Most visitors to the City of Light will undoubtedly have heard of Shakespeare & Company, i.e. the most famous English language bookshop in Paris. Situated on the Left Bank of the River Seine and overlooking Notre Dame Cathedral, since 2015, there has also been a Shakespeare & Company Cafe.
Home to shelf upon shelf of books and famed for its long and rich history, the current incarnation of Shakespeare and Company has been in operation since the 1950s and is well-known for hosting ‘tumbleweeds,’ whereby guests can stay free of charge in exchange for a few hours help in the shop each day, a one page autobiography, and that they ‘read a book per day’.
A visit to Shakespeare & Company Cafe
For bibliophiles and caffeine lovers alike, a visit to the coffee shop stuck to the side of the bookshop is an absolute must. Under the shade of some of the prettiest cherry blossoms in the springtime and boasting outdoor benches for coffee consumption during the summer months (and in the winter for those brave enough to endure the cold), the establishment has been open to the public since autumn of 2015.
Step inside at any given moment and you’ll be greeted by friendly staff (who speak French and English, though English is the predominant language of the café). Though there are a few dairy/egg options on the menu, the offerings are largely vegetarian and there’s also plenty of vegan fare which is clearly labelled as such (including a vegan protein shake).
All plant decor and mountains of books, most famous of all on the menu when it comes to the Shakespeare & Company Cafe is that of George’s lemon pie, so-called because George Whitman (founder of the current incarnation of Shakespeare and co) is said to have said “There’s only one way to make a good lemon pie, you know” in 1969. From the outset, Whitman had a dream to open a literary café and the space where the café now features original flooring from the 1970s.
For those who love speciality coffees, it’s worth noting that the cappuccinos and lattés are particularly tasty. Otherwise, you should know that the café is run in collaboration with Bob’s Bake Shop, a café founded by a New Yorker in Paris.
Before visiting, know that due to immense popularity and the small nature of the space, it can often be hard to secure seats inside. If you’re looking to make the trip to the café, your best bet is to head to the store earlier in the day and midweek if possible. Even during a chilly Wednesday morning at the end of November my friend and I found ourselves waiting for several minutes to get a seat!
Nearby things to see and do in the Latin Quarter
Spy the oldest tree in Paris!
Yes, you read that correctly: the oldest tree in Paris is allegedly that found inside Square René-Viviani, a pretty park which lies on a former cemetery and offers up a Christmas Market during the winter time. Today, the oldest tree in Paris dates back well over four-hundred years, though has surely seen better days!
Church of St Julien le Pauvre
Easily one of the most unusual churches in Paris, St Julien le Pauvre dates all the way back to the 13th-century and is unusual for Paris in that it is constructed in the Romanesque style (those familiar with ecclesiastical architecture in Paris will know that the majority of churches are in the French Gothic). Free to enter inside, visit during opening hours and you can expect to find a painted altarpiece and numerous intricate carvings.
The Abbey Bookshop
Though lesser-known that its more famous counterpart, Shakespeare and Co, The Abbey Bookshop is nevertheless well worth a wander inside and a lot less tourist! Crammed with books to the point where tomes are quite literally spilling out onto the streets of the city, the beautiful bookstore was founded by Canadian Brian Spence in 1989. Of particular note is that there is always piping hot coffee available, so that you can sip as you browse the books…