A museum dedicated to Hugo in the Place des Vosges
Victor Hugo was arguably one of the most significant, if not the most significant, writer of the nineteenth century. He lived a life worthy of his epic novels and died with millions of Parisians mourning at his doorstep. His most famous masterpieces continue to live large in public imagination, as witnessed by the multiple modern adaptations of Les Misérables and the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Hugo's works are infused with a deep knowledge and appreciation for all aspects of Parisian life and architecture, including even a lengthy discourse on the Parisian sewer system mid-way through Les Misérables. To know Hugo's works is almost to know Paris and no trip to Hugo's beloved city is complete without a stop at his residence, which has been converted into a museum.
The residence is within easy walking distance of three metro stations (Bastille, Saint-Paul, or Chemin-Vert). If you travel to the Bastille station, you can also visit the former location of the Bastille prison, which played a significant role at the outset of the French Revolution in 1789 and has been a powerful symbol of protest for Parisians, including Victor Hugo, ever since. In fact, on my visit, the city was covered in signs with the headline 'tous à la Bastille!' (all to the Bastille!) to encourage citizens to participate in a city-wide strike to protest upcoming labour changes.
Memorial in the Place de Bastille. Photo by Erin Connelly.
Victor Hugo rented the residence at Place des Vosges from 1832 to 1848. He occupied another residence in Guernsey during his period of exile, which is where Les Misérables was written. After returning to Paris from exile, Hugo lived at 130 Avenue d'Eylau, which is where he died in 1885. The furniture from his final residence has been relocated to the museum at Place des Vosges. The museum is arranged to create an impression of Hugo's world, writings, and personal life through a purposeful display of various objects, such as his inkstand, family portraits, personal paintings (he was an artist in addition to being a writer), and the bed where he died.
Victor Hugo's Bedroom Furniture. Public Domain.
The museum is categorised into specific spaces each designed to evoke a different theme from the author's life: The Antechamber, Red Room, Chinese Room, Dining Room, Writing Room, Bed Room, and Special Collections Exhibition area. The contents and descriptions of each of these rooms can be found in more detail on the official website.
Hugo's Writing Room. Photo by the Hugo Museum.
Entrance to the museum is free; however, special collections may carry a fee of 5-7 €.