To celebrate the birthday of France’s most valued writer we decided to explore Victor Hugo’s Paris. We visited the top five spots to get a taste for Hugo’s life and work.
We began at the end, his resting place.
The entrance states AUX GRANDS HOMMES LA PATRIE RECONNAISSANTE, meaning ‘To great men, the grateful homeland’. It is where national heroes of France are buried, so what made Victor Hugo such a great man to deserve to be placed here?
Victor Hugo was a French novelist, poet, journalist and drawer. His most popular works were Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. In his 83 years, he wrote 7 novels, 18 volumes of poetry and 21 plays—making him one of the most important writers in France.
When he passed away in 1885, his body was laid at the Panthéon, showing his prestigious position in French culture and history.
Panthéon, Place du Panthéon
JARDIN DU LUXEMBOURG:
These gardens were an inspiration for Victor Hugo, who appreciated them, not being the only writer to do so. It’s also the place of the France Senate and is guarded by Republican Guards, however, the gardens are open to the public to enjoy.
Created in the 1600’s by Marie de Medici who modelled the area after parks in her native Florence.
In Les Miserables, this is where Cosette and Jean Valjean walked each day and is also where Marius observed Corsette and caught her eye for the first time.
“one day, when the air was warm, Luxembourg was inundated with light and shade… [and] the sparrows were giving vent to little twitters in the depths of the chestnut trees.”
Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
Rue de Médicis
In 1831, Victor Hugo published The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, it’s popularity made him one of the most famous writers at the time. He himself was a frequent visitor to the church which was run down—the story, at its core, is about preservation—the novel attracted thousands of visitors to the Notre-Dame resulting in restoration of the church in 1844.
6 Parvis Notre-Dame — Pl.Jean Paul II
MANSION DE VICTOR HUGO:
Victor Hugo lived at the Place des Vosges from 1832-1848 with his wife Adéle and their four children. It is here that Victor Hugo began writing Les Miserables.
However, it wasn’t until 17 years later, while in exile, that Les Miserables was published.
In 1851, due to an outspoken opposition to the newly elected Neopolean III Victor Hugo decided to go into exile. He ended up on an island off the northern coast of France and it’s said that it was this time in exile that he completed some of his greatest work.
The Mansion de Victor Hugo is now a museum, separated into three stages of his life: pre-exile, exile and post-exile. It’s free to visit and has a collection of artwork and artefacts of Victor’s life.
6 Place des Vosges
Metro: Bastille, Saint-Paul or Chemin Vert
CHURCH OF SAINT PAUL:
“People halted in the Rue Saint-Antoine, in front of Saint-Paul, to gaze through the windows of the carriage at the orange-flowers quivering on Cosette’s head.”
This is an extract from Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. It was set only 5 minutes from his Mansion, in front of the Church of Saint Paul where Victor Hugo’s own daughter, Léopoldine got married in 1843.
Victor Hugo was a parishioner and donated the shell-shaped holy water fonts on each side of the entrance.
99 Rue Saint-Antoine
This is where we ended our tour of Paris with Victor Hugo.
Victor Hugo’s father explained to his son in written correspondence that his superior muse and talent could be due to being conceived on the highest point of the Vosges Mountains. This may be a reason for his talent, but it was the city of Paris that guided that muse to create the great literature which still remains popular to this day, and has left its mark on this city 200 years later.
Check out our video of our tour of Paris: