Paris boasts over 200 independent outdoor booksellers, offering some 300,000 collectable, new and used books and magazines under open skies. Their iconic green metal "boxes" have been depicted in famous landscapes of Paris, notably from the Impressionist period. The tradition extends all the way back to the 16th century, when the Renaissance ushered in an unprecedented era of literacy and "vagabond" booksellers eventually set up permanent places of business alongside and nearby the Seine River.
While the city's outdoor booksellers face continued threats from the advent of chain bookstores, they remain one of the city's most treasured legacies. A spring or summer stroll through the "bouquiniste" stalls is a genuine treat, especially for those interested in finding collectible and rare titles. After browsing on a few occasions, I've found that prices are usually reasonable, too, even for original editions of classics.
The one downside? The vast majority of titles are available in French only, limiting choices for those who aren't fluent in the Gallic tongue. Still, casual browsing can be a pleasure in its own right...
Paris Outdoor Bookseller Locations and Opening Hours
Most booksellers are open daily from around 11:30 am to sundown, and close during national holidays and in the case of heavy rain or storm conditions.
- Right bank locations: Along the Seine from Pont Marie (Metro Pont Marie) and the Louvre (Metro Palais du Louvre).
- Left-bank locations: Seine-side from Quai de la Tournelle (Metro Maubert-Mutualité) to Quai Voltaire (Metro Saint-Germain-des-Prés)
Learn more: Detailed history of Paris outdoor booksellers
More places to find that special "bouquin: