Better bike lanes, fewer bookshops — the recent changes at Place Saint-Michel are a mixed bag.
The bicycle lanes at Place Saint-Michel are now wider and better protected than I remember them from before the pandemic. This is typical of the improvements that have been made to the bicycle infrastructure all over Paris.
The routing of bicycles through intersections has also been improved, and it certainly feels safer now than in previous decades.
I was especially impressed by the new (at least new to me) protected bicycle lane on Pont Saint-Michel, which is the bridge connecting Place Saint-Michel with the island of the Cité. The sturdy-looking bright yellow separators are a great improvement, especially since we cyclists now have our own lane which we no longer have to share with buses and taxis.
The bad news from Place Saint-Michel is that all four Gibert Jeune bookshops have been shut down, permanently. The reasons for this are partly local (gentrification of the Latin Quarter, de-centralization of higher education in Paris) and partly general (the spread of e-books, audio books and online book sales). These Gibert Jeune shops had been in financial trouble for several years, even before the coronavirus pandemic finally forced their closure in March 2021.
Around the corner, on Quai Saint-Michel, two Gibert Jeune bookshops are still in operation, at least for the time being.
All you loyal readers of my earlier post on the Gibert Joseph and Gibert Jeune bookshops might recall that the Quai Saint-Michel was where the original Gibert company got its start back in 1886, when Joseph Gibert moved to Paris and went into business as a bouquiniste, buying and selling books using four of the traditional dark green boxes on the quay. But after two years as a bouquiniste, he decided he needed more space for his growing business, so he opened his first shop on the Quai Saint Michel.
After Joseph Gibert died in 1915, his two sons continued to run the business. They did this together for fourteen years, but then decided in 1929 that each brother should have his own company. The older brother, called Joseph after his father, founded his own book store a few blocks up on the Boul’ Mich’ (Boulevard Saint-Michel), while the younger brother Régis kept on running their father’s stores under the name of Gibert Jeune (jeune meaning young). These two companies remained separate for nearly ninety years, until Gibert Joseph bought Gibert Jeune in 2017, in an attempt to save the latter from bankruptcy.
When I rode by in September 2022 there was a market, consisting mainly of white tents, that occupied most of the pedestrian space in front of the Saint-Michel fountain. This was apparently just a temporary market, for a few weeks in September, and was intended to promote products that were made in France using traditional or typical French techniques.
There is also a Christmas market on this space from the end of November to the beginning of January. At other times of year this is a popular meeting place for both tourists and locals.
My photos in this post are from 2022. I wrote the text in 2023.
See more posts on the Latin Quarter in Paris.
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22 thoughts on “Changes at Place Saint-Michel”
The demise of bookstores (and also newspapers) is something that makes me sad. I still like to read books that are real and not just words on a screen.
Me too. Thanks for your visit and comment.
I so agree. In New York City, where I live, book stores are disappearing at the speed of light. You can count them on one hand. Such a shame. What’s next, closing down libraries? Such a scary thought.
Hurray for the bike lanes, sad for the bookstore demises. On the plane, I was the only one reading a book instead of a cellphone.
Thanks for your visit and comment. I hope you enjoyed your book.
I am. Thanks.
I’m not surprised,,,and the iPhone shall inherit the Earth, what’s left of it…sigh
Increased cycling and setup of infrastructure is one of the rare positive effects of Covid-19. Cities which are adopting these changes will certainly benefit in the long run. Thanks Don for sharing this update.
Thanks for your visit and comment, Vijay. Glad you liked the post.
I’ve been to the Gibert Jeune located near the Saint-Michel métro. It’s unfortunate to hear that they’ve closed. I recall feeling overwhelmed with the bookshop’s size and massive selection.
That one near the Métro exit was unrecognizable when I was there. It was being remodeled for use as some other kind of shop.
Oh ! c’est une mauvaise nouvelle, la fermeture des librairies Gibert Jeune.
Oui, mais les librairies Gibert Joseph sont toujours là.
A shame that Gibert Jeune has disappeared. They were indeed a fixture…
Bad news! I always visited the Gilbert Jeune Bookshop at Place St. Michel, when visiting Paris. Hardly ever bought a novel as I prefer the E-Reader for these, but there was a wide selection of photo books about Paris. I did not know however, that the history of the store. Thank you for the information.
Thanks for your visit and comment.
I love your photographs and I’ve told you before, how you remind me of John Baxter, and that’s a high compliment. I want you to know how grateful I am that you always read my essays. I’m truly humbled. Susannah
Thanks, Susannah. I always look forward to reading your new blog posts. They’re always interesting, and often they remind me of my four years as an undergraduate in New York.
You never told me that. Another thing I enjoy is how, some of your comments are in French. It’s such a beautiful language, even in print. Easy on the eye. Once again, I thank you. 🙂
Saint Michel still looks familiar, but also so different from even just three years ago, when I last was in Paris! While I appreciate the heavier enforcement on biking and biking safety, I’m surprised (but not shocked) that Gilbert Jeune has closed down, as I used to go there to buy French books to read. A sign of the changing times, that’s for sure…
The big Gibert Joseph book store is still open, a few blocks up on the Boul’ Mich’.
Sorry to hear about the bookshops! The new bike lane sounds wonderful. So great to feel safe cycling.