Embarking on a journey to Paris is like stepping into a realm where history, art, and romance converge on the cobbled streets and along the banks of the Seine. It’s a city that has inspired countless tales, capturing the imaginations of writers for centuries. Whether you’re planning your first visit or returning to rekindle your love affair with the City of Light, delving into literature set in Paris can enrich your experience in profound ways.
Before you set foot in Paris, immersing yourself in the pages of a historical novel, a tourist guidebook, or a simple fictional tale set in this enchanting city can provide invaluable context, deepen your understanding, and heighten your anticipation.
A book can give you a deeper understanding of the city… this is how.
1. Historical Novels:
Transport yourself to different eras of Parisian history through captivating narratives that intertwine fiction with real events. These novels breathe life into bygone days, offering insights into the city’s evolution, from medieval times to the Belle Époque and beyond. By exploring the intricacies of historical fiction, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for Paris’s rich tapestry of culture and heritage.
2. Tourist Guidebooks:
While guidebooks may seem straightforward, they offer indispensable knowledge about Paris’s iconic landmarks, hidden gems, and cultural nuances. Equipping yourself with a reliable guidebook can transform your sightseeing adventures, helping you navigate the city with confidence while uncovering its lesser-known treasures.
3. Fictional Novels Set in Paris:
Immerse yourself in the fictional realms woven by authors who have chosen Paris as the backdrop for their stories. From tales of love and loss to gripping mysteries and coming-of-age sagas, these novels capture the essence of Parisian life in all its complexities. Through the lens of fiction, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the city’s soul, its inhabitants, and their struggles and triumphs.
Now you understand why a book can help you enjoy your trip to Paris even more. But, which are the books you should read before you come to Paris, or maybe that you should buy on the airport before your plane leaves for Paris? Here you have seven suggestions.
Seven books that will boost your Paris experience!
1. “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown
A gripping thriller that takes readers on a pulse-pounding journey through the streets of Paris, “The Da Vinci Code” unravels a web of secrets, mysteries, and ancient conspiracies. From the Louvre Museum to the elusive Priory of Sion, follow symbologist Robert Langdon and cryptologist Sophie Neveu as they decipher clues hidden within the city’s iconic landmarks.
As readers read “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown, they will encounter several iconic attractions and museums in Paris, each playing a significant role in the story’s setting and plot. Some of these include:
- The Louvre Museum: One of the world’s largest and most famous museums, the Louvre is home to thousands of artworks, including Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, the Mona Lisa. In “The Da Vinci Code,” the Louvre serves as a central location where the story’s mystery begins.
- Saint-Sulpice Church: This historic church in the heart of Paris is featured prominently in the novel. Its distinctive architecture and mysterious symbols play a crucial role in the plot’s unfolding.
- The Pyramids of the Louvre: These glass pyramids, designed by architect I. M. Pei, stand in the museum’s courtyard and serve as the main entrance to the Louvre. In “The Da Vinci Code,” they are a focal point for some of the story’s key events.
- Château de Villette: This grand chateau located outside Paris is featured in the novel as the home of Sir Leigh Teabing, one of the story’s central characters. It adds a sense of intrigue and luxury to the narrative.
- The Opéra Garnier: This stunning opera house, known for its ornate architecture and grand interiors, makes an appearance in “The Da Vinci Code.” It provides a backdrop for a crucial scene in the story.
- The Ritz Paris: This legendary luxury hotel is mentioned in the novel as a significant location where characters stay and meet, adding to the story’s glamorous setting.
The Da Vinci Code” was first published in March, 2003. It has sold over 80 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling novels of all time. The book has been translated into 44 languages, further extending its global reach and popularity. It was adapted into a film released in 2006, directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon. If you don’t have time to read the book, watch the movie which is full of beautiful Paris scenery, just like the book!
2. “A Moveable Feast” by Ernest Hemingway
“A Moveable Feast” is a book written by Ernest Hemingway. It’s about his time living in Paris in the 1920s as a young writer. Hemingway reflects on his experiences in the city and shares memories of his interactions with other famous writers and artists of the time.
