A stylish Parisian apartment rented by an impassioned novelist with democratic leanings, a violent uprising leading to a power grab by a despot-in-the-making, the clandestine fleeing of said writer dressed as a working man—these elements make for a great book, possibly one written by French literary titan Victor Hugo. But in fact, these are the details of the author’s own life in Paris from 1832 through 1851. Today, the apartment that he lived in during those years is a museum dedicated to the writer’s life, making for a riveting visit within the city he helped popularize to the world at large.
The Maison de Victor Hugo resides in an inconspicuous corner of the leafy Place des Vosges square. Although Hugo and his family occupied the second floor before his exile from France, the museum doesn’t just explore this period. The space is organized chronologically, with each consecutive room reflecting a different stage in his life, from his itinerate youth and initial span in Paris, through his exiled years, and onto his return to his beloved Paris. (After the museum, you may want to visit some other places in Paris that were significant to Hugo.)
Many items from when he lived on the premises and from his other residences fill out the rooms: furniture, personal effects, artwork, and more. Of particular note are his writing desk, on which he would write while standing, and a mirror framed with flowers and butterflies hand-painted by Hugo. A portrait painting of his 11-year-old daughter Léopoldine hanging in the red damask lounge haunts because just eight years later she would drown in the nearby Seine. Also unforgettable is the bed in which Hugo died within the final room.
Know Before You Go
Recently renovated, the museum is now accessible to people with impaired sight or hearing or those who use mobility aids.