Montolieu: A Hidden Paradise for Book Lovers

Discover the charming village of Montolieu, home to 15 bookshops and a haven for bibliophiles.


A Village Devoted to Bookmaking Arts

Montolieu, a village located near the Pyrenees mountains in southern France, is a haven for book lovers. With a population of around 800 people, Montolieu is home to 15 independently owned second-hand bookshops, earning it the title of southern France's only official Village du Livre (Book Village). Unlike other book towns, Montolieu's focus is not on the sale of books, but rather on the creation of books.

The village's unique concept was dreamt up by bookbinder Michel Braibant in the 1980s. His vision was to create a village that would serve as a conservatory for bookmaking arts. Today, Montolieu's Musée des Arts & Métiers du Livre (Museum of Book Arts and Crafts) showcases exhibits on writing systems and machines used in bookmaking. It also offers regular workshops taught by skilled artisans, where visitors can learn marbling paper, engraving, Latin calligraphy, and bookbinding.

A Village Filled with Life and Culture

Despite its small size and remote location, Montolieu is a vibrant village with a lively atmosphere. The tourist season officially opens with a massive Easter weekend book market, and throughout the summer, the village's 18th-century textile factory is transformed into a cultural center hosting concerts and art exhibits.

Even on a regular February day, the village streets of Montolieu are filled with life. Residents and visitors can enjoy the local cafes, restaurants, and artisan boutiques. The village is known for its half-timbered buildings, which house various shops like painters' studios, fashion boutiques, and even a pottery workshop. Montolieu is also unique in that there are no ATMs, but you can conveniently purchase organic produce from refrigerated vending machines filled by local farms.

A Bookshop Haven and Harmonious Community

While Montolieu's bookshops were not initially the main focus of the village, they have become a major attraction for tourists. The Association of Montolieu, founded by Michel Braibant, reached out to booksellers to invite them to set up shop in the picturesque storefronts of the village. Each bookshop has its own specialty, catering to different interests such as art books, comics, and children's literature.

Surprisingly, instead of competition, there is harmony among the booksellers. They gladly recommend customers to visit their fellow booksellers if a specific book is not available in their shop. This community-minded outlook creates a supportive environment and adds to the charm of Montolieu as a book town.