‘If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.’ So proclaimed the author, whose years in Paris during the 1920s, those années folles, influenced his life-long appetite for the good life. And a good drink, too. The bon vivant, it must be said, frequented many watering holes around the world, but some of his most beloved were — and still are — right here in Paris …
Bar Hemingway at the Ritz
As the Allied forces were marching into town to free Paris from German occupation, Hemingway had his own kind of liberation in mind. After the author and a mini army of Resistance fighters raced their Jeep into Place Vendôme, he stormed into the hotel’s foyer, yelling: ‘Where are the Germans? I’ve come to liberate the Ritz!’ The manager nodded, ‘Of course, My Hemingway, but please leave your gun at the door.’ After complying, Hemingway promptly moved into the best suite, and proceeded to celebrate being back in his beloved hotel with 51 dry martinis. The fondness was mutual, and he’s now commemorated in Bar Hemingway, which you’ll find right at the back of the hotel. The cosy nook is bathed in amber glow, and decorated with gentleman’s-club armchairs and old typewriters, and it’s a most welcoming place. Arrive on opening, 6pm, and settle in for as long as you like. The cocktails are world-class, the bar snacks continually replenished, and the people-watching mesmerising. Hemingway would have loved it.
15 Place Vendôme, 75001
La Closerie des Lilas Piano Bar
If you’ve read A Moveable Feast, you’ll know this was one of Hemingway’s favourite writing spots in the early 1920s; he’d come here to escape the noise of his apartment by the sawmill, and it was on the sun-dappled terrace that he penned much of The Sun Also Rises. In the author’s time here, he watched La Closerie transform from a bucolic lilac-scented café to a chic Art Déco-inspired cocktail bar. It’s more a chichi brasserie these days, but the 1920s piano bar is still tucked away inside, and you’re welcome to come for one cocktail, or as many as you like. Enjoy them with generous servings of crisps and olives, while a pianist tinkles the ivories.
171 Boulevard du Montparnasse, 75006
Trace a line from here, eastwards along the boulevard to La Rotonde, then across to Le Dôme and down to La Coupole, and back across to Le Select —you’ve just pinpointed the social epicentre of the jazz age. For the literati and glitterati alike, Paris was the only city to be in, and Montparnasse the only district. Unassuming in style, Le Select was Hemingway’s preferred spot down this way, and his playboy and party-girl characters in The Sun Also Rises are regular drinkers here — probably because it was the first of the Montparnasse cafés to stay open all night. Order some nostalgic French comfort food (onion soup, omelette, egg mayo), and wash it down, à la Hemingway, with an icy-cold Sancerre.
99 Boulevard du Montparnasse, 75006
The Lutetia, which dates from 1910, was the most glamorous place to be for Left Bank luminaries, and Hemingway would often come to the hotel to meet guest James Joyce, who wrote part of his blockbuster Ulysses here. After recent renovations, the Lutetia is back to her glossy old self; mix with some of Saint-Germain’s most stylish types in the stunning Bar Jospehine (named for another former guest, Josephine Baker).
45 Boulevard Raspail, 75006
Harry’s New York Bar
The New York Bar — as it was originally known, a wood-panelled recreation of a Manhattan saloon — was the go-to for homesick Americans, especially in the 1920s, who had escaped the Prohibition to continue the party in Paris. So it was only natural that Hemingway would end up making this one of his locals, too. Barman Harry MacElhone, who bought the bar in 1923, invented the Bloody Mary, and it’s the ideal drink to enjoy as you’re propped up at the glossy mahogany bar. If you want to get comfortable, settle into a ruby sofa downstairs, in the piano bar where George Gershwin composed music for An American in Paris.
5 Rue Daunou, 75002
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