“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” — Ernest Hemingway
For years, Paris has attracted writers from around the world who found both homes and inspiration in the City of Lights. From Victor Hugo to Ernest Hemingway, you’ll find many references to Paris in literature. You’ll also find a significant amount of literary history in Paris, ranging from writers’ homes to their favorite bars and cafés. Let the City of Lights inspire you by visiting the places that influenced some of your favorite writers.
Maison de Victor Hugo
Explore Victor Hugo’s long-term residence on the Place des Vosges, where he wrote some of his major works, including “Marie Tudor,” “Les Burgraves,” and a significant portion of “Les Miserables.”
From 1832 to 1848, Victor Hugo lived in an apartment on the second floor of the Hôtel de Rohan-Guéménée. Now, this apartment is a museum that displays three periods of Hugo’s life. The apartment has permanent collections that are free to the public, as well as temporary exhibits you can explore for a fee. Here, you’ll be able to see this visionary’s furniture, memorabilia, and creative work.
The Maison de Victor Hugo is located at 6 place des Vosges. You can access it by taking metro line 1, 5 or 8 to Bastille station or by taking the bus.
Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots
Café de Flore, situated at the corner of Boulevard Saint-Germain and Rue Saint- Benoît, is known for some of its famous regulars. Many writers and artists frequented the café, including Lawrence Durrell, Ernest Hemingway, and Truman Capote.
Les Deux Magots is also located in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area, and was also frequented by the city’s creatives, making it Café de Flore’s biggest rival. Its patrons included Simone de Beauvoir, Pablo Picasso, James Joyce, and Ernest Hemingway.
Many writers would be loyal customers to one café or the other. These places were for more than just sipping a drink — people gathered here to work, collaborate and have passionate discussions. Today, you’ll find a wide selection of food and drinks — including coffee, tea, wine and beer — at both locations.
You can access Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots by taking metro line 4 to the Saint-Germain-des-Prés station.
Jardin du Luxembourg
After sipping hot chocolate in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood, you can walk to Jardin du Luxembourg. This relaxing destination is located between Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter and is home to beautiful orchids, a pond, a rose garden, and an orchard. You also might have read about these gardens in Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables” (Cosette and Marius’s love story begins here) or William Faulkner’s “Sanctuary.” Writers have also spent time there, seeking inspiration. Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas lived a short walk away at 27 rue de Fleurs, an apartment that many other writers and artists frequented.
You can also access Jardin du Luxembourg by taking the RER B train to the Luxembourg stop.
Cimetière du Père Lachaise
With its cobblestones, interesting architecture, and leafy trees, Cimetière du Père Lachaise is not only one of the most famous cemeteries in the world, but it’s also known as one of the most beautiful. While a cemetery might not seem like a top tourist attraction, many people visit because of the legendary artists buried there, including writers such as Guillaume Apollinaire, Jean de La Fontaine, Alfred de Musset, Oscar Wilde, and Gertrude Stein. The burial grounds are large, which means you’ll likely have plenty of space to explore. Make sure you grab a map if you’re looking for specific burial plots.
The Cimetière du Père Lachaise is located at 8 boulevard de Ménilmontant. You can access it via metro by taking line 2 or 3 to Père Lachaise or line 2 to Philippe Auguste.
Shakespeare and Company
A book lover’s trip to Paris would not be complete without stopping by Shakespeare and Company, an English-language bookshop that has doubled as a meeting spot for writers since its opening in 1951. It was inspired by the original Shakespeare & Company that Sylvia Beach opened in 1919 and was a place that writers such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and James Joyce visited.
The current shop, opened by George Whitman, has also had many famous visitors, including Anaïs Nin, Richard Wright, and James Baldwin. In some cases, writers and artists were also invited to stay in the store, sleeping on small beds and benches alongside the shelves of books. Now a popular tourist destination, Shakespeare and Company still retains its literary charm and provides a haven for writers and book lovers alike.
Shakespeare and Company is located at 37 rue de la Bûcherie, within walking distance of Jardin du Luxembourg, Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots. You can also access it by taking RER B, RER C or metro line 4 to Saint-Michel – Notre-Dame.
Enjoy a cocktail at the bar where Hemingway spent many of his own nights. Though Bar Hemingway, located at the Ritz Paris hotel, has undergone renovations, it’s still full of history. Dating back to 1921, the bar played host to Hemingway, who often sat, talking for hours. Many other writers have spent time there as well, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, who is said to have had a favorite seat. Full of history and popular cocktails, the atmosphere remains despite renovations.
You can access Bar Hemingway by taking metro line 3, 7 or 8 to Opéra station or line 1 to Tuileries.
Maison de Balzac
Honoré de Balzac was a 19th-century French writer who is known for his multi-volume collection of nearly 100 novels and plays titled “La Comedie Humaine.” The house where he wrote this work still exists today and has been turned into a museum where visitors can view his manuscripts, illustrations, paintings and mementos. Visiting the house is free. There are also temporary exhibits that can be viewed for a fee.
The Maison de Balzac is located on rue Raynouard. You can access it by taking metro line 6 to Passy, taking line 9 to La Muette or taking RER C to Boulainvilliers or Radio France.
Musée de la vie romantique
This museum is in the former house of painter Ary Scheffer, and the first floor is dedicated to Scheffer’s paintings and other artwork. The ground floor, however, is focused on George Sand, a 19th-century French Romantic writer. Born Armandine Lucile Aurore Dupin, she created highly regarded work under her pseudonym. In the museum, you’ll find portraits, furniture, jewelry and art. The museum is designed to feel like the Romantic period.
The Musée de la vie romantique is located in the Pigalle neighborhood. You can access it by taking metro line 12 to Saint-Georges, line 2 or 12 to Pigalle, or line 2 to Blanche.
La Closerie des Lilas
Though perhaps not as famous for its literary history as Café de Flore or Les Deux Magots, La Closerie des Lilas is also a café that people have historically visited to think and create. Opened in 1847, it has provided a workspace for 19th-century Romantic poets, 20th-century poets like Guillaume Apollinaire, and writers like Hemingway and Stein. In fact, Hemingway mentions La Closerie des Lilas in “A Moveable Feast.” Though it’s often crowded now, the café is still reminiscent of the same Paris your favorite literary greats experienced.
La Closerie des Lilas is located on Boulevard du Montparnasse within walking distance of Jardin du Luxembourg. You can access it by taking RER B to Port-Royal or by taking the bus to Observatoire-Port Royal.
Header image by Janko Ferlič