5 of the Best Literary Haunts in Paris

5 of the Best Literary Haunts in Paris

It’s almost the start of a new year, and for many people, that means new beginnings and perhaps even a full new story. As you think about edits and exciting plot points for the story of your life in the upcoming year, you may draw inspiration from your favorite books, perhaps even those set in Paris.

Books and stories are a cultural touchstone no matter who you are and where you’re from. If you’re from – or happen to be visiting or living in – Paris, you are within a city with a rich literary history. Paris is a city of artists; that’s an undeniable fact.

Authors we associate with Paris also include non-French people, like Americans Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Baldwin, and Gertrude Stein. It’s an international literary beacon. Irishman James Joyce, born in Dublin, was deeply shaped by his time in Paris. In fact, Shakespeare and Company bookstore founder, Sylvia Beach, published his novel Ulysses at the bookstore. Another Irishman – Oscar Wilde – is also closely tied to Paris. Then there are all the French writers who thrived in Paris: Les Misérables author Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Marcel Proust, Colette, Alexandre Dumas, Gustave Flaubert, poet Charles Baudelaire. (The list goes on…)

Paris as a city is a titan in the literary canon for great places to create great art. And with that, here are five of the best literary haunts in Paris.

1. Père-Lachaise Cemetery

Père-Lachaise Cemetery is one of the most literary-centric places there is in all of Paris. (It’s also a beautiful spot to visit during the autumn months.) Some of those aforementioned literary greats, including Marcel Proust, Gertrude Stein, and Oscar Wilde, are all buried at the cemetery. Walk through the pathways of the cemetery and bask in the spirits of literary greatness that surround you.

Address: 16 Rue du Repos, 20th arrondissement



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2. L’Hôtel (Formerly Hôtel d’Alsace)

And speaking of Oscar Wilde, the An Ideal Husband author spent his final days in Paris at the Hôtel d’Alsace, which later became L’Hôtel. This five-star accommodation is where Wilde passed away in 1900. Living out his final days at the hotel, he famously said that he was “dying beyond his means.”

You can even stay in the room where Wilde passed. The “Oscar Wilde Suite” is available to book. The hotel website describes the suite saying, “The 35 sqm (377 sqft) room is decorated after L’Hotel’s most well-known resident, Oscar Wilde, who was staying here when he died in 1900. Spacious as it is unique, the room features a large private terrace and bathroom with a separate bath and walk-in shower.”

As Wilde passed away, he reportedly commented on the hotel’s wallpaper in his final hours. The Importance of Being Earnest author’s last words were reportedly, “This wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. Either it goes or I do.”

 Address: 13 Rue des Beaux Arts, 6th arrondissement


3. Shakespeare and Company Bookstore

It wouldn’t be a literary list without the official inclusion of Shakespeare and Company bookstore! This beloved literary institution is perhaps the most famous literarily aligned place in all of Paris. The beautiful English language bookshop, which tends to be quite crowded due to its popularity, opened at its current location in 1951 by George Whitman. The original shop, founded by Sylvia Beach, was a haven for writers like Hemingway, Stein, and Fitzgerald.

Beat Generation writers like Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs flocked to this bookstore, along with writers like Henry Miller. Today, Whitman’s daughter Sylvia runs the shop, which continues to thrive and even opened a café in recent years.

Address: 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 5th arrondissement


4. Bar Hemingway at the Ritz Paris

For hardcore Hemingway fans, you must go to Bar Hemingway in the Ritz Paris. The Ritz, founded in 1898, has seen its fair share of star power, including literary star power, namely, A Moveable Feast author Ernest Hemingway.

It’s reported that Hemingway began visiting bars at the Ritz around 1926. He reportedly encouraged the bartenders there to engage in sports-related bets with him, reports Forbes. He was a famed patron, and thus, when the hotel and its bars underwent some remodeling in the 1970s, the hotel dubbed one of the bars “Bar Hemingway,” as a nod to one of their most famous clients. The bar describes itself as feeling like an exclusive members’ club and a place of pilgrimage. For literary lovers, this is one pilgrimage worth making – particularly if you have a penchant for tasty cocktails!

Address: 15 Pl. Vendôme, 1st arrondissement



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5. Café Tournon

James Baldwin was another “American in Paris” author, like Hemingway, who left his indelible mark on the city. Though lesser known than other literary-related cafes, like Les Deux Magots, Café Tournon in the 6th near Luxembourg Gardens, is also a literary fixture. It was particularly important to Black authors like Baldwin who made their home in Paris, and found their café homes within the city, like at Café Tournon.

Address: 18 Rue de Tournon, 6th arrondissement



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Lead photo credit : Shakespeare and Company bookstore in the Latin Quarter, Creative Commons

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Anne McCarthy is a contributing writer to BBC News, Teen Vogue, The Telegraph, Dance Magazine, and more. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Westminster and is the Editor in Chief of Fat Tire Tours’ travel blog. She lives in New York City.