the whole city. Its popularity among French intellectuals increased during and after WWII, as it was one of the only Parisian hangouts that wasn’t frequented by the German occupying army. The list of famous clientele — from writers to artists to filmmakers — is endless, particularly for breakfast and morning coffee.

Les Deux Magots

Across the street from Flore lies its somewhat less famous — but possibly more literary — rival. Les Deux Magots was likewise a hangout for artists, writers, and intellectuals, particularly during the first half of the 20th century. The café even awards a yearly literary prize, which was established in 1933.

The American Library in Paris

Founded in the 1920s, the American Library in Paris is largest English-language lending library on the European continent and has around 2,500 members. You can’t borrow from the collection or join one of its many book groups without a membership, but the library hosts many readings and events that are open to the public. And for book-lovers planning a long term stay, joining could be a great way to find yourself a home away from home with bibliophiles from across the globe.