Nantes is an ancient city which was once the capital of the Kingdom of Brittany. Birthplace of Jules Verne, today this vibrant city offers delights such as the historic ducal palace, a pedestrian-only historic heart, and a breathtaking Gothic cathedral. But what perhaps surprised me the most about this Western French city is the sheer volume of fantastic bookshops in Nantes!
Librairie L. Durance Nantes, 4 Allée d’Orléans, 44000 Nantes
Sprawling, welcoming, and boasting one of the best travel sections of any of the Nantes bookstores, Librairie L. Durance is handily located close to many of the predominantly pedestrian streets that maze their way across Nantes. Set across several levels, the store is open from Tuesday through to Saturday.
Perhaps most interestingly of all, the bookshop remains the property of the descendants of its founder! The story of this independent bookshop started in 1858 when Leon Durance purchased an antiquarian bookshop selling vintage papers and the like. From there, he soon expanded the premises into a former hardware store and so the L. Durance bookshop was born. Today, Leon’s grandaughter runs the shop.
Librairie Vent d’Ouest, 5 Place du Bon Pasteur, 44000 Nantes
Situated in a lovely little square that’s filled with coffee shops and is frequented by locals, this bookstore’s claim to fame is that its wares include well over one million books! Established in 1980 in the very heart of Nantes, this bookshop is largely generalised, with a few specialist collections on offer.
In 2000, the brand expanded and opened a new location in Lieu Unique, a quirky shopping complex that’s close to the city’s main train station and is set against the backdrop of a former biscuit factory. This independent store also offers discounts for students, teachers, and has a loyalty card scheme.
Librairie Coiffard Nantes, 7-8 Rue de la Fosse, 44000 Nantes
Celebrating its centenary year in business this year (2019), Bookstore Coiffard is an independent Nantes bookshop that can be found close to the impressively stunning 19th-century Passage Pommeraye. Coiffard is a generalised bookshop, meaning that the tomes it stocks are varied; from youth fiction to architecture, and books on the humanities.
Librairie Coiffard not only a bookstore, but also sells a handful of quirky and thoughtful gifts, including cups, plates, and t-shirts. Each week, Bookstore Coiffard is open from Monday through to Saturday and is closed on Sundays. Step into this oasis of calm during opening hours and you can expect to find authentic wooden bookshelves heaving under the weight of well over 60,000 books. This store, too, offers a loyalty scheme for book purchases.
Les Bien-aimés, 2 Rue de la Paix, 44000 Nantes
Hands down one of the best coffee shops and bookstores in Nantes combined, Les Bien-aimés can be found close to several other book-selling institutions and is one of the best-kept Nantes secrets. Offering a cost atmosphere with even friendlier staff, wander in at any given moment and you can expect to find a coffee counter with small Parisian-style café tables spilling out into the street.
Delve deeper into the store and there are more intimate spaces, where you can work on your laptop, catch up with friends, or simply shut out the rest of the world with a good book in hand. Of course, everything in Les Bien-aimés (which is literally translated as ‘the beloved’) is created around a love for books, and so the entire shop is stocked full of books on wooden shelves from floor to ceiling.
And that’s not all this book-loving Nantes space that’s open from Tuesday through to Saturday has to offer. On occasion, the bookshop offers film screenings and viewings, as well as book readings, and interesting talks. Check here for a quick guide to past events.
La Mystérieuse Librairie Nantaise, 2 Rue de la Paix, 44000 Nantes
Situated right beside ‘Les Bien-aimés,’ this specialist bookshop is open from Monday through to Saturday and is dedicated entirely to comics, manga, and related paraphernalia. Owned by Emmanuel, Gérald and Romain, the shop has been in operation for just under a decade.
Much like its adjacent (but unrelated) bookshop, La Mystérieuse holds regular events, including meetings, debates, and workshops. Meanwhile, rather fitting for a website run by a store in the birthplace city of Jules Verne, the bookshop’s website is all Steampunk inspired!
Bibliothèque Pour Tous, 12 Rue Cacault, 44000 Nantes
The name of this Nantes bookshop is quite literally translated as the ‘bookstore for everyone’. Located next to a former city gate (the Porte Sauvetout dates back to the Middle Ages and would have acted as the gateway to the suburb of Marchix), this lovely little square also offers lovely views onto the Saint-Nicolas Basilica.
Librairie L’Atalante, 15 Rue des Vieilles Douves, 44000 Nantes
For those who are looking to enjoy a lively neighbourhood with plenty of independent bars, cafés, eateries, and boutiques, the predominantly pedestrian street of Rue des Vieilles Douves is a charming road close to the sumptuous Passage Pommeraye.
L’Atalante Nantes bookshop itself is a pretty store stocked with all kinds of novels, reference books, diaries, and journals. Opened in 1989, this independent Nantes bookstore is also an independent publishing house that publishes books by authors from all over the world.
La Bouquinerie du Centre, 12 Rue des Vieilles Douves, 44000 Nantes
If you want to browse books, buy books, and even sell books, then you simply must head to the sprawling store of La Bouquinerie du Centre. Situated just a few stores away from Librairie L’Atalante, this second-hand emporium offers an array of books.
Step inside and you’ll find everything from children’s volumes to thrillers to travel guides. I personally picked up three books (two on obscure Paris and one on secret Nantes) for as little as around €12, despite the fact that each individual book retails for around €20!
La Bouquinerie Nantaise, 7 Allée du Port Maillard, 44000 Nantes
A second-hand bookshop which is perfect for those who love frequenting lesser-known shops that are a little off the beaten tourist track, La Bouquinerie Nantaise can be found close to the Château des Ducs de Bretagne (otherwise known as Nantes Castle- this is incidentally included in the Nantes Pass which I highly recommend if you’re planning to see a number of the city’s main attractions).