The book provides readers with a glimpse into the bohemian lifestyle of Paris during the “Lost Generation” era. Hemingway describes the cafes, bars, and neighborhoods he frequented, capturing the vibrant atmosphere of the city.
Paris serves as a central backdrop to Hemingway’s stories, as he recounts his struggles and triumphs as a writer. He writes about his friendships with other literary figures such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and Ezra Pound, offering insights into their creative processes and the challenges they faced.
Through Hemingway’s vivid descriptions and personal anecdotes, “A Moveable Feast” transports readers to the Paris of the 1920s, allowing them to experience the city through the eyes of one of America’s most celebrated authors. The book is deeply connected to Paris, as it celebrates the city’s beauty, culture, and influence on Hemingway’s life and work.
3. “Les Misérables” by Victor Hugo
“Les Misérables” is a famous novel written by Victor Hugo. It’s a story set in France, particularly in Paris, during the early 19th century. The book follows the lives of several characters, but the main focus is on Jean Valjean, a man who was imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s starving child. After serving a long sentence, Valjean is released but struggles to find acceptance in society because of his past.
The novel explores themes of justice, redemption, and the struggle for a better life. It portrays the harsh realities of poverty and the disparities between different social classes in Paris during that time. Throughout the story, readers encounter various other characters, including Fantine, a struggling mother; Cosette, her daughter whom Valjean adopts; Javert, a relentless police inspector; and Marius, a young revolutionary.
“Les Misérables” is not only a gripping tale but also a social commentary on the conditions of the poor and marginalized in society. Hugo’s vivid descriptions of Paris and its streets add depth to the narrative, immersing readers in the atmosphere of the city.
The novel has been adapted into numerous stage plays, movies, and musicals, making it one of the most enduring stories in literature. Its themes of love, sacrifice, and the pursuit of justice continue to resonate with readers around the world. If you don’t have time to read the book, watch one of the many movies based on the book.
4. “Paris to the Moon” by Adam Gopnik
“Paris to the Moon” is a book written by Adam Gopnik. It’s about his experiences living in Paris with his family. Gopnik is from America, but he moves to Paris for a while because of his job.
In the book, Gopnik writes about the daily life of living in Paris. He talks about things like going to cafes, visiting museums, and exploring the streets of the city. He also writes about the differences between American culture and French culture, and how he and his family adapt to life in Paris.
Gopnik’s writing is funny and insightful. He shares interesting observations about Parisian life and culture, and he also reflects on his own experiences as an American living abroad.
5. “The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain
“The Paris Wife” is a book written by Paula McLain. It tells the story of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson, during their time in Paris in the 1920s.
The book follows their relationship from the moment they meet to their eventual separation. It gives readers a glimpse into the glamorous and vibrant world of Paris in the 1920s, known as the “Lost Generation” era, where many famous writers and artists gathered.
Hadley narrates the story, sharing her perspective on their marriage and the challenges they face. She supports Hemingway as he strives to become a successful writer, but their relationship becomes strained as they navigate the complexities of love, ambition, and infidelity.
Throughout the book, McLain captures the atmosphere of Paris during this time, depicting the cafes, parties, and literary circles that Hemingway and Hadley were a part of. She also delves into the emotional depths of their relationship, portraying both its joys and its struggles.
“The Paris Wife” offers readers a poignant portrayal of love and betrayal against the backdrop of one of the most iconic periods in literary history. It provides insight into the lives of two fascinating individuals and the sacrifices they made for their art and their relationship.
6. “The Little Paris Bookshop” by Nina George
“The Little Paris Bookshop” is a book written by Nina George. It’s about a man named Jean Perdu who owns a floating bookshop on a barge in Paris. Jean calls himself a ‘literary apothecary’ because he believes that books have the power to heal people’s hearts.
Jean Perdu has a unique ability to recommend the perfect book for each person’s emotional needs. He listens to his customers’ problems and then suggests a book that might help them feel better.
