- 24, May 2018
- All things Paris
- Kaitlyn Le
A poet, novelist, and dramatist during the Romantic movement, Victor Hugo proved to be one of the most important and influential writers in French history
Victor Hugo, one of France's great figures
Victor Hugo is most known outside of France for his novels Les Misérables (1862) and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (1831). In France, his poetry collections, such as The Contemplations or The Legend of the Ages, are his most notable works. Hugo used his works to express societal and political issues in his point of view, beginning as a royalist but later becoming a passionate republican and independent liberal. In 1851 when a coup d’etat resulted in the beginning of the Second Empire under Napoleon III, Hugo fled after a single attempt at resistance, and was in exile until 1870. Despite his brief exile, Hugo was a true Parisian at heart, and his touch can be found all over the city to this day. Hugo was such a celebrated French figure, that over 2500 streets and alleyways throughout France bear his namesake! With most of his life spent in the City of Lights, he accumulated at least 25 different home addresses in Paris! We can’t take you through them all, but we can show you a few of the best places to find traces of the famous French author and playwright Victor Hugo. On the day of his death in 1885, he was given a national funeral, and his body is now buried under the Panthéon with other influentials such as Voltaire, Émile Zola, and Rousseau.
6 Place des Vosges, 75004 Paris
Open Tuesday-Sunday: 10am-6pm
This former house turned museum was where Victor Hugo lived for sixteen years while in Paris from 1832-1848. During his time here, Hugo wrote many of his most celebrated works, including his novel Notre Dame de Paris and the play Ruy Blas, and even a portion of Les Misérables! After his death, the city bought the house and turned it into a museum, with a collection of pieces from various different artists. Read about the adventures of Paris Adèle in Victor Hugo's old house here.
By 1830, Hugo had become a leading literary force within Paris, and was determined to bring Romanticism to a conservative Comédie-Française with his controversial play, Hernani. The critics had planned to boo the play off the stage, but Hugo was able to organize his own Romantic rebels. They came through on opening night dressed eccentrically, and ate and relaxed at the theater, and met the bourgeoisie with applause and cheering. Today, you can visit the three different theaters and watch shows from different playwrights, from classics by Hugo and more, to more modern pieces.
17 Rue de Beaujolais, 75001 Paris
Monday-Friday: 12:30-1:30pm, 8-9:30pm
Although the menu has changed since the time that Hugo would come, this restaurant was one of his favorites. He would always order vermicelli noodles with mutton and white beans. Back in Hugo’s time, the Véfour was a meeting spot for many literary elites. Now, it’s a Michelin star rated restaurant, and still bears the original mirrored walls, neoclassical paintings, and gilded frames. Take note and make sure you book a table in advanced, and during the reservation ask for the “Hugo table” and experience fine dining with a courtyard view!
Notre Dame Cathedral
6 Parvis Notre-Dame - Pl. Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris
Already a popular tourist attraction, the Notre Dame is one of Paris’ most famous churches. This is also the setting for one of Hugo’s most renown works, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Hugo would attend this church regularly, although at the time, people had considered it as a shabby, run-down establishment. It wasn’t until after he wrote about it that it began to attract an audience, and the church was finally restored in 1844. While you stroll through the immense decorated interior, you simply can’t help but checking in the corners for Esmeralda and Quasimodo!
124 Boulevard Victor Hugo, 75016
The final residence of Hugo himself was located in the heart of the 16th arrondissement. It was at this very spot that over 600K people gathered under his window February 27, 1881, to celebrate Hugo’s 80th birthday. When Hugo moved into this address, the road did not yet bear his name, but was promptly changed before his death. Imagine, receiving a letter addressed to “Victor Hugo, on the street of his name, Paris, France.” Nowadays, in addition to the large boulevard bearing his name, you’ll also find that the metro station just down the street bears an oddly familiar name as well...
Place du Panthéon, 75005 Paris
Open every day, 10am-6:30pm
First built as a church in dedication to St. Genevieve, the Panthéon is in the heart of the Latin Quarter. This area is known for the intellectuals that once spent their free time, discussing and debating amongst each other, sharing ideas and inspirations, and meeting new people. The Panthéon is now used as a secular mausoleum where distinguished French citizens are honored and buried, including Victor Hugo himself. There are guided tours where you can visit the crypts and discover those who are laid to rest here.
...So there you have it. From his birth to all the Parisian places that influenced Victor Hugo's life, you can find his touch all over Paris and in all corners of France. After you finish your tour of Hugo's favorite Parisian haunts, you can read one of his novels or even see one of his classic plays. His works are to this day being performed on stages across the world, and of course right here in Paris itself. See a Victor Hugo piece and other classic French plays at the Théâtre Ranelagh, always with English subtitles!
Victor Hugo's work is timeless, and is performed on stages across the globe to this day. Our past subtitled Victor Hugo shows include the lesser known Ruy Blas. Looking to dive further into the world of Victor Hugo? A theatre night to see Valjean, beyond Les Misérables is a perfectly unique opportunity to get to know the inner workings of Hugo's famous hero Jean Valjean, playing at the Théâtre Essaion through early 2019.