This blog is about bouquinistes – the best places in Paris to find a gorgeous, unique souvenir. One that you’ll treasure forever.
The word “souvenir” smacks of tacky plastic Eiffel towers and ashtrays, and that’s not what I’m talking about. I like hand painted ceramic bowls, coffee table books and local spices…
I hunt for souvenirs that are more cultured. (Confession: I do have an ashtray from Cuba of a big bottomed lady with a hole in the back of her skirt so she puffs smoke out of her mouth).
I love browsing art markets (where I found the aforementioned Cuban lady) and little galleries where local artists show their work. I don’t mind if a painting was done by a four-year old, as long as it speaks to me of the place I bought it.
So you can imagine my delight when I was wandering along the banks of the River Seine, right at the Pont Neuf near Notre Dame Cathedral, and I discovered the bouquinistes.
This little 3km section of the Seine river walk is an institution in Paris and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s the Portobello Rd of Paris, a treasure trove of vendors selling antique books, prints and paintings.
Bouquinistes (used book sellers) have been plying their trade along this portion of the Seine since the 16th century. Their little green kiosks, just two metres long by one metre wide, are fixed to the stone walls and have played a big part in local history. From distributing Protestant ‘propaganda’ to hiding messages in their books during the World Wars, they’re your ordinary bookstore.