The Bouquinistes of Paris: icons and survivors

The used booksellers have been part of the Parisian cityscape for as long as anyone can remember.

They’ve survived challenging weather conditions, periodic bouts of slumping economy, more recently closures tied to Yellow Vests riots or the Covid years and let’s not forget the Parisian’s waning interest in their wares.

Still, they’ve persevered maintaining their green boxes (up to 4 per merchant) following the rules, mostly: “Le vert wagon” is the designated color to match Paris’ visual identity. Boxes can only be a certain height once open so they won’t block the view. They can’t be permanently affixed to “les quais.” Stalls must be open at least 4 days a week and so on.

Parisian street les bouquinistes

August 2023: Bouquinistes of Paris on vacation?

Uninvited from the city’s biggest party

Today, theBouquinistes of Paris face a new enemy: the Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games, a decisive step towards the city’s culminating project, turning the French capital into a postcard millions of visitors continue to {insert one, or more} fantasize about, flock to, spend in.

Les vieilles boites vertes, ça fait désordre!

It’s not the first time city authorities have planned to remove the green boxes and their owners from “les quais.” Le cher Baron Haussmann famously tried (and failed) during his lengthy and ambitious remodel of the French capital. In 2023, the Paris Préfecture de Police has security concerns. “Les quais” will be lined with tens of thousands of people in late July 2024. The Paris Bouquinistes stand in the way.

La Mairie de Paris (who still dedicates an entire page of their website to the booksellers and stops short of granting them Parisian icon status) has offered to help with the move.


Maybe les Bouquinistes could be relocated to another spot, “un Village des Bouquinistes” of sorts where tourists could visit them, they argue.

“Pas possible!,” the booksellers reply (that should surprise no one who knows the French and French life.) Boxes are old and in many cases in bad shape. They will fall apart when moved. The merchants believe they have every right to stay where they have been, along the Seine river. They embody, after all, the “Soul of Paris.”

Who’s right? Who’s wrong?

It’s hard to stand in the way of what some call “progress.” Those who tried in the second half of the 19th century while Napoleon III and Haussmann were determined to turn Paris into a modern city, failed and were ousted mercilessly to the outlying areas of the French capital.

Bad move. That worked in the people’s favor at the start of a massive uprising named “la Commune” in 1871, but that’s another story les amis.

What’s next for the Bouquinistes of Paris?

For now, the controversy is swelling fueled by the media and lapped up by the French (or at least Parisians) who always appreciate a good argument.

Where do you stand on this?

Would you consider supporting “les Bouquinistes” in a petition? If so, here’s the link. It’s been signed by over 85,000 people already.

Stay or move, the Olympic Games tidal wave is on its way, bringing international exposure (and massive revenues) to the city of Paris. The jury’s still out on what “les Jeux” are bringing to locals.

Napoleon III and Baron Haussmann would be so proud. I can hear them in the background, recalling their favorite moments of the 1855 and 1867 World Fairs!

I wonder… Should the city of Paris move the iconic stalls, will they also remove signs like this one along “les quais?”

Marker introducing les Bouquinistes
Véronique - France with Véro
Véronique of France with Véro

Véronique of France with Véro

Vero shares her homeland weekly on social media with virtual tours, photo essays, live events and other publications at France with Vero. Learn more.

Or click a link below to read the next (or previous) post...allons-y !

Leave a Comment

Join la Mailing List

Be the first to read stories and travel tips I don’t share anywhere else!

No spam, ever. That’s a promise. Visit the Privacy Policy.

Les Catégories