Sites from the Novel
The author of this book, who regrets the necessity of mentioning himself, has been absent from Paris for many years. Paris has been transformed since he quitted it. A new city has arisen, which is, after a fashion, unknown to him. There is no need for him to say that he loves Paris: Paris is his mind’s natal city. In consequence of demolitions and reconstructions, the Paris of his youth, that Paris which he bore away religiously in his memory, is now a Paris of days gone by. He must be permitted to speak of that Paris as though it still existed.
– Les Misérables, volume 2, book 5, chapter 1, “The Zigzags of Strategy”
Almost all of the settings Hugo uses in Paris really existed–or, properly speaking, had existed. By the time Les Misérables was published, a great number of them didn’t exist any longer. But behind the broad modern boulevards and lines of Hassmann buildings, sometimes it’s still possible to uncover traces of the Paris of the 1820s and 30s, and even sites that are now unrecognizable can have their location pinpointed in the Paris of today.
- The site of the barricade
- Javert’s jump into the Seine
- The Café Musain
- Rue Plumet
- Napoléon’s Elephant
- The Jardin du Luxembourg
- Marius and Cosette’s wedding
- The Gorbeau Tenement
- The Field of the Lark
- Rue de l’Homme-Armé
- M. Gillenormand’s apartment
- Marius’ lodgings with Courfeyrac
- Thénardier’s escape from La Force
- Paris Sewer Museum
- The Petit-Picpus convent
- The church of Saint-Jacques-du-Haut-Pas
- Les Madelonnettes
Other Places to Visit
- The Cloister of Saint-Merry – Also spelled St-Méry or St-Merri. The Saint-Merry barricade was the center of the real revolt of 1832, and Hugo’s inspiration for many of his barricade scenes.
- The Victor Hugo Museum – Hugo’s old residence at no. 6, Place des Vosges, has been converted into a museum about his life and work.
- The Panthéon – The final resting place for France’s greatest heroes, Hugo among them.
- Carnavalet – The Paris history museum. Fantastic French Revolution collection, lots of paintings of Paris as it existed in the 19th century, and their collections on the revolutions and authors/artists of the Romantic era aren’t shabby either.
- Map of Paris with sites to visit marked
- A walk through the Marais
- A Dark Chase for a Silent Pack: Valjean and Javert’s route through the Latin Quarter