The original Shakespeare & Co, run by Sylvia Beach and beloved of Hemingway and his ilk, closed in the 1940s during the occupation of Paris (the site at 12 Rue de l’Odéon bears a plaque). In 1951, wandering spirit George Whitman opened Le Mistral at 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, re-naming it in 1964 in homage to Beach’s legacy (he also named his daughter after her). But the back history hardly matters now – George, who passed away in 2011 aged 98, turned the shop into something entirely unique and magical. A gathering place, source of inspiration and often a bed for beat generation bohemians, writers, travellers and readers for over 60 years, Shakespeare & Company has hosted thousands of ‘tumbleweeds’ – volunteer helpers who sleep in the shop – and featured in numerous films, books and memoirs. The sprawling site includes a large used and antiquarian section, while the main store is a heavenly labyrinth of book-lined passages, alcoves and reading rooms full of secret corners, an unmissable destination for bibliophiles the world over. Sylvia Whitman now runs the store with as much charm as – if less eccentricity than – her father, launching an biennial literary festival and maintaining a strong focus on events and readings.
'You can count the bookshops dedicated to theatre in Paris on one amputated hand', the shop owner remarks wryly. The Coupe-Papier bookshop is one of the few surviving ones. Tucked away in the rue de l’Odéon opposite the illustrious theatre of the same name, this specialist in the stage arts is the haunt of students and amateur actors taking acting courses in the vicinity, as well as a site of pilgrimage for professionals. Not yet beaten by the general decrease in bookshop footfall, the shop boasts an old-fashioned charm with its aroma of ink, paper and dust.The remarkable range includes some 14,000 reference works, reams of old editions resting on the higher shelves, a solid collection of scripts (both classics and contemporary pieces), opera librettos, several essays on performing arts (covering such topics as acting school, directors, dance and screenwriting), magazines and theatre reviews (L’Avant Scène, Mouvement, Théâtre Public, La Scène), DVDs and even pretty postcards. The owner may not seem too talkative at first, but don’t let yourself be taken in by appearances: if there’s something you’re looking for, this knowledgeable theatre buff will point you in the right direction without breaking a sweat.
Proud denizens of the Boulevard Saint-Germain for more than 20 years, the three ‘Album’ shops reign supreme on the Parisian comic scene. Under the watchful eye of the vendors who dispense both advice and anecdotes, this is a comic-lover's paradise, with titles for children and adults (Marvel, DC comics, TPB Vertigo), and whole shelves dedicated to merchandising. From the classic posters signed by Hugo Pratt to umbrellas and Star Wars branded USB sticks, there is something here to make every geek and figurine collector happy. Imported limited edition mangas (e.g. €220 'Imperial Stormtrooper', of which only 1,800 copies exist) and book signings are the specialty of this address, open seven days a week.
With a rose-coloured shop front and a window decorated with 'kawaii' soft toys, at Little Tokyo the Land of the Rising Sun is taken seriously. Every square inch of floor space in this tiny shop in the Latin Quarter, opened in 2008, is dedicated to Japanese culture and manga. Bursting with DVDs, stuffed animals and figurines and owned by a trio of manga fans, this is the perfect place to get your hands on a flannelette Totoro, a volume of 'Saint Seiya' (Knights of the Zodiac') or simply to get some collecting advice.
Chantelivre is the first – and still the best – children’s bookshop in Paris. It began in 1974, when publisher l’École des Loisirs – at the time almost alone in the market of children’s books – set up shop to bolster the reputation of its publications. The shop has since opened up to new publishers, and now houses a near-complete catalogue of children’s literature (75% of 50,000 titles on the market).In the shop on the classy Rue de Sèvres (there are two other branches in Issy-les-Moulineaux and Orléans), you first encounter the adult section, inaugurated in 2005. It includes classics, contemporary novels and thrillers in French and in translation, as well as non-fiction: books on art, history, cooking, and so on. You then enter the children’s department by way of fantasy and sci-fi, then comics, which leads to the young adult section. The target age group keeps on decreasing until you reach the games & learning section. Toddlers get a whole room to themselves.It may be modern, but Chantelivre’s strengths ensure that it remains a traditional, welcoming bookshop, with personalized recommendations from the knowledgeable staff. It also boasts activities for children (talks, concerts, special guests, book signings) all year round, and occasionally for adults too – such as a recent visit from author Jacques Lamalle.
Roger is shaking up the art of chocolate-making. Whereas other chocolatiers aim for gloss, Roger may create a brushed effect on hens so realistic you almost expect them to lay (chocolate) eggs. Other locations: 91 rue de Rennes, 6e; 199 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 8e;45 avenue Victor Hugo, 16e; 12 cité Berryer, Village Royal, 8e.
This 'wonderful, narrow crowded market street', as Hemingway described it in 'A Moveable Feast', still sports bright and bustling stalls of fruit and veg in its cobbled lower stretches (its upper extremities largely harbour student bars and touristy shops), its atmospheric buildings making it one of the city’s loveliest street markets. Many grocers – also hawking charcuterie, patés, seafood, cheeses and sticky patisseries – only select organic and fair-trade goods. On Wednesday, Friday and Sunday mornings, Mouffetard’s stalls run into the Marché Monge (on place Monge), renowned for yet more excellent food, especially fresh bread.
Simple cuts, printed fabrics and natural materials have characterised the kiddies’ clothes at Alice à Paris, since the brand was created in 2004. This Saint Germain branch (one of four boutiques) is a place in which to splurge on cute cotton tops for toddlers, dinky Bermuda shorts, floaty pastel summer dresses and beach wear. In winter, light cotton makes way for chunky knit jumpers, warm Parka coats and woolly hats – all beautifully finished and not as expensive as you might expect: Prices range from around €15 for a cotton shirt to €57 for a coat, which isn’t bad considering the brand's ‘createur’ status. Ranges cater for all ages from newborn to ten years old. Other branches: 14 rue Sévigné, 4e 64 rue Concordet, 9e 11 rue de l’Annonciation, 16e