Here are 15 literary locations that you must visit when you’re in Paris. Many writers such as Henry Miller, Oscar Wilde and Ernest Hemingway have lived in and wrote about Paris making it the perfect destination for book lovers to explore.
Due to the fire that Notre-Dame suffered on April 15, 2019, it will remain closed until further notice. That means that you will have to admire the nave, the gorgeous stained glass windows and the famous gargoyle’s view over Paris on Google Images. This does not change the fact that Notre-Dame remains one of the most important literary sights in Paris. It is due to Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame (okay, if we’re honest Disney might have also played some part in it…), that Notre-Dame became famous around the world!
2. Maison de Victor Hugo
If we’re already chatting about Victor, why not go over to his house? Because in Paris, you can! The Maison de Victor Hugo is the evocative apartment that Victor has resided in for over 16 years. His maison, located at 6 Place des Vosges, is decorated with original furniture, artifacts and sketches. In 1848 Victor had to desert it and flee to Guernsey to avoid political persecution. Opening times: everyday from 10am – 6pm, but closed on Mondays.
3. La Closerie des Lilas
La Closerie de Lilas is the place in which Fitzgerald showed Hemingway his first draft of ‘The Great Gatsby’. No wonder this has become a meeting point for novice writers sharing their manuscripts with publishers, agents and like-minded novelists-to-be. Back in the 1920s poets would hold their readings and American novelists would have debates and discussions on literature and Paris. Even if you won’t meet Hemingway here today, the place still offers amazing food and atmosphere.
4. Café de Flore
If you fancy a coffee after your food and want to continue your dandy Fitzgeraldian lifestyle coming from La Closerie des Lilas you should go to Café de Flore. It has been the Starbucks of the Parisian literary and cultural elite since 1887. Some of the most famous French writers of the 20th century such as Charles Maurras and Guillaume Apollinaire have set base here in order to write. Today models, artists and writers still fall for the Gothic architecture, the grand history and that perfect little French breakfast on the open street that Paris is so famous for.
5. Les Deux Magots
What Blur and Oasis was in the Britpop world, Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore were in the Parision coffeeshop world, or still are, when you read Adam Gopnik’s New Yorker essay “A Tale of Two Cafes”. It is located just doors down from Café de Flore in Saint-Germain-Des-Prés, and can show off an even more impressive history of coffee drinking clientele, among which are: Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, Ernest Hemingway, Albert Camus, James Joyce, Pablo Picasso and James Baldwin.
6. Shakespeare and Company
All buzzed up on caffeine Joyce, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound would head over to Shakespeare and Company to buy some books and continue their discussions on how much behind they were on their Goodreads reading list… okay maybe there were other topics being discussed…who knows, we weren’t there. The bookshop founded by George Whitman with the goal to create a meeting spot for English-speaking writers and readers still attracts writers like Henry Miller, James Baldwin and Zadie Smith up to this day.
7. The American Library in Paris
For those with a slightly smaller budget than Hemingways’ but with the same amount of appetite for book reading, the American Library in Paris, Europe’s largest English-language library in Paris, could be the better option. You can find it near the Eiffel Tower.
8. The Bouquinistes on the Seine river
If you’re in Paris for only a few days, you will probably not be able to return that book to the American Library. Hey, at least you have a reason to justify yet another book purchase at one of the Bouquinistes stalls along the Seine river. The green stalls have been a charming Parisian literary attraction for centuries with the first sellers setting up shop in the 16th-century. Today the Seine railing houses over 900 book stalls. On the Right Bank, you can find them from Pont Marie to Quai du Louvre and on the Left Bank, from Quai de la Tournelle to Quai Voltaire.
9. Cimetière du Père Lachaise
Okay this is not exactly a nice romantic stroll along the Seine unless your name is Daria. However, since it is the world’s most-visited cemetery where Oscar Wilde, Honoré de Balzac, Colette, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Marcel Proust, Chopin, Jim Morrison, Isadora Duncan, Édith Piaf, Josephine Baker are buried, the Cimetière du Père Lachaise is definitely worth a visit, when you’re in Paris.
10. Cimetière de Montparnasse
Since we’re already in that scary-catty state of ours, we might just head to the second cemetery namely the Cimetière de Montparnasse, where you will find Samuel Beckett, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir, Carlos Fuentes, Guy de Maupassant, Susan Sontag, and Charles Baudelaire buried.
11. Harry’s New York Bar
No one can deny the fact that visiting a cemetery is still a pretty morbid and depressing activity even if you came closer to Oscar Wilde and Susan Sontag than you ever thought you would. That’s why we definitely deserve a drink and if you want to enjoy a nice whiskey or beer among literati and creative expats, Harry’s New York Bar is the place to go. Oh, and Hemingway has been here too, but what coffee/drinking place in Paris did he not visit?
12. Les Éditeurs
This place was not around in the 1920. Do you know who would have otherwise had frequented it? Yes, Hemingway, you got it! Instead, Les Éditeurs, which is both coffeehouse, restaurant and library in one hosts people from the creative industry and along that schedules regular literary events. They have amazing floor-to-ceiling windows and weekend brunches that are certainly worth trying.
13. Musée de la vie romantique
What Marais is for fashion, Montmartre is for art and literature. That’s why at the Montmartre Hill, you will find the Musée de la vie romantique that houses art from the Romantic period and the legacy of George Sand, a famous French writer. Chopin was first repulsed when meeting the boyish author but later formed a romantic relationship with her.
14. Maison de Balzac
If you want to compare Victor Hugo’s mansion with French novelists Honoré de Balzac, you can! A pioneer of the realism stream in Europe, the Maison de Balzac lets you see how he lived and learn about his legacy.
15. Le Procope
After this long and exciting booklover’s quest, we have definitely deserved a final dinner in Le Procope. Founded in 1686 they have certainly had some time to learn how to cook well and have definitely surpassed their 10.000 practice hours to reach mastery. Even Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Denis Diderot and Voltaire have regularly tasted the food here and loved it. The latter was known to drink up to 40 cups of coffee here every single day!
If you not only love books but also fashion, check out our guide to the 17 Places in Paris that Every Fashion Lover Must Visit.
For all the foodies out there, we have created a list of the 10 Best Food Places in Paris.