History & Culture

A literary tour of Paris

Paris has inspired some of the greatest writers of all time. Take a literary tour of Paris to find their haunts.

In Hemingway's footsteps

"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 was just one of the many writers to find his muse in Paris over the centuries - and whilst many aspiring authors still tinker with their work outside the city's many pavement cafés, just as many tourists are inspired to visit Paris for its rich literary heritage. We've rounded up the best and most interesting bars, restaurants and other destinations, all of which have attracted famous names in French and English literature - just right for a fascinating and evocative city break to Paris.

Café Procope

13 Rue de l'Ancienne Comédie, 75006

Paris' oldest restaurant, the Procope has been continuously open since 1686 - that's ninety years before America declared its independence! French philosophers such as Rousseau and Voltaire frequently dropped in for an exotic drink of coffee, whilst a few years later the restaurant was popular amongst Robespierre and other architects of the French Revolution.

These days, however, the Procope steers clear of civil unrest in favour of hearty traditional cooking in beautiful period surroundings. And if you want to soak up some more atmosphere, Voltaire's own desk - a gift from Frederick the Great - has been preserved in one of the side rooms.

Café Procope

Maison de Victor Hugo

6, Place des Vosges, 75004

Stately and serene, the Place des Vosges is a beautiful spot for a stroll at any time of the day or night. However, the south-eastern corner of the square holds a particular treat for visitors interested in literature - the grandly named Hôtel de Rohan-Guéménée was for sixteen years the home of Victor Hugo, and his apartment has been preserved as a museum. The modest space (which is open Tuesday-Sunday) replicates Hugo's surroundings through the three crucial stages of his life - before, during and after his self-imposed exile during the reign of Napoleon II - as well as preserving the bedroom in which he died in 1885. Two temporary exhibitions are hosted by the museum each year to showcase Hugo's work as not only a writer, but a supremely talented illustrator.

Place des Vosges

Les Deux Magots

6, Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés, 75006

Along with its principal rival, the nearby Café de Flore, Les Deux Magots is the archetypal Left Bank café. In its early days it played host to poets including Rimbaud and Mallarmé, but it really came into its own as a hub for two burgeoning inter-war movements in art and philosophy. André Breton presided over the bold young Surrealist artists, whilst existentialist writers gathered under the aegis of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Camus, Picasso and Bertolt Brecht all spent their time and money in Les Deux Magots too, cementing its reputation as a haven for all manner of creative types - although it's no longer cheap and cheerful enough for the current generation of aspiring artists!

Les Deux Magots

Shakespeare and Company

37 rue Bûcherie, 75005

Sylvia Beach's legendary English language bookshop and lending library on the rue de l'Odéon was a fixture of the Lost Generation. Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein and others all spent time there, whilst James Joyce - whose masterwork Ulysses was first published by Beach - referred to it as Stratford-on-Odéon. The original bookshop closed during the Second World War and was never reopened (according to legend, the final straw was Beach's refusal to sell a German officer her last copy of Finnegans Wake), but its spiritual successor on rue Bûcherie has all the charm of the original and still welcomes penniless writers.

Shakespeare and Company

Père Lachaise Cemetery

16 Rue du Repos, 75020

Paris is the city of love, the city of light… but all things pass, and no literary tour of Paris would be complete without a visit to the final resting place of so many of its great talents. Located in the 20th arrondissement, the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise attracts literary pilgrims from across the world, who come to pay their respects to luminaries including Molière, Marcel Proust and Oscar Wilde (whose tomb is now encased in glass to protect it from the lipsticked kisses of his disciples). Visit the grave of Gertrude Stein and her partner Alice B. Toklas, brave the permanent crowd of Doors fans that surrounds Jim Morrison's simple headstone - and then head back to the Rive Gauche for a restorative drink. It's what Hemingway would have done.

Oscar Wilde's tomb

Eurotunnel Le Shuttle can whisk you and your car from Folkestone to Calais in just 35 minutes, and from there it’s a gentle three-hour drive to Paris itself. The beauty of taking a car is that you can set your own schedule. And there’s no luggage restriction on Eurotunnel Le Shuttle, so you’ll have plenty of space for mementos - books, paintings or perhaps a case of wine - to help keep you inspired when you head for home. After all, Paris is a moveable feast.

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