Paris: Literature Hub from the Cafés to the Sewers

Paris is a literature hub, where there are centuries of amazing writers who were native or who moved there to be inspired.  Here are a couple other places to visit if you so wish….  Know that this is only a short list of endless possibilities to explore the literature world of Paris.


Transformed into a café around 1885, Les Deux Magots located at 6 Place St. Germain-des-Pres is a must stop for literary enthusiasts.  During the 19th century the symbolists, Verlaine, Rimbaud, and Mallarmé used to meet here.  Since then, it has been frequented by authors such as Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Hemingway, Picasso, and Prévert, among others.  Check the tables and you will notice plaques where these authors used to sit as well as pictures of these authors that line the walls.




Visit one of the homes of Victor Hugo where he lived from 1832-1848, located in the Place des Vosges, the oldest square in Paris.  He moved here when he was thirty years old with his wife and their four children.  Here he wrote some of his major works including Les Misérables, Ruy Blas, and Contemplations.  It was turned into a museum in 1902, it is free of charge to the public and open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.




On the corner of rue Vielle du Temple and Rue St. Croix in the area of the Marais, you will find a little bookstore/café: La Belle Hortense.  A literary legend where Balzac and Baudelaire used to frequent.  The cafe has remnants from its 19th century history, including a small bookstore and reading room.  Don’t be surprised to find art exhibits, readings, and book signings in this treasure of a place.




Other places to visit that are not necessarily on the to see list are the cemeteries of Paris.  They are beautifully maintained, and many famous people are buried in them.  Following is a short list of some graves you may want to visit.  At the entrance of each site, ask for a map that will give you the names and locations of each grave.

Cimetière Père Lachaise established by Napoleon I in 1804:

  • Guillaume Apollinaire
  • Honoré de Balzac
  • Paul Eluard
  • Jean de La Fontaine
  • Molière
  • Marcel Proust
  • Gertrude Stein
  • Oscar Wilde

For those who enjoy music…

  • Frédéric Chopin
  • Jim Morrison: the most visited grave
  • Edith Piaf
  • Rossini


Cimetière Montparnasse established in 1824:

  • Charles Baudelaire
  • Simone de Beauvoir
  • Samuel Beckett
  • Marguerite Duras
  • Joris-Karl Huysmans
  • Eugène Ionesco
  • Joseph Kessel
  • Guy de Maupassant
  • Jean Paul Sartre


Cimetière de Montmartre established in 1795:

  • Alexandre Dumas
  • Stendhal
  • Edgar Degas (for you art enthusiasts)
  • François Truffaut (for you cinéistes)


The Pantheon was originally built as a church in 1789 and has now become a famous burial ground:

  • Alexandre Dumas
  • Victor Hugo
  • Jean Jacques Rousseau
  • Voltaire
  • Emile Zola
  • Scientists Louis Pasteur and Marie Curie are also interred here.


Along with the cemeteries, do not forget to visit the catacombs, which used to be situated right outside the city.  At the end of the 18th century, the most important cemetery of Paris was closed due to sanitation issues.  The bones were transferred to the catacombs beginning 1785.  Millions of bones followed thereafter.

Now, here lies the resting place of millions of peoples bones and it is open to the public to visit.  It is not for the fainthearted.  Not only is it 2 km of underground tunnels, 130 steps down and 83 steps up, there are endless caves and caverns filled with real human bones arranged in eerily beautiful sculptures throughout the damp tunnels.  Open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the metro stop Denfert-Rochereau.



“Paris has beneath it another Paris, a Paris of sewers, which has its own streets, squares, lanes, arteries, and circulation.” -Victor Hugo

Meet at the Pont D’Alma on the left bank for a tour of the sewers.  Entitled “Les Egouts de Paris”, you learn about the entire history of the Parisian sewer system- from the Middle ages, to the Renaissance, to today.  You will be surprised at how important a working sewer system is and just how much work it is to create and maintain.

Open every day except Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. (in the summer) and from 11 a.m.- 4 p.m. (in the winter).  Tickets are 4.10 euros and 3.30 euros for students.  Metro stop is Pont de L’Alma.




I hope you have as much fun visiting these sites as I did!  Here I am in Les Deux Magots hoping that some of the inspiration and talent seeped into my pores- even just a little.