For Ernest Hemingway, Paris was an inspiring and vital place of beauty and light, and history and art. Ernest Hemingway lived in Paris from 1921 to 1928 and returned several times thereafter. A Moveable Feast is Hemingway’s classic memoir of his early days in Paris, from 1921 to 1926. In A Moveable Feast, Hemingway depicts an idyllic city invested by a swarm of more or less broke artists who, like him, haunted the cafes of Montparnasse in the roaring 1920s.
In 1920 Sherwood Anderson, also a writer, urged a young Hemingway and his wife Hadley to connect with Paris, promising his writing would improve and they would meet important people. For Hemingway, who was just starting out as a writer in those early years, Paris was simply the best place to work in the world and it remained for him the city that he loved most.
On this article, we are going to visit emblematic places mainly on the Left Bank of Paris (Saint-Germain-des-Près, the Latin Quarter and Montparnasse) that still remain impregnated of his memory, complemented with some funny anecdotes and A Moveable Feast quotes. While you will not find goatherds piping their flocks through the streets of Paris anymore, you can still get the sense of how it must have been Hemingway’s Paris.
This Ernest Hemingway in Paris walking tour is long, especially if you want to take some pictures or stop for a coffee or beer along the way. We are going to cover the ground the way Hemingway liked to do it. On foot. We suggest splitting this Paris itinerary into two days and complementing it with other Paris attractions on the way such as the Louvre or Luxembourg Gardens. You can get more ideas on our Paris by Arrondissement Guide.
Ernest Hemingway in Paris Walking Tour Map
To get the most out of this Paris Walking Tour, we also recommend getting a copy of Hemingway A Moveable Feast book. You can buy a Moveable Feast here.
Place de la Contrescarpe (Paris 5)
The starting point of this Hemingway Paris Tour is Place de la Contrescarpe, in the Latin Quarter of Paris. If there’s a place which is truly the moveable feast in Paris, this is Place de la Contrescarpe. This is a cheerful place with nice café-terraces, perfect for people watching with your favorite drink, and a good mix of tourists and locals. There was a Café des Amateurs here, described by Hemingway as ‘the cesspool of Rue Mouffetard’, and which even he avoided. Now it’s reincarnated as the Café Delmas (currently under renovation works), a cute place popular with students from the lycées around. We prefer to have our cold beers at Gaston, instead, also on the square.
‘The Café des Amateurs was crowded and the windows misted over from the heat and smoke inside. It was a sad, evilly run café where the drunkards of the quarter crowded together and I kept away from it because of the smell of dirty bodies and the sour smell of drunkenness’.
Facing Café des Arts and Gaston, there’s rue Mouffetard, ‘that wonderful narrow crowded market street which led into the Place Contrescarpe’. Rue Mouffetard is still one of the city’s loveliest street markets but it has become a little too much touristy for our taste. Even without the outdoor stalls, the street is a shopper’s delight, with many interesting specialty shops like fromageries, pâtisseries or wine shops.
74 rue Cardinal Lemoine
On the fourth floor at 74 rue Cardinal Lemoine, a young Hemingway and his wife Hadley rented their first apartment to begin a new life in Paris. At that time, Le Quartier Latin was an archaic, working-class neighborhood of the Fifth Arrondissement of Paris, far from the good cafés and restaurants. Ernest wanted to spend their little store of money for travel and recreation, not fancy digs, and Hadley was as enthusiastic as he was about exploring other parts of Europe. The furnished apartment at 74 rue du Cardinal Lemoine was small, with two rooms, a kitchen, cold water, and no toilet but it was available for only 250 francs per month (about 20$). Finally, the couple agreed that they should take it and Paris was still wet when they moved in on January 9, 1922 . . .
‘Home in the rue Cardinal Lemoine was a two-room flat that had no hot water and no inside toilet facilities except an antiseptic container, not uncomfortable to anyone who was used to a Michigan outhouse’.
On the Way to Luxembourg Gardens (Paris 6)
Though Hemingway initially came to Paris as a journalist for the Toronto Star, he was determined to become a proper writer. To this end, he took a room in a hotel around the corner at 39 rue Descartes (a 5-minute walk from 74 rue du Cardinal Lemoine) to have a quiet space for writing. 39 rue Descartes had been previously a hotel, where the French poet Paul Verlaine died in January 1896.
