Head for the heart of the 5th arrondissement! Just a stone’s throw from Notre-Dame-de-Paris, the English-speaking bookshop Shakespeare and Company truly is heaven-on-earth for book lovers… It’s also a great point of interest for visitors curious to discover a different side of Paris!
Follow the guide!
💡 The Captain’s tip 💡
Want to know more about the history of Paris? Captain Ulysses highly recommends this free guided tour of the capital. It’s up to you to choose how much you wish to tip the tour guide!
Are you looking for a hotel in Paris? Feel free to have a look at the Captain’s article: Where to stay in Paris? Tips & recommendations
Brief history Shakespeare and Company
The origins of Shakespeare and Company
In 1919, Sylvia Beach, an American bookseller and publisher, founded the first English-language bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, at 8 rue Dpuytren, in the heart of the 6th arrondissement.
Two years later, the bookshop moved to 12 rue de l’Odéon, where it welcomed some of the most emblematic writers of its time.
The leading figures of the Lost Generation – Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Francis Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein – regularly visited Sylvia Beach’s bookstore… Ernest Hemingway even mentioned the mythical bookstore in his novel A Moveable Feast.
In 1922, Sylvia Beach published the first edition of James Joyce’s classic Ulysses: a proof of courage and audacity considering the novel was to be banned in England and the United States.
In 1941, the German occupation forced Shakespeare and Company to close its doors for good.
The end of a chapter…
The second bookstore
In 1951, George Whitman, an American bookseller, opened an English-language bookstore at 37 rue de la Bûcherie, in the heart of the 5th arrondissement of Paris, a stone’s throw from the Latin Quarter.
Named Le Mistral, this bookstore was located opposite Notre-Dame-de-Paris, at kilometer zero, the point at which all French roads begin.
Sylvia Beach, a devotee of George Whitman’s bookstore, invited the owner to take over the name ‘Shakespeare and Company’… and so he did in 1964, on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth!
Just like the members of the Lost Generation in Sylvia Beach’s bookstore, the writers of the Beat Generation – among whom Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso and William S. Burroughs – became regular visitors in George Whitman’s bookshop. Jim Morrison was also known to drop by Shakespeare and Company regularly.
📚 The Tumbleweeds 📚
George Whitman was a socialist. He wanted to make his bookstore a forum for exchanging views and meeting like-minded individuals, where the door would always be open to authors in need. He therefore invited writers, artists and intellectuals to spend the night on the second floor of the bookstore, surrounded by books. What did he ask in exchange? Simply that they read a book a day, help put the books away for a few hours a day, and write a short one-page autobiography before leaving.
The Shakespeare & Co. bookstore today
In 2001, Sylvia Whitman took over the family bookstore, assisted by her husband David Delannet. George’s daughter continues to perpetuate the spirit of openness and sharing so dear to her father.
In 2003, she created the Festival and Co, a literary festival organized every two years in the small square in front of the bookshop.
In 2011, Sylvia Whitman launched the Paris Literary Prize, a literary competition for international young writers who have not yet been published.
In 2015, the Shakespeare and Company Café opened in the building adjacent to the bookstore. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a delicious moment of relaxation after a shopping session in the bookstore.
Visiting Shakepeare and Company
While Shakespeare and Company truly is heaven on earth for all book lovers, no need to be an avid reader to enjoy a visit in the mythical bookshop.
The English-languague bookstore has become quite the cultural Mecca in the French capital. Frequented by Parisians as well as visitors from all over the world, Shakespeare & Co. is a cosmopolitan and lively gathering point. Captain Ulysses can only recommend taking time to explore the shelves covered with books of all kinds, and lounge in one of the store’s many cozy armchairs.
The bookstore also organizes numerous meetings (in English) with emblematic or more confidential authors. Find the program of the next events here.
Before leaving, Captain Ulysses recommends stopping in the café next door for a nice cup of coffee!
Getting to Shakespeare & Co.
The Shakespeare and Company bookstore is located at number 37 rue de la Bûcherie in the 5th arrondissement, opposite Notre-Dame and a few steps from Saint-Michel, the Sainte-Chapelle, the Conciergerie and the Marché aux fleurs.
The nearest metro station is Cité, on metro line 4 (if you’re not in great physical shape, take the elevator to get back to the surface!) The RER B and C trains also stop at the Saint-Michel – Notre-Dame station.
The city buses 21, 38, 47, 85, 96 as well as the sightseeing bus tours also stop a few steps from the bookstore.
Opening hours of the bookshop
The bookstore is open Monday through Saturday from 11:00 am to 7:30 pm, and Sunday from 11:30 am to 7:30 pm.
Access to Shakespeare & Company is free (unlike some other iconic bookstores, such as the Lello Bookstore in Porto).
👉 Skip the lines: book your tickets and tours in advance!
👉 Looking for a place to stay in Paris?
👉 Looking for advice and recommendations? Here are all of Captain Ulysses’ suggestions!
🛏️ Accommodation: Looking for an accommodation in Paris? Good news: there are plenty of options in the French capital. To book your hotel in Paris, Captain Ulysses highly recommends Expedia. For more tips and recommendations, check out the Captain’s article: Where to stay in Paris?
🎟️ Activities : in order to book skip-the-line tickets, tours and activities in Paris, Captain Ulysses highly recommends GetYourGuide and Civitatis. Guided tours, entrance tickets, cruises, unusual activities: there’s plenty to chose from. If you want to avoid queuing to get into museums and monuments, the Captain suggests opting for skip-the-line tickets.
⛵ City cruises: Can you really visit Paris without going on a cruise on the Seine? The Captain loves sailing on the river and admiring the emblematic monuments of the French capital, especially at nightfall. You will find a large selection of cruises in Paris here.
🎫 City cards : If you’re planning on staying in Paris for a few days, you should definitely consider investing in a city card giving access to the capital’s top museums and landmarks. which includes access to the most famous monuments in Paris.
🚐 Transfers: the parisian airports are located outside the city and getting to the city centre can be quite expensive.
If your budget is tight, the Captain recommends the RATP shuttles that will drop you off at Opera if you’re coming from Roissy airport and at Denfert-Rochereau if you’re coming from Orly airport.
But for a few extra euros, you can book a transfer that will take you directly to your hotel.
If you are traveling in a group, this option is all the more interesting. Find out more here.
🚌 Transports: While you’ll be able to explore part of the city on foot, you will have to use the parisian public transports to explore some of the capital’s landmarks. In order to avoid accumulating (and losing) metro tickets, the Captain recommends opting for an unlimited transport pass. You can buy it directly at in any metro station.
Open tour buses (audioguides included) are also a good option.
If you’d rather explore Paris on a boat, you will love the batobus, a river shuttle on the Seine !
✈️ Flights, trains & buses : Good news: getting to Paris is quite easy! If you’re planning on flying to the capital, the Captain recommends Skyscanner, an online comparator which is perfect for finding the best deals. If your dates are flexible, you can even compare prices over several weeks. Paris is also easily accessible by train and bus. To book your tickets, the Captain highly recommends Omio, which integrates the offer of 207 train and bus companies in 44 countries.