6. Albertine, a Francophile Paradise

Photo by Jess Nash

From the outside, the Cultural Services of the French Embassy looks like another beautiful Upper East Side townhouse. But not only is it a Gilded Age mansion connected to the Payne and Whitney families (and designed by architect Stanford White), there’s a unique bookstore inside. Albertine is the only bookstore in New York focused on French and English literature. They have over 14,000 titles over their two floors, some of which are French titles translated to English, others are original French books, and most are English books translated into French.

The second floor especially is a must-see. It is notable for its breathtaking star-filled ceiling, which is actually a hand-painted mural modeled after the ceiling of the Music Room at the historic Villa Stuck in Munich, Germany. Display cases on the wall also feature early editions of Simone de Beauvoir’s books and Proust’s works.

If you go to Albertine and wonder why some books are a bit pricey, it’s because the shop complies with French law that fixes book prices so that they cannot be enormously reduced. This helps keep even the smallest of booksellers and publishers in France in business.

While you’re there, check out the newly renovated Venetian Room, a Gilded Age parlor right next to the bookshop, donated to the embassy.