Last Updated on 6th May 2020 by Sophie Nadeau
Is there anything more Parisian to do on a Sunday afternoon than to stroll along the banks of the Seine and peruse the antique and varied wares of the Paris bouquinistes? Well, if there is, then please can someone let me know! – especially if it’s to suggest visiting a fairytale castle!
Due to the abundance of green stalls lining both banks of the Seine, it’s often said that the well-known river “runs between two bookshelves“. So iconic is this scene, that in 1991, the Paris bouquinistes were made a UNESCO world heritage site.
Wandering along the river, it would seem that the Paris bouquinistes have been there forever. Their little green façades weathered with time, their books yellowed with age. Obviously, this isn’t actually the case!
A brief history of the Paris bouquinistes
So when exactly did these shops first appear? Well, the vendors have been selling their wares along the banks of the Seine since at least the mid-1500s. This time frame is within a hundred years of the oldest house still standing in Paris.
Although no one is quite sure where the term ‘bouquiniste’ comes from, it’s widely believed to have derived from the German ‘buch’ (book) or the Dutch ‘boeckin‘ (small book).
Today, there are over 900 green boxes and 240 vendors. Bouquinistes have also been implemented in other French cities such as Lyon. Sound like your kind of job? Well, if you want to become a Paris bouquiniste vendor, then you’ll have a while to wait. The waiting list in eight years long!
Requirements for running one of the ‘Paris bouquinistes’ along the banks of the Seine:
- Be granted a license by the city of Paris to sell wares.
- Be open at least four days a week.
- Boxes must conform to a certain size and standard. They must be painted in the uniform green colour.
- Hours vary but can be between 11:30 A.M. and Sunset
- Pay maintenance cost for the little green boxes.
- Pay rent of around €100 a year.
- Only have one box of ‘souvenir’ goods.