10 Historic Hotspots of the Paris Literati
10. Café de Flore
Although the City of Light is now layered with countless modern buildings, a number of historic relics remain, and the Café de Flore is a typical one of them. Seated just around the corner from Les Deux Magots on Boulevard Saint-German, the Café de Flore went into operation in the 1880s, when Paris fostered a community of artists, writers, and intellectuals, drawing many American expats. Being one old haunt of the Lost Generation, this iconic café has inspired many great talents. Nowadays, the café is a cherished relic of the old days and will indulge you in the mood with its original art décor and red seating.
9. Harry’s New York Bar
In 1911, a dedicated American expat Tod Sloan dismantled a New York bar and shipped it across the Atlantic to 5 Rue Daunou. In the 1920s, legendary Scottish bartender Harry MacElhone bought it and renamed it Harry’s New York Bar. The trendy cocktails Harry mixed up attracted celebrities like Coco Chanel and Humphrey Bogart here often. Allegedly, it's also the birthplace of the classic drinks Bloody Mary and French 75. Drinking here also recalls you the days when Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir meet here talking for hours on existentialism and philosophy.
8. Shakespeare and Company
The original shop of Shakespeare and Company Bookstore, opened in 1919, was a hangout for many famed luminaries such as James Joyce, Hemingway, TS Eliot, Gertrude Stein and more. In the early 1950s, the American entrepreneur and adventurer George Whitman opened the next generation at 37 rue de la Bucherie. Since then, it has been a hangout for the literati of the Beat writers, including Allen Ginsberg, Anais Nin, and Henry Miller. Now run by his daughter Sylvia Whitman, it's a favorite English-language bookshop in Paris.
7. La Coupole
Established in 1927, La Coupole is a historic relic of 1920s Art Deco, situated in the former Lost Generation neighborhood of Montparnasse. It's famous for its impressive interior with 33 pillars all covered in Cubist paintings that ranked in the Registry of historic monuments. La Coupole has always been a star-studded spot, attracting Jean-Paul Sartre writing and drinking long at his regular table, number 149, Henry Miller nursing his hangovers at the bar when he was a nobody, and Matisse and Joyce sitting elbow to elbow, drinking heavily to find their inspiration.
6. La Closerie des Lilas
Also situated in the former Lost Generation neighborhood of Montparnasse, La Closerie des Lilas is the historic Parisian café where Hemingway wrote most of The Sun Also Rises. With the success of the likes of Man Ray, Fitzgerald, and Picasso, Montparnasse changed a lot, but the café went to great lengths to maintain its original façade and interior design. Due to the popularity of the old legends surrounding the piano bar, the plaque commemorating Hemingway, and a traditional French brasserie, the café still evokes the rich literary traditions of Paris.
5. Gertrude Stein’s Studio
Situated on the western side of the Luxembourg Gardens, the studio started as a literary salon in the charge of Gertrude Stein, a woman who coined the term Lost Generation in the 1920s. Gradually, the studio evolved into collaboration and influence that could define modernism in art and literature. Artists like Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, writers like Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ezra Pound were all regular guests here. Now the studio contains a historic apartment with a plaque commemorating her life, and it's one of the first museums of modern art.
4. Les Deux Magots
Open in 1885, the literary café was the spot where Hemingway, Simone de Beauvoir, and Sartre split up both their leisure time and writing sessions on existentialism. Popular with artists and intellectuals, the café today still retains its original glory, complete with career garcons in black jackets serving tasty French pastries, Parisian coffee, and its famous shop-made hot chocolate served in a classy porcelain jug. Head for a café and croissant on the terrace overlooking the church Saint-Germain-des-Pres and contemplate life like the brilliant minds did generations before you.
3. La Rotonde
In the 20s, the café was a popular hangout for artists, writers, and intellectuals, including Picasso, Man Ray, F. Scott Fitzgerald and more. Literary luminaries favored it especially, and Hemingway mentioned the café in The Sun Also Rises: “No matter what café in Montparnasse you ask a taxi driver to bring you to from the right bank of the river, they always take you to the Rotonde.” Nowadays, it remains a great spot to enjoy traditional French cuisines like foie gras, French onion soup, and les escargots.
2. Place de la Contrescarpe
Place de la Contrescarpe is an ancient Parisian street, covering both sides of the busy market street rue Mouffetard from Hugo’s Les Miserables. There still stands a 15th century Church of Saint Medard. In the 19th century, it was a working-class district, home to Balzac and Victor Hugo, and the neighborhood of Hemingway’s first home at No. 74 rue du Cardinal-Lemoine. Today the neighborhood has been gentrified, but the plain apartment building remains with a plaque in memory of the brilliant mind.
1. Galignani Book Store
Being a historic gem, the Librarie Galignani is one of the most elegant bookstores in Paris and the oldest on the continent, dating back to 1801. Relocated in 1856, it stands at Rue de Rivoli 224 today and retains the original massive façade. It has always been a favorite, particularly among the ex-pat literary crowd including Hemingway and Fitzgerald in the 1920s. Having been run by six generations of the Galignani family, the shop is a treasure trove of precious collections with 50,000 titles in history, politics, and fiction can be found on the old mahogany shelves as well as an impressively large fine arts section.
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