- ALREADY SUBSCRIBED?
SUBSCRIBE NOW TO SUPPORT BONJOUR PARIS
Support us and get full, unlimited access to all our content for a year for just 60 USD.
Please enter your details below to gain full, unlimited access to Bonjour Paris.
When visiting Paris, leave some time unplanned so you can make some unexpected discoveries. You could never make a precise plan to go to Paris to find a secondhand, limited edition of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. But it could happen in the Latin Quarter at Gibert Jeune, a Paris bookstore beloved by Parisian students and book lovers from around the world.
Gibert Jeune, with its scratched floors and dusty shelves, is at 5, place Saint-Michel in the Latin Quarter. Its stacks hold a rare collection of French classics, from Emile Zola to Alexander Dumas, and a rich history.
The stores were started by Professor Gibert of the College Saint-Michel Saint-Etienne, who moved to Paris in 1886 with big dreams and a modest collection of books carried in a few suitcases and four boxes of books. He set up a bouquiniste book stand on the Quai Saint-Michel, and just two years later opened a college textbook exchange on the quai. In the late 1920s, his sons took over the retail business and opened a publishing house. The business has continued to expand and today there are multiple stores clustered in the Latin Quarter along the quai, blvd Saint-Michel and rue Huchette.
Parisians of all ages have always gathered and at times rallied on blvd St Michel. In August 1944, students of the patriots’ troops, La Résistance, fought German soldiers. In May 1968 students occupied the area and held bloody demonstrations in support of France labor unions. Students and academics from the nearby Sorbonne University and College de France still stop by during class intermissions to browse the latest periodicals and catch up with friends.
The Gibert Jeune libraries hold an assortment of literature that not only satisfies the most demanding intellectuals of Paris, but travelers and scholars from around the world who spend hours perusing its classic books collection that dates back to medieval England and Spain. You’ll see them peering through the windows of the old bookshops, inspecting classics in their original languages and even comics books.
The quai bookshop is ideally located overlooking the gothic figures of the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral’s exterior. Berthillon on rue des Deux Ponts near Pont Marie has the most famous Parisian ice-cream in Paris. And Café Rallye Tournelle Bar-Tabac at 11, Quai de la Tournelle, still serves students and the true “Literary Paris” crowds pastis sold by the meter and budget priced meals. It’s a hang out during rugby matches and jazz jams on weekend nights.
To the right of the Gibert Jeune shop, aside from the view of four bridges and Notre-Dame under the sunset light, walk over to 1, rue Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre, to discover Église Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre, a church originally built in the 13th century and today considered one of the oldest churches in Paris. Today it is nearly hidden behind the adjacent Square René Viviani, charming public garden with modern sculptures and acacia trees that are four centuries old. In fact, the oldest tree in Paris is propped up here, showing the stress of its 410 years.
The first morning sun rays light the bouquinistes‘ street books stands filled with a selection of literature envied by even the most acquisitive New York and San Francisco book collectors. A very diverse crowd passes through the area on a typical day, hoping to acquire limited editions of collectible magazines or to pick up a book with bent corners and a personal inscription dedicated to a past owner who will never be known.
The Latin Quarter attracts many characters and visiting the Gilbert Jeune bookshop and the surrounding area of the Latin Quarter is the best way to discover the local intelligentsia vibe and the hidden interests of the Parisian book shoppers.
Parisians never rush their enjoyment of book shopping and people watching. They pause to take in streets full of locals and tourists, entering shops after romantic strolls along the Seine or after un café noir.
Blvd St. Michel is one of the city’s liveliest streets for observing the city. Sit on a bench outside the shop, just watching people. “When in France, do as the French do,” they say.
For some, Paris is not all about the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe and other famous places. To immerse yourself in Parisian life and culture, you need only settle for a while at a very local place—such as Gilbert Jeune—to understand what kind of people make up this city and what influences its culture and everyday activities.
Gibert Jeune has 3 Paris stores in the Paris 5th:
Place and Quai St-Michel, open Monday through Saturday, 9:30am-7:30pm
15 bis, boulevard St-Denis, open Monday through Saturday, 10am-7pm
Gibert Jeune map: ©Gibert Jeune; Café Rallye: ©Café Rallye; oldest tree: ©Robinier at Wikipedia and Place St-Michel ©patxiguerrero
Would you like to propose a story? Submit an article or story idea.
Subscribe for free and never miss a story. Search our library with 7,200+ stories and 50 original stories published monthly. BonjourParis has been a leading online France travel and French lifestyle site since 1995.
View our Top 100 Bestselling Amazon.com Items. (Wait for Amazon.com widget to load)
Want more? View our recommended France-themed books & items. Most recent listings at last pages.