April 02 2010
La Librairie Galignani, situated on the rue de Rivoli just opposite the Tuileries Metro station, is not only the most beautiful bookshop in Paris but the oldest English-language bookstore in mainland Europe. Founded in 1801 by an Italian, Giovanni Antonio Galignani, it’s still a family-owned and run business. The Paris branch of WH Smith may be less than a hundred yards away but, as discriminating expat friends pointed out to me some years ago, sophisticated locals all go to Galignani, which is infinitely more stylish and has a far wider range of books.
As you walk in through the automatic doors, you leave behind the noise and bustle of the city and enter two long, softly-lit rooms, their walls lined with dark mahogany bookshelves. There are more than 50,000 titles in stock and, appropriately for Paris, they specialise in books on fashion and art along with history and fiction. On my last visit I bought a fascinating American study of Truman Capote’s 1966 Black and White Ball (Party of the Century: The Fabulous Story of Truman Capote and His Black and White Ball; published by Wiley, €22).
And if you are impatient to begin reading, I recommend Angelina, the celebrated Salon de thé which is virtually next door and serves a mean hot chocolate.