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Top Cities for the Cultural Traveler: Paris Paris: Top Cities for the Cultural Traveler
It was at the La Comédie-Française where Hugo brought his controversial new play, “Hernani,” that became a spark plug for Paris’s greater societal and political tensions (Wiki Commons/Frank Scherschel/Getty)

Take a Tour of Victor Hugo's Paris

As a film version of his Les Miserables hits theaters, consider traveling in the French writer’s footsteps

 Church of Saint Paul – Saint Louis

Located in the Marais neighborhood, this Baroque church serves as the setting for Cosette and Marius’s nuptials in Les Mis. After the wedding, Hugo writes, “People halted in the Rue Saint-Antoine, in front of Saint-Paul, to gaze through the windows of the carriage at the orange-flowers quivering on Cosette’s head.” The Jesuits constructed Saint Paul-Saint Louis from 1627 to 1641, and the church’s 180-foot dome, intricate carvings and shadowy corners appear much as they did 200 years ago. Hugo was a parishioner of the church and donated the shell-shaped holy water fonts on either side of the entrance. Like Cosette, Hugo’s daughter Léopoldine was married in Saint-Paul in 1843.

99 Rue Saint-Antoine
75004 Paris
Metro: Saint-Paul

Jardin du Luxembourg

Paris’s second largest park is one of the most beloved spots in the city, for locals and visitors alike. Just south of Luxembourg Palace, where the French Senate meets, the garden was created in the early 1600s by Marie de Medici and modeled after parks in her native Florence. Hugo was just one of many writers to appreciate Luxembourg’s charms: Baudelaire, Sartre, Balzac and Hemingway were also frequent guests. In Les Mis, Luxembourg’s tree-lined alleyways and private nooks offer the perfect place for Marius to observe Valjean and Cosette on their daily trips to the park, and later to catch Cosette’s attention for the first time, “one day, when the air was warm, the Luxembourg was inundated with light and shade… [and] the sparrows were giving vent to little twitters in the depths of the chestnut trees.”

Rue de Médicis Rue de Vaugirard
75006 Paris
Tel: 01 42 64 33 99
Metro: Odéon

Hours: Opens between 7:15 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. and closes between 2:45 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., depending on the season

La Comédie-Française

Louis XIV established the world’s longest-running national theater in 1680 with a royal decree signed at Versailles. In 1830, Hugo—by then a driving literary force in Paris—set out to bring Romanticism to the steadfastly conservative Comédie-Française with his controversial new play, Hernani. While the critics organized to boo the play off the stage, Hugo found himself at the head of a young Romantic army, literally. His supporters arrived opening night dressed in eccentric outfits, ate and relieved themselves in the theater, and rose to meet their bourgeois dissenters with applause, jeers and fisticuffs. The ‘Battle of Hernani,’ as the melee was later known, played out 39 times, and it became a spark plug for Paris’s greater societal and political tensions. Today, visitors to the company’s three theaters can enjoy tamer shows by some of its most famous playwrights, Jean-Baptiste Molière and Jean Racine, and even Hugo’s “Hernani,” which will run through February 2013.

Salle Richelieu (company’s main theater)
2 Rue de Richelieu
75001 Paris
Tel: 33 825 10 16 80
Metro: Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre

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