Bookshops in Montpellier: English & French, new & second-hand

If you are looking for reading matter, Montpellier is home to one of France’s largest independent bookshops, Sauramps, which towers over Le Triangle, between Comédie and Polygone.  This six-story treasure trove has a wide range of works in English and other foreign languages (beware, they will be expensive!), coffee-table beauties, regional information, and puts on numerous events throughout the year.  There is a huge range of children’s books in a separate shop Polymômes downstairs in Le Triangle, yet more art books in the shop at Musée Fabre, and other outlets at Odysseum and further out in the Cevennes at Alès.

Gibert Joseph on Place des Martyrs de la Résistance has a floor for new books and also a wide range of second-hand offerings set out on trestle tables in the street – some gems can be found for as little as 20c but you will need to dig; the books are jammed fairly haphazardly into the display boxes and the content is more jumble sale than antiquarian shop.  FNAC (Polygone) and Virgin Megastore (Halle Castellane) are also worth a look, but for the widest possible selection, Sauramps is a must.


For the best range of English-language books, you need Le Bookshop.  Situated on Rue du Bras de Fer, a sidestreet between Place Castellane (just left of Vert Anglais) and Rue de l’Ancien Courrier, this is a bookshop, cafe and social / cultural hub in one; conversation exchanges, book groups, and children’s reading events are all on the calendar.  As well as getting the latest releases in English, and providing a range of periodicials, there is a big second-hand section downstairs where you can pick up some bargains.


If you are looking for second-hand books in French, these are livres d’occasion, but a Google search can be misleading.  In the best tradition of second-hand bookshops, these are transitory beasts and our efforts to review them for you were a little hampered by this; André Dumonteil on Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau is pretty firmly boarded up, Librairie Les Seves on Rue de l’Université is a sad-looking place, empty and with broken windows, and Rouchaleou on Boulevard Jeu de Paume is just not there anymore.  Others have pretty esoteric opening hours, which will be familiar to any fans of the used book market:


Artefact (20 Rue St Anne) – Tuesday to Saturday 14-18h – a true antiquarian specialist, documents, autographs, publications, and books


Librairie Pierre Clerc (7 Rue Alexandre Cabanel) – Tuesday to Saturday 15-19h – a higher-end book specialist


Philatelie Denoy (35 Rue St Guilhem) – Tuesday to Saturday 10-12.30h and 15-18.30 – a wide range of old postcards and stamps, good for presents / collectors


Le Hun de L’U (1 Rue de l’Université) – Tuesday to Saturday 15-19h – a wide range of non-fiction; history, arts, theatre


Bouquinerie du Languedoc (12 Rue de l’Université) – by appointment only ( – books, comics, postcards


Our favourite, and not just because it was actually open on our first visit, is Le Bateau Livre (13 rue des Soldats), off Cours Gambetta, open Monday to Saturday, 10-19h.  This is a classic second-hand shop – higgledy-piggledy shelves, piles of old magazines on the floor, books stashed upright and horizontally but always with enough room to be browsed, hand-written signage and true bouquinistes to help you.  There is a wonderful children’s section with original TinTins and hardback classics, a wide range of themes from classic literature to politics, religion and art, old cinema magazines, newspapers and satirical political publications going back to the war, and a quality antiquarian selection.


Faced with a request for French football annuals, as old as possible, M. Richard was unphased – after locating the sport section and the reminiscences of Michel Hidalgo on managing the national team, he let out a triumphant «aha, je sais!» and disappeared into the stacks, finally emerging, a bit dusty, with a history of Montpellier La Paillade SC from the 1980s.


A wonderful place for any book-lover to browse.


By Phil Booth – a British expat living in Montpellier


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