We offer you to go on a walk on the traces of places that made the legend of famous French writer Victor Hugo! Born in Besançon, he spent most of his life living in the French capital city, staying in over 25 accommodations in Paris for 83 years of his life. Many emblematic locations of the City of Lights have marked the life of this remarkable French writer and poet, committed into many fights.
Allow 3 hours for a walk around these places packed with history, but the ride will be faster by bike or scooter if your feet start to get tired.
Start your trip by the Val-de-Grâce, by the former covent of Feuillantines, where the young Victor Hugo’s family has rented a flat from 1808 to 1813. The building displays a plate explaining the interest of the place to passersby. On your way, other plates indicate the presence of a great man in these premises, great French scientist Louis Pasteur. You will also run into Simone Veil while heading to your next destination.
RER B: Port-Royal
After a few minutes by foot, you will make it to the huge Pantheon, last home of great men (and women) of the Republic, including Victor Hugo. The majestic building welcomes until September 30, 2021 the “Victor Hugo, la Liberté au Panthéon” exhibition celebrating the writer’s national burial’s 135th anniversary. This is the perfect occasion to admire the architecture of the Latin Quarter and the many renown buildings around: the 5th arrondissement town hall, the Panthéon-Sorbonne University, the Sainte-Geneviève library and the Church of Saint-Etienne-du-Mont.
RER B: Luxembourg
A bit further away, across the Paris-Sorbonne university stands the Lycée Louis-le-Grand where Victor Hugo attended mathematics classes, before operating a major U-turn to literary arts. A very meaningful decision like Voltaire and Molière who studied there before him.
A few metro stops further, walk to the splendid Church of Saint-Sulpice. On October 12, 1822, Hugo marries his childhood friend Adèle Foucher in this sacred place. They give birth to four children and they will live together for 46 years despite a few fights.
Metro line 10: Mabillon
Give a go to the rue du Dragon. A new plate indicates Victor Hugo has lived there in the little attic room at the top in 1821. This is where he wrote a few masterpieces such as his first poetry collection “Odes et Ballades” published in June 1822.
Walk about ten minutes up to the Seine, and admire the Académie Française. High-place of French literature, it is set just across the Pont des Arts. Hugo’s story with this emblematic place starts early on. At only 15, he takes part in a poetry contest he almost wins, but the Académie thinks it is a scam. Much later, Victor Hugo makes it to the Académie française, on January 7, 1841, after three failed attempts because of his opponents, and gets the chair No.14.
To go to the currently renovated Parisian cathedral, make the most of the quiet Île-de-la-Cité. Despite the fire that damaged the roofs of Notre-Dame, the façade is still as breathtaking as it was. This historic landmark has inspired Victor Hugo his most iconic novel published in 1831.
Metro line 4: Cité
Walk through the Île Saint-Louis and find the bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, part of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Charles Nodier – who was the librarian – was friend to Victor Hugo. The place became the headquarter of the art circle and cradle of romanticism, that inspired a lot of ideas and influences to the young writer.
Metro line 7: Sully-Morland
Set 6 place des Vosges, Victor Hugo’s house in Paris has been his house for sixteen years, between 1832 and 1848, and has then been transformed into a museum by his friend Paul Maurice. Inaugurated in 1903, the museum is now managed by the City of Paris. Hugo wrote in the Hôtel de Rohan-Guéméné most of his greatest books and housed his friends such as Balzac and Lamartine.
Metro line 1: Bastille
The metro will drop you off just in front of the Comédie française, where, on February 25, 1830, the play “Hernani” was performed. This premiere is famous since in no time, romantics and ancients attending the play start fighting about it. This battle made history and was named the “Battle of Hernani” and signs the success of the play and its posterity. Hugo also presented in this iconic theater venue many more plays before creating his own venue, the Théâtre de la Renaissance, in 1836 with Alexandre Dumas.
Metro line 1: Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre
Fervent advocate of the Republic, Hugo becomes mayor of Paris 8th arrondissement on February 15, 1848. Deputy of the second Republic, he met many disillusions throughout his political career and end up exiled for 19 years, as he grew against the onset power.
Metro line 3: Europe
After a few hours, end your historic walk in the footsteps of Victor Hugo where he died. He passes away on May 22, 1885 in his hotel particulier, on the avenue named after him. Although there are many places in his honor, the avenue Victor Hugo has been named as such while he was alive, in 1881. And you can even find a sculpture of the writer in front of the building.
Metro line 2: Victor Hugo
So, are you ready to walk in the footsteps of one of the greatest writers in France?