Victor Hugo, arguably one of France’s most famous writers, responsible for works such as Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, lived a good part of his life in Paris. His former residence was transformed into a museum, located in the Marais district of Paris. There are seven rooms filled with photographs, furniture, and personal relics of Hugo’s life. Here, visitors step back in time as they learn about Hugo’s studious childhood, his budding career as a writer during the romantic era, and his political exile from France. This is a fascinating visit for literature fans and history buffs alike.
Learn about the museum’s background
Hugo rented the apartment between 1832 and 1848; representing the longest time he spent at a single location in the course of his life. He lived in the apartment with his wife Adèle, and their four children. Just a few years after leaving the apartment, Napoleon III took control of France and established an anti-parliamentary government, leading Hugo to declare him a traitor and go into exile in the Channel Islands.
The museum’s seven rooms are filled with photographs, furniture, and personal relics of Hugo’s life. These rooms are divided into three periods of Hugo’s life: before his exile from France, during exile and after exile. Due to this structure, only one of the rooms, the lounge, was recreated to look as they did when Hugo lived there.
Enter into Hugo’s world
The first two rooms of the apartment represent the period before his exile. The first is the antechamber. It was on the basis of this room that Hugo decided to rent the apartment, as it reminded him of his stay in Madrid. Here, the theme is family. Photographs of Hugo as a child, his parents, and his wife and children decorate the walls, while Spanish-style trunks fill the space. Be sure to notice the original limestone flooring, as well as the unique corner window that looks over Place des Vosges.
The second “before exile” room is the Red Lounge. In Hugo’s time, this room was separated into the leather reception room and the dining room. Here, red damask flanks the walls and chandeliers hang from the ceiling. The gold-framed paintings in the room belonged to Hugo and used to decorate his home. Hugo’s Chinese porcelain collection is also on display here.
Discover the mysteries of Hugo’s life during exile
The third room of the museum is a Chinese-inspired lounge. While in exile, Hugo helped design, fabricate, and decorate his home in this style. Marvel at the impressive collection of Chinese porcelain plates, Asian tapestries, and gothic-inspired furniture.
Following the Chinese lounge is a recreation of Hugo’s mistress Juliette Drouet’s dining room in the Channel Islands. This room is certainly an interesting addition to the museum, as it introduces visitors to Hugo’s mistress in a very subtle way. Hugo and Drouet were lovers throughout Hugo’s marriage and he contributed his decorative and handyman skills to help furnish her house in the Channel Islands.
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Understand Hugo’s life after exile
The final section of the museum is dedicated to displaying Hugo’s life once he returned to Paris. There is a small salon, where rotating exhibitions of art and writing are displayed, an office, meant to celebrate the writing process, and a reproduction of his bedroom on Avenue D’Eylau. The bedroom is of particular interest as Hugo’s grandchildren donated his furniture and helped to reconstruct the room for the opening of the museum in 1903. Here, the atmosphere is somber, a feeling that is augmented by paintings of Hugo on his deathbed.
Finish the visit at Café Hugo
After the visit, it’s only appropriate to stop for coffee or a snack at Café Hugo. This café, located under the arcades at Place des Vosges, evokes a classic Parisian café. Choose to sit outside on the large terrace (it’s heated in the winter), or step inside to enjoy the cozy interior, complete with leather booths, wood paneling, and colorful lights.
Enjoy Victor Hugo's house
For a historically-authentic visit that’s out of the ordinary, be sure to pay a visit to Victor Hugo’s house in Paris. Located in the beautiful Marais district in Paris at 6 Place des Vosges, the museum is most easily accessed via lines 1, 5, and 8, stop Bastille. Entry is free, but a 5 EUR (5.30 USD) donation is suggested. The museum is open from 10.00 AM to 6.00 PM Tuesday through Sunday and is closed Mondays.
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