A Literary Tour of Paris : The Best Bookish Places to Eat, Shop and Sleep

A Literary Tour of Paris : The Best Bookish Places to Eat, Shop and Sleep

 For the literary-obsessed, there are few places in the world where you can come into close proximity with literary legends, a veritable time capsule - where else can you sit at the café tables where Hemingway held forth, walk the tree-lined avenues that Victor Hugo strolled, or even sleep in the hotel where Oscar Wilde spent his final years? Few other cities come close. 

Even just a few days in Paris with afford you the opportunity to explore some of our favorite literary spots in Paris. All the locations are in an interactive map as well, which you can see here!


Where to Shop:

The Abbey Bookshop, 29 Rue de la Parcheminerie


If the crowds in Shakespeare & Co become too much, there is another English-language bookshop just around the corner. Selling new and used books, you are bound to find some gems on their towering shelves. Their beautiful arched doorway, also stacked with precarious book towers, also makes for a great photo opportunity. 


Shakespeare & Co, 37 Rue de la Bûcherie


Opened in 1951 by George Whitman, this iconic bookshop carried on the spirit of the original Shakespeare and Co. once owned by Sylvia Beach around the corner. It was a literary hub for writer expats like James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway and Anais Nin. While the current bookstore draws in the crowds, it is still bonafide, where writers like Zadie Smith do reading and hosting young writers and artists on the premises.


Librarie Galignani, 224 Rue de Rivoli

Across the river on the illustrious Rue de Rivoli on the way to the Louvre is another beautiful bookshop. It's claim to fame is that it was the first English-language bookshop on the continent. It is named after Simone Galignani, a publisher in Venice, Italy in the 1500s. His descendants emigrated to France after the French Revolution and started a publishing company, which included a reading room for English speakers. They also started a daily newspaper called Galgnani's Messenger, which had contributions from literary heavyweights like Thackeray and Byron. They have been selling books ever since.


Bouquinistes of the Right Bank


If the weather is good you might want to might to take your book shopping onto the streets! Lining the Right Bank of the River Seine are over 900 of Paris' historic "bouquinistes", or book-sellers. They sell out of small wooden huts which are propped open in the day time to display their wares. The bouqinistes have been selling here since the 16th century.

Where to Eat & Drink:

Le Closerie de Lilas, 171 Bd du Montparnasse


Opened in 1847, this brasserie is right in the heart of Paris' art and intellectual district of Montparnasse. Aside from your favorite early 20th century writers such as Ernest Hemingway (who mentioned it in his Paris memoir A Moveable Feast) and Paul Verlaine, Impressionist painters such as Claude Monet and Auguste Renoir enjoyed hanging out at the stylish restaurant. Preserved as it was in its heyday, they have beautiful leafy terrace.


La Belle Hortense, 31, rue Vielle du Temple

 If you want to keep it literary , "La Belle Hortense" is an award winning book-themed wine bar and restaurant in the Marais. Named after a novel by the French writer Jacques Roubaud. And best of all, the books inside are for sale too!


Café de Flore, 172 Boulevard Saint-Germain

No literary trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to the iconic Café de Flore. Little had changed inside since it's heyday. Sitting outside on the street facing tables is really the quintessential Paris experience and not to be missed. While it it only a few minutes walk from Les Deux Magots, another literary institution, the prices are significantly more reasonable. 

Literary Museums:

Maison de Victor Hugo,  6 Pl. des Vosges


The writer of Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame lived with his family in a second-floor apartment of this grand building for sixteen years. This spacious apartment is richly decorated and preserved as closely as possible to how Hugo lived there. The permanent exhibits are free to visit.


Musée de la Vie Romantique, 16 Rue Chaptal

At the foot of Monmartre is this charming 19th century house which is now a museum. It was once the home of Dutch painter Ary Scheffer, who was known for hosting literary salons frequented by the likes of George Sand, Eugene Delacroix and Charles Dickens. In 1982 it became a museum covering a range of artistic themes : the life of the Writer George Sand as well paintings, sculptures and bronzes. It hosts annual exhibitions, concerts and readings. Like Victor Hugo's and Balzac's homes, this a museum run by the city of Paris, which means it is free to visit (with the exception of temporary exhibits).


Maison de Balzac, 47 Rue Raynouard

French writer Honoré de Balzac lived at this property for seven years, living under an assumed name to throw off his creditors. He lived in a top-floor apartment. He wrote some of his most acclaimed novels here, such as La Comedie Humaine and Cousine Bette. Balzac had an unusual writing routine: he would start writing at midnight until 6 p.m. the next day, drinking only black coffee. It was consecrated into a museum in 1908, with some adjustments made since then, such as a library dedicated to Balzac on the first floor.

Places to Walk:

Jardin du Luxembourg, 6th Arrondissement

If you are lucky enough to be visting Paris when the sun is shining, you will probably want to make the most of it. Skip the crowds outside the Eiffel Tower and instead take a relaxing stroll through the Luxembourg gardens. With ponds, grottos and Grecian statues, the gardens are a peaceful oasis out of the hustle and bustle of the capital. Victor Hugo even mentioned the gardens in Les Miserables, as did other writers such as Emile Zola and Guy de Maupassant.


Cimetière du Pere Lechaise, 20th Arrondissement


Paris' boasts one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world. If you appreciate beautiful statuary and brushing up against Paris history, you will enjoy a leisurely walk around Pére Lechaises' leafy paths. Luminaries such as Oscar Wilde, Paul Eluard and Guillaume Apollinaire are buried here. You can either join a guided tour or have a self-guided wander along with maps provided at the entrance. And you'll need a map - the cemetery is huge and sprawling. 

Where to Stay:

Hotel Esmerelda, 4 rue Saint Julien le Pauvre

There are few hotels better situated than Hotel Esmerelda. Directly across from Notre Dame on the Left Bank, you can imagine where the hotel got the inspiration for it's name from. This cozy boutique hotel is just a short walk from Shakespeare & Co. and many other essential Paris sights. With it's quirky and inviting decor (each room is decorated differently), you're sure to have a memorable stay.


L'Hotel 13 Rue du Beaux-Arts


If you're budget can stretch a bit further, then this hotel is like an opulent jewel box that will take you back in time. The last home of Oscar Wilde, as well other illustrious guests such as Salvador Dali and Elizabeth Taylor. The rooms have exquisite furnishings and beautiful attention to detail. There is a hammam and steam room, as well. 


Hotel Le Pont Royale, St-Germain-des-Prés

Another glamourous five-star hotel that has leaned into to its literary fame. With rooftop views of Eiffel Tower and Sacré Coeur, their Signature bar feels like going back in time to the jazz age, when Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald would rub shoulders with Henry Miller and Truman Capote. Their star cocktail is The Duke, named after Duke Ellington.

We hope our little guide inspires you next trip to Paris. What are your favorite literary destinations? Comment below!


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