The story follows Jean as he embarks on a journey down the Seine River in his bookshop barge. Along the way, he meets interesting characters and discovers more about himself and his own past. The book explores themes of love, loss, and the power of literature to heal and transform.
“The Little Paris Bookshop” is deeply connected to Paris because the city itself plays a central role in the story. From the picturesque streets to the enchanting riverbanks, Paris serves as a backdrop for Jean’s journey of self-discovery and healing. The book beautifully captures the essence of Parisian life and culture, making readers feel like they are right there beside Jean as he navigates the city and its many secrets.
7. “Murder in the Marais” by Cara Black
“Murder in the Marais” is a book written by Cara Black. It’s a mystery novel set in the Marais district of Paris. The story follows a private investigator named Aimée Leduc as she tries to solve a murder case.
Aimée Leduc runs a detective agency with her partner, René. They specialize in computer security, but they also find themselves caught up in solving crimes. When a mysterious elderly Jewish woman asks Aimée to investigate the death of her daughter, Aimée agrees to take on the case.
As Aimée delves deeper into the investigation, she uncovers secrets and dangers hidden within the Marais district. The story takes readers on a thrilling journey through the streets of Paris, as Aimée follows clues and encounters suspects in her quest to uncover the truth.
The book is related to the city of Paris because it immerses readers in the vibrant atmosphere of the Marais district. Cara Black vividly describes the narrow streets, bustling markets, and historic buildings of this iconic neighborhood, bringing Paris to life on the pages of the book.
For tourists, “Murder in the Marais” offers a unique opportunity to explore Paris through the lens of a mystery novel. Readers can follow Aimée Leduc as she navigates the city’s landmarks and hidden corners, providing insights into Parisian culture and history along the way. The book combines suspenseful storytelling with vivid descriptions of Paris, making it an engaging and memorable read for anyone interested in both mystery fiction and the City of Light.
Would you rather watch a movie? Here you have two recommendations!
For those who prefer watching movies to reading books, there are two fantastic films that offer a captivating glimpse into the Parisian atmosphere: “Moulin Rouge!” and “Midnight in Paris.”
“Moulin Rouge” from 2001
“Moulin Rouge!” is a vibrant and extravagant musical directed by Baz Luhrmann. Set in the Montmartre district of Paris in the early 20th century, the film follows the story of a young poet named Christian, played by Ewan McGregor, who falls in love with Satine, a beautiful courtesan and star of the Moulin Rouge cabaret, portrayed by Nicole Kidman. The movie features dazzling musical performances, elaborate costumes, and stunning set designs, capturing the bohemian spirit and flamboyant energy of Paris’s nightlife during that era. Through its visually stunning cinematography and memorable soundtrack, “Moulin Rouge!” transports viewers to the colorful and enchanting world of the iconic Parisian cabaret.
“Midnight in Paris” from 2011
“Midnight in Paris,” directed by Woody Allen, is a whimsical romantic comedy that explores the magic of Paris through the eyes of its protagonist, Gil, played by Owen Wilson. Gil is a nostalgic screenwriter who finds himself transported back in time to the 1920s every night at midnight while wandering the streets of Paris. As he navigates this surreal journey, Gil encounters famous literary and artistic figures from the past, including Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Pablo Picasso. Through its enchanting storyline and picturesque depictions of Parisian landmarks, “Midnight in Paris” captures the timeless allure and romantic charm of the city, making viewers fall in love with Paris all over again.
As you prepare for your Parisian adventure, consider diving into these literary treasures to enhance your understanding and appreciation of this magical city. Each book offers a unique perspective, inviting you to explore Paris through the eyes of its inhabitants, past and present.
Now, here’s a challenge for you, dear reader: before you embark on your journey to Paris, pick up one of these books and immerse yourself in its pages. Then, when you arrive in the City of Light, reflect on how your reading experience has enriched your understanding of Paris and share your thoughts in the comments below. And if you have any other book recommendations for fellow travelers seeking to delve deeper into the heart of Paris, we’d love to hear them! Happy reading, and bon voyage!