‘The fireplace drew well in the room and it was warm and pleasant to work. I brought mandarines and roasted chestnuts to the room in paper packages and peeled and ate the small tangerine-like oranges and threw their skins and spat their seeds in the fire when I ate them and roasted chestnuts when I was hungry. I was always hungry with the walking and the cold and the working. Up in the room, I had a bottle of kirsch that we had brought back from the mountains and I took a drink of kirsch when I would get toward the end of a story or toward the end of the day’s work’.
From rue Descartes, Hemingway could walk to A Good Café on the Place St. Michel, which does not exist anymore, or to Luxembourg Gardens. Thanks to A Moveable Feast, we can retrace his steps:
‘I walked down past the Lycée Henri Quatre and the ancient church of St. Etienne du Mont and the windswept Place du Panthéon and cut in for shelter to the right and finally came out on the lee side of the Boulevard St. – Michel . . .’
The Jardin du Luxembourg is a lovely garden in the 6th Arrondissement of Paris where Hemingway often walked, especially ‘in the early days when we were very poor and very happy’. It seems Hemingway walked through the gardens to avoid temptation. ‘The best place to do it was the Luxembourg gardens where you saw and smelled nothing to eat all the way from the Place de l’Observatoire to the Rue de Vaugirard’. During a harsh winter, penniless and hungry, Hemingway he would sometimes hunt pigeons in the Jardin du Luxembourg, snapping their necks and hiding their bodies in his son’s pram. But as often with Hemingway, the fiction may have exceeded the reality … Luxembourg Gardens is also where his wife Hadley and their son came to escape their small apartment, while Hemingway was working.
Le Jardin du Luxembourg is today one of the most popular parks amongst locals and an excellent place for a picnic on the grass or for an afternoon stroll. Don’t miss the pond in front of the Sénat Palace or the Médicis Fountain, one of the most romantic places in Paris.
MAKE IT SPECIAL: have fun with this Paris Treasure Hunt in Luxembourg Gardens!
The Luxembourg Museum
In the Luxembourg Gardens Hemingway also liked to visit the Luxembourg Museum. Actually, he visited the Luxembourg Museum nearly every day ‘for the Cézannes and the Monets and the other Impressionists that he had first come to know in the Art Institute of Chicago’.
‘There you could always go into the Luxembourg Museum and all the paintings were sharper and clearer and more beautiful if you were belly-empty, hollow-hungry. I learned to understand Cézanne much better and to see truly how he made landscapes when I was hungry’.
Le Musée du Luxembourg was the first French museum to be opened to the public in 1750 and in 1818 it became the first museum of contemporary art. Today Le Musée du Luxembourg is a popular museum amongst locals, which favors three programmes with themes linked to its history: “The Renaissance in Europe”, “Art and Power” and “Palace, Gardens, and Museum: The Luxembourg in the heart of Paris, capital of the arts”.
27 Rue de Fleurus
If the light at Luxembourg gardens was gone, Hemingway liked to walk through the gardens and stop in at the studio apartment where his friend Gertrude Stein lived.
‘It was easy to get into the habit of stopping in at 27 Rue de Fleurus for warmth and the great pictures and the conversation’.
In early March 1922, Hemingway had his first encounter with the American writer and art collector Gertrude Stein through thanks to an Anderson introduction letter. Stein has happy to serve as a mentor for an ardent and serious young writer and they had interesting conversations, about arts, literature, and life in general. In Hemingway’s Paris memoir, he describes his encounters with Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein in great detail (Miss Stein Instructs . .). Gertrude Stein introduced him to writers and artists, and to new ideas about painting and writing.
‘It was like one of the best rooms in the finest museum except there was a big fireplace and it was warm and comfortable and they gave you good things to eat and tea and natural distilled liqueurs made from purple plums, yellow plums or wild raspberries …’
Today, there’s not much to see at 27 Rue de Fleurus but there’s a commemorative plaque on the front entrance.
Shakespeare & Company (the original one!)
