A comprehensive guide to finding and experiencing Paris in its Golden Age.

paris cafe

When one imagines Paris it is all too easy to imagine it in flickering and speckled film or through a black and white postcard, in a time when boater hats and pearl studded dresses swayed to the Charleston, when artists and poets gathered in the dimly lit cafes of the Rive Gauche or the cabarets and clubs of Montmartre. As L.P Hartley said “The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.” This list aims to guide the time travelling tourist into this “foreign country” and to bring colour to the black and white image of the past. Follow our Top Ten Locations and step back intime to the Roaring 20’s!

bookstores

For literary inspiration or to while away the hours sat outside a Cafe, no trip to Paris is complete without without a good novel by your side, if packing light has left you without  your favorite lost Generation writer be sure to check out the fantastic bookstores Paris has to offer.

It was re-opened under the same name by George Whitman in 1964, which is the current Shakespeare and Co. of present day. It is a Mecca for book lovers in Paris’ left bank and is also home to many young writers who live and sleep amongst the shop’s wooden bookshelves.

bed inside shakespeare and co

This independent English language book-store has been the literary heart of Paris since the turn of the Century. The original store was frequented by James Joyce, Ford Maddox Ford and Ernest Hemingway, which could be found on 12 rue de Odeon, but was closed down during the Nazi Occupation of Paris in the 1940s.

Situated in the centre of the Latin Quarter and tucked behind Saint Severin Church on the Rue de la Parcheminerie, (fittingly named for a book-store) lies Anglophone book shop owned by Canadian Brian Spence. Inside what was once an elegant eighteenth century hotel is now a labyrinth of books stacked high on top of one another; a hidden gem in Paris! 

These charming stalls line the Seine from top to bottom and are the perfect place to pick up a souvenir postcard, antique magazines or a classic novel.

bars

A genuine speakeasy, hidden inside Da Vito’s Pizzeria. Walk straight past the oblivious customers enjoying their pizza and push open the freezer door to step back in time into a 1920s speakeasy. Famous (for those who know) for its well priced and has rather strong cocktails. The music and decor echo the age of prohibition drinking. The pizza is really worth trying too!

In the trendy neighborhood of St Germain down a little alley is La Venus Noire, complete with literary themed cocktails and live jazz in the underground cave. 

Where both the Side Car and the Bloody Mary were invented long ago, this bar was home for Anglophone expats in the 1920s. Where cocktails are served alongside hotdogs, where college banners adorn the wall and where James Bond in the Ian Flemming novels lost his notecase and something else… Thats right at Harry’s bar at the tender age of 16, James bond learned to do what he does best. And downstairs is a piano bar where Gershwin composed ‘American in Paris.’

cafes & restaurants

A favorite gossip stop for all the artists, models, actors actresses, and celebrity writers in Montparnasse. When poor artists couldn’t pay the bill, a quick drawing could be given as payment for a cocktail. Go see for yourself if that policy still works today!

Popularised by the Lost Generation of writers when the Left Bank was in its hey-day, you’ll find a bronze plaque engraved with Hemingway’s name who wrote much of The Sun Also Rises here. Frequented by Oscar Wilde, Scott Fitzergerald, Henry Miller, Verlaine, Apollinaire, Beckett, Man Ray, Sartre, Baudelaire, Cezanne, Modigliani, Oscar Wilde and Emile Zola.   In more recent years, its patronage has included David Hockney, Serge Gainsbourg, Mick Jagger, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp.

Opened in 1847, the Closerie des Lilas has evolved into an institution that is much more than just a restaurant.  Since 2007, they starting awarding the Prix des Lilas to French language female authors.  

The only decent café in our neighborhood was La Closerie des Lilas, and it was one of the best cafes in Paris. It was warm in the winter and the terrace was lovely in the spring and fall,” Hemingway – A Moveable feast

A favorite gossip stop for all the artists, models, actors actresses, and celebrity writers in Montparnasse. When poor artists couldn’t pay the bill, a quick drawing could be given as payment for a cocktail. Go see for yourself if that policy still works today!

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