A free stay in Paris…in a bookstore?

It’s hard to believe that this is real, but there is a little family-owned bookstore in the Latin Quarter in Paris, across from Notre Dame, where you can sleep overnight for free. Shakespeare and Company has 13 beds that are open to guests on a first-come, first-served basis. In exchange for your stay, you have to work a couple of hours per day in the shop and write a one-page biography.

The hotel-within-a-bookstore was started by a man named George Whitman over fifty years ago. He describes his creation as “a socialist utopia masquerading as a bookstore,” and estimates that over fifty thousand people have slept there since he first opened his doors.

George calls his guests “Tumbleweeds.” Most Tumbleweeds stay for a week to a month, but there was one who lived in the shop for seven years!

Wow. This is so fascinating to me!

Would you be a Tumbleweed and stay for a night (or several) in this space? I’m not sure if I could. I know, I know – I slept in a tent in my backyard for six weeks – but this has a different feel to it somehow. What do you think?




  1. christine pincince says:

    i would do it in a heart beat. sadly do not have one word of french and i would think that would matter a lot.

  2. I may consider if I’m traveling along. What coincidence that I’m pulling my hair out trying to find affordable accommodation for my family of four for Paris in August in this same area. Do you have any suggestions where to look. I would prefer to have air conditioning. Is a budget of $150-180 USD too low?

  3. Points Pixie says:

    Christine – I wonder! The guy who started the bookstore seems like quite an open-minded individual. I’m sure that non-French speakers have stayed there before. Maybe look into it if you are interested? I’m sure it would be such a unique experience….

    Sandy – Hmmm. Our solution was to get the Club Carlson Visa (Josh and I each got one). We are using it for free nights at the Radisson Champs Elysees and the Radisson Tour Eiffel. Maybe I will write a post about this. Have you looked for an airbnb? Your budget might be a little low for Paris.

  4. I wonder if they will continue the stays for “Tumbleweeds”, as he called them. According to the website, George Whitman passed away in 2011 at the age of 98. It will be interesting to find out if his daughter will carry on his tradition.

    @Sandy – have a look at homeaway.com for a holiday rental in Paris. We used to offer our vacation apt. in the Canary Islands through the german version (fewo-direct.de) of this site (we live in Germany much of the year), and it was a good experience. August is the month when most of the Parisians are away on vacation, so you may have a good chance to find something reasonably. A/C is still not so common as in the U.S., so be sure and read the offerings carefully if that’s an important criteria for you.

  5. JustSaying says:

    I would prefer the Park Hyatt at 6 nights @22k over the bookstore this June………but it is a novelty to go check out perhaps……….Speaking of Paris and speaking of Thrift shops……do you have a source of listings…..I have heard it is the who da ha for second hand designer clothes?

  6. AlohaDaveKennedy says:

    Very interesting way to book a trip to Paris! And, you if you did an Arrival story on the experience and took a photo, you could cash in on the trip.

  7. Points Pixie says:

    SharonG – Oh, somehow I missed that George had passed on. It seems that this tradition is still going strong, so I guess his daughter is just as committed to the idea. Thanks for the homeaway idea, as well.

    JustSaying – I haven’t started my Paris thrift shop research yet, but I will definitely share when I have any info!

    AlohaDaveKennedy – I love the way you think, my friend.

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