This avant-garde address, at 12 Rue de l’Odéon, was the refuge of English-speaking expatriates: the poet Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein … Notorious Lesbian, collector of art and figure of the Paris of the Roaring Twenties, Sylvia Beach was a friend, mentor, and supporter of many of the key literary figures of the day living in and around the Latin Quarter. It was Sylvia Beach who published for the first time James Joyce’s classic Ulysses after many other publishers had rejected the book because of their fear of being prosecuted (a plaque marks this literary milestone today). In A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway dedicates a full chapter to Shakespeare & Company and Sylvia Beach. Beach borrowed Hemingway many books, took Hem under her wing, and will push him to put aside journalism to devote himself to literature.
‘On a cold windswept street, this was a lovely, warm, cheerful place with a big stove in winter, tables, and shelves of books, new books in the window, and photographs on the wall of famous writers both dead and living’.
Today, there’s not much to see apart from the plaque commemorating the publication of Ulysses. However, on the same street, there are a couple of ancient bookshops (Librairie Rieffel at 15 Rue de l’Odéon, Le Coupe Papier at 19 Rue de l’Odéon, and Librairie Montecristo at 5 Rue de l’Odéon) that can give an idea of how Shakespeare & Company could look like.
Wandering around Saint Germain-des-Près
From Rue de l’Odéon, let’s head to the heart of Saint Germain-des-Près neighborhood, more precisely to the square just in front of Saint Germain-des-Près Church. After the Second World War in Paris, Saint Germain became a center of intellectual and cultural life in Paris, with the presence of interesting writers and artists like Marguerite Duras, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, François Truffaut, Picasso, Giacometti and many more. All these cool people liked to wander around Saint Germain and enjoy its particular atmosphere and a good intellectual discussion at Café Les Deux Magots or Café de Flore.
For breakfast, lunch, or a late-afternoon cocktail before dinner, the Hemingways could stroll to the Boulevard Saint Germain and try to find a table at these two very-popular cafés. In A Moveable Feast, we find Hemingway and James Joyce having drinks at Les Deux Magots.
‘He asked me to drink with him and we went to Les Deux Magots and ordered dry sherry although you will always read that he drank only Swiss white wine’.
Today Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots are populated by tourists who don’t mind paying exorbitant prices to have a coffee or one of Hem’s favorite cocktails (a daiquiri or martini) in a Hemingway cafe, the places where he loved to hang around with his friends. Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots are also the perfect places to enjoy people watching on the Left Bank, two cafes where the waiters are still dressed up in the traditional black-and-white uniforms: black waistcoats and dickey bow ties, and a large, white, linen napkin draped over their left forearm.
On the other side of Boulevard Saint-Germain, we can find Brasserie Lipp, another of Hemingway’s favorites, especially for a cold beer.
‘There were few people in the brasserie [Lipp] and when I sat down on the bench against the wall with the mirror in back and a table in front and the waiter asked if I wanted beer I asked for a distingue, the big glass mug that held a liter, and for a potato salad. The beer was very cold and wonderful to drink. The pommes à l’huile were firm and marinated and the olive oil delicious’.
In Hemingway’s time, in general, the Left Bank was a cheap area of the city, which is why the usually impoverished artists and writers would congregate there. Only five weeks after arriving in Paris, Hemingway wrote an article for The Toronto Star Weekly explaining how cheap it was to live in the city (“Living on $1,000 a Year in Paris”, February 4th., 1922).
An exception to this rule was Michaud’s restaurant, on the corner of the Rue Jacob and the Rue des Saints- Pères (today Le Comptoir des Saints-Pères). In A Moveable Feast, Hemingway reports having seen Joyce and his family eating at Michaud’s. It was an expensive restaurant for the Hemingways, but Hem and his wife treated themselves to dinner there after winning some money at the races at Auteuil or Enghien.
At the junction with Rue Bonaparte is the Café Pré aux Clercs, a Hemingway favorite, which is only a few doors down from the Hotel d’Angleterre (44 Rue Jacob) where the couple spent his first night in Paris (in Room 14).
L’Hôtel d’Angleterre hosted in the past the former embassy of England (hence its name) during the preparation of the Treaty of Paris. With the treaty of Paris, signed on 3rd September 1783, England recognized the independence of the United States of America. The Treaty was signed at Hotel d’York, at 56 Rue Jacob, because Benjamin Franklin refused to sign it on English soil. This hôtel particulier became later a hotel for tourists (with the name of Hotel Jacob and then Hotel d’Anglaterre again) quite popular amongst many American celebrities. Today, visitors can still book room #14 where the Hemingways spent their first nights in Paris. The room price at Hotel d’Anglaterre is today much higher than the 30$ a month (+ 2.5 francs for breakfast) paid by the Hemingways but it is a handy hotel located within a walking distance of the Louvre, Notre Dame or Jardin des Tuileries.
