Tucked away in the corner of Place des Vosges is the former home of celebrated French author Victor Hugo. Hugo lived with his family in this 2nd floor apartment for 16 years − from 1832 until 1848. It is now a museum dedicated to his life and work. When the museum was established in 1903 as part of the centenary celebrations of the author’s birth, much of the original interior had to be recreated from scratch. An impressive testament to one of France’s most revered authors, its reconstruction and preservation has been executed with good reason: Lamartine, Alfred de Vigny, Alexandre Dumas, and Honoré de Balzac are just some of the names from the French literary canon recorded as having passed through this home at one time or another. Hugo wrote some of his most well known works in this home, including a large part of his masterpiece, Les Misérables.
Divided into seven rooms, each space represents a period from the author’s life: before exile, exile, and after exile. The wonderful anti-chamber, with its think gold wallpaper, displays paintings and objects that represent the author’s youth and the first years of his marriage with Adèle Foucher.
The red salon represents the family’s life at Place des Vosges (formerly Place Royale), which includes a larger-than-life bust of Hugo by the artist Pierre-Jean David. Manuscripts and impressive paintings of the Hugo family are also on exhibit. The following two rooms, which includes the magnificent Chinese drawing room designed by Hugo himself, represents Hugo’s period of exile. As an ode to their passionate love affair, the writer’s initials are interlaced with those of his mistress, the actress Juliette Drouet, and displayed at intervals around the room.
The second-last room represents Hugo’s return to the capital in 1870 and his last years living on the avenue d’Eylau, which he lived on from 1878. An imposing portrait of the artist dominates this room, which is offset by a think wallcovering in cream fabric, which carries a dainty floral pattern, and envelops the room with a sense of domestic warmth. And finally, the last room is an accurate reconstruction of the writer’s bedroom where he died 1885. His tall writing desk is placed in front of the bed. In keeping with the image we have of this giant of French letters, the desk points to his indefatigable bouts as he wrote standing up.
This museum is one of 14, run by the Musée de la Ville de Paris, which means that the permanent exhibitions are free to visitors. Likewise, other museums in the area, such as the Musée Carnavalet, which documents the history of Paris is also free and worth a look if you have the time. The Maison de Victor Hugo regularly hosts exhibitions related to the writer on the ground floor galleries. Further information can be found on the website.
Tuesday to Sunday from 10am-6pm
Hôtel de Rohan-Guéménée
6, place des Vosges, 75004 Paris
Metro Saint Paul, (line 1) or Bastille (line 1, 5, 8)
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Highly recommend. Private tour is a great way to get more personalized insights on Paris history. Guide was very knowledgeable. Will definitely use again.
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