The Banks of the Seine and its Bouquinistes
The Hotel d’Anglaterre is just a five-minute walk from the Seine and the booksellers that Hemingway frequented. But instead of heading to the Seine directly, we are going to do a little detour to visit 7 Rue des Grands Augustins. This beautiful hôtel particulier in Saint Germain-des-Près was Picasso’s studio for many years – it was where he painted the Guernica – and where the Hemingways met up with him in 1946.
Today this hôtel particulier is in private hands and closed to the public but you can have a glimpse of its main façade through the fence.
After this short detour, we walk down Rue des Saints Augustins to the River Seine, where Hemingway spent many hours rifting through these iconic second-hand bookstalls (today we call it ‘flâner’ or ‘bouquiner’ more specifically for books) along Quai des Grands Augustins. Their collections today are just as eclectic as in the 1920s, mixed with kitsch souvenirs for tourists.
In the center of the Seine River, there’s Ile de Saint Louis, where Hemingway liked to see the fishermen in action and sometimes eat a good friture.
‘I knew several of the men who fished the fruitful parts of the Seine between the Ile de Saint Louis and the Square du Vert Galant and sometimes, if the day was bright, I would buy a liter of wine and a piece of bread and some sausages and sit in the sun and read one of the books I had bought and watch the fishing’.
Today, the Seine’s fishermen have left Paris since a long time but it is still nice to sit on the banks of the Seine, with your feed dandling over the water, and see the Seine River boats sail up and down the river.
The Louvre Museum (Paris 1)
Let’s take Pont Neuf to cross the River to the Seine’s Right Bank. We are not far from the Louvre Museum, which Hemingway knew quite well. In A Moveable Feast, Scott Fitzgerald confided in Hemingway during a dinner at Michaud’s that he was worried about the size of his penis. Hemingway took him into the toilet, studied it and reassured him that there was nothing to worry about. Because Fitzgerald did not look that convinced, the friends ended up at the Louvre, where they could wander amongst the Greek and Roman sculptures and compare.
‘We went over to the Louvre and he looked at the statues but still, he was doubtful about himself. “It is not basically a question of the size in repose,” I said. “It is the size that it becomes. It is also a question of angle’.
Apart from the classical, well-proportioned statues, we are sure you will find other interesting artwork to keep you entertained during a half day or the full day!
Paris is the Ritz (Ritz Hotel and Hemingway Bar)
The first part of this Hemingway in Paris Walking Tour ends at the Ritz Hotel, located in the wonderful Place Vendôme. The Ritz Hotel is one of the most luxurious hotels in Paris and we have always seen it as the beginning of Hemingway’s Moveable Feast.
Ernest Hemingway discovered the Ritz Paris thanks to his friend F. Scott Fitzgerald, who often went to the Ritz Paris Bar, and it seems it was love at first sight. In the early days, Hemingway had to scrimp on his meager income in order to be able to stop by for a drink every week. Later, when he was already a successful author, he made the hotel his Parisian home because in his eyes ‘Paris is the Ritz’.
‘When I dream of afterlife in heaven, the action always takes place in the Paris Ritz’, Hemingway was to say.
In November 1956, the management of the Ritz Hotel convinced Ernest Hemingway to repossess two small steamer trunks that he had stored there in March 1928. The trunks contained forgotten remnants from his first years in Paris. This material traveled from the Ritz Paris to the Finca in Cuba aboard the Ile de France in a large Louis Vuitton steamer trunk. Ernest Hemingway began work on ‘The Paris Sketches’ in the summer of 1957 and the sketches followed him in Ketchum, Spain and to Paris in the fall of 1959. By November 1959, Hemingway had delivered to his editor a draft of the manuscript that lacked only an introduction and the final chapter and he had not decided on the title either. A Moveable Feast was published posthumously in 1964 with significant changes by the editors.
Today the Ritz Paris Bar is still referred to as the Hemingway Bar, or Bar Hemingway in French, which still displays his memorabilia.
113 Rue Notre Dame des Champs (Paris 6)
After the birth of their first son in Canada, the Hemingways moved back to Paris to 113 Rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, above a sawmill (which is why it was cheap). The apartment had no electricity but it was large enough for a family of three. The poet Ezra Pound lived at No. 70, and it was here that he introduced Hemingway to one of his first publishers, Ernest Walsh. This apartment was located on the southern tip of the Jardin du Luxembourg, a brief walk from Stein’s apartment. Nowadays the concrete-coated block is part of the Ecole Alsacienne but the 70 Rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs is worth the visit, Hemingway’s building might have looked like this one.
La Closerie des Lilas
‘To have come on all this new world of writing, with time to read in a city like Paris where there was a way of living well and working, no matter how poor you were, was like having a great treasure given to you’.
La Closerie des Lilas was Hemingway’s cafe during his last years in Paris. During Hemingway’s second stay in Paris, he established his headquarters at La Closerie des Lilas (with its own chapter in ‘A Moveable Feast’), located near Hemingway’s second apartment in Montparnasse. Hemingway spent hours at the Closerie des Lilas writing. In 1925, he will give birth in just six weeks to one of his masterpieces, ‘The Sun Also Rises’.
‘The Closerie des Lilas was the nearest good café when we lived down the rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, in the top floor of the pavilion in the courtyard with the sawmill, and it was one of the nicest cafés in Paris. It was warm inside in the winter and in the spring and fall it was very fine outside with the tables under the shade of the trees on the side where the statue of Marshal Ney was, and the square, regular tables under the big awnings along the boulevard’.
Today you can sit at the front of this Hemingway cafe and do like Hem, keep the statue company and drank a cold beer before going home. Marshal Ney statue is still there, flourishing his sword against Napoleon I enemies! Just beyond it, across the road, you can see the sign of the Hotel Beauvoir, where Hadley Hemingway and their young son stayed after Ernest left her for Pauline, and Paris began to turn sour for all of them.
‘Paris was never to be the same again, although it was always Paris and you changed as it changed,’ he wrote of the break-up.
Roaring Boulevard de Montparnasse
Not far from La Closerie des Lilas, along Boulevard de Montparnasse, we can find Le Dôme, Le Select, La Coupole, and La Rotonde, four brasseries and American Bars well known to Hemingway and his gang.
‘The Dôme was crowded too […] There were models who had worked and there were painters who had worked until the light was gone and there were writers who had finished a day’s work for better or for worse, and there were drinkers and characters, some of whom I knew and some that they were only decoration’.
Pass them by for now and turn off the main road up Rue Delambre, where you will find the historic site of Dingo Bar. This is the bar where Hemingway first met Fitzgerald and the two English aristocrats on whom he based the characters of Duff Twysden and Mike Guthrie in ‘The Sun Also Rises’ (the book that made Hemingway, and Hemingway’s Paris, famous).
Today, Dingo Bar is called the Auberge de Venise, and it proposes guests good Italian food. The prices on the menu are correct, despite the commemorative plaque recalling Hemingway’s adventures in the bar, so it’s a good opportunity to eat on the spot where Hemingway and Fitzgerald first met.
The last stop of this Hemingway Paris walking tour is Le Falstaff, at 42 rue de Montparnasse. It was in this beer bar that Ernest Hemingway took a shake off one evening in July 1929.
HEMINGWAY IN PARIS – WHERE TO STAY
This is is one of the most iconic 5-star hotels in Paris and it was also one of Hemingway’s favorite places in the City of Lights (‘Paris is the Ritz’). Located at Place Vendôme, this is the place to go if you have the budget
This charming historic hotel in the heart of Saint Germain neighborhood is where the Hemingways spent their first nights in Paris (room #14). Its location is perfect for exploring some of the Hemingway’s favorite cafes and restaurants in Paris.
This charming hotel is located just a few steps from Hemingway’s first apartment. Nestled in a beautiful garden, it’s like if you were in the countryside! The cozy rooms take us a few decades back. Warning: this hotel tends to be sold out VERY fast!
This is the end of this Hemingway Itinerary in Paris, we hope that you liked it! The Paris of Hemingway’s days are over but There is Never Any End to Paris. Paris is still (and it will be for a long time) A Moveable Feast
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