25 Famous Authors’ Poetic Descriptions of Paris


Happy Bastille Day! It’s the 224th anniversary of the storming of the famous Paris prison, which helped dismantled France’s repressive monarchy. If you can’t dance along the Champs-Élysées, but want to spread the Parisian pride, head past the jump for a few eloquent and adoring words from famous writers that celebrate the City of Light.

Image credit: Ernest Hemingway Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Ernest Hemingway

“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.”

“Paris is so very beautiful that it satisfies something in you that is always hungry in America.”

“There are only two places in the world where we can live happy: at home and in Paris.”

Charles Dickens

“I cannot tell you what an immense impression Paris made upon me. It is the most extraordinary place in the world!”

Henry James

“The great merit of the place is that one can arrange one’s life here exactly as one pleases… there are facilities for every kind of habit and taste, and everything is accepted and understood.”

“Paris is the greatest temple ever built to material joys and the lust of the eyes.”

Honoré de Balzac

“Whoever does not visit Paris regularly will never really be elegant.”

Victor Hugo

“To err is human. To loaf is Parisian.”

Oscar Wilde

“When good Americans die, they go to Paris.”

Willa Cather

“Paris is a hard place to leave, even when it rains incessantly and one coughs continually from the dampness.”

Harriet Beecher Stowe

“At last I have come into a dreamland.”

Katherine Anne Porter

“Paris loves anybody who can live anarchically and be delightful entertainment at the same time.”

Henry Miller

“When spring comes to Paris the humblest mortal alive must feel that he dwells in paradise.”

Gaston Leroux

“In Paris, our lives are one masked ball.”

Gertrude Stein

“Paris, France is exciting and peaceful.”

“America is my country, and Paris is my hometown.”

Anaïs Nin

“Sometimes I think of Paris not as a city but as a home. Enclosed, curtained, sheltered, intimate. The sound of rain outside the window, the spirit and the body turned towards intimacy, to friendships and loves. One more enclosed and intimate day of friendship and love, an alcove. Paris intimate like a room. Everything designed for intimacy. Five to seven was the magic hour of the lovers’ rendezvous. Here it is the cocktail hour.”

“In Paris, when entering a room, everyone pays attention, seeks to make you feel welcome, to enter into conversation, is curious, responsive. Here it seems everyone is pretending not to see, hear, or look too intently. The faces reveal no interest, no responsiveness. Overtones are missing. Relationships seem impersonal and everyone conceals his secret life, whereas in Paris it was the exciting substance of our talks, intimate revelations and sharing of experience.”

Katherine Mansfield

“I am going to enjoy life in Paris I know. It is so human and there is something noble in the city… It is a real city, old and fine and life plays in it for everybody to see.”

Edmund White

“Paris… is a world meant for the walker alone, for only the pace of strolling can take in all the rich (if muted) detail.”

Allen Ginsberg

“You can’t escape the past in Paris, and yet what’s so wonderful about it is that the past and present intermingle so intangibly that it doesn’t seem to burden.”

Alexandre Dumas

“I came to Paris with four écus in my pocket, and I’d have fought with anybody who told me I was in no condition to buy the Louvre.”

Jean Cocteau

“In Paris, everybody wants to be an actor; nobody is content to be a spectator.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

“An artist has no home in Europe except in Paris.”

James Thurber

“The whole of Paris is a vast university of art, literature and music… it is worth anyone’s while to dally here for years. Paris is a seminar, a post-graduate course in Everything”


“Outside of Paris, there is no hope for the cultured.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

“The best of America drifts to Paris. The American in Paris is the best American. It is more fun for an intelligent person to live in an intelligent country. France has the only two things toward which we drift as we grow older — intelligence and good manners.”

Angela Carter

“Cities have sexes: London is a man, Paris a woman, and New York a well-adjusted transsexual.”

James Joyce

“There is an atmosphere of spiritual effort here. No other city is quite like it. It is a racecourse tension. I wake early, often at 5 o’clock, and start writing at once.”

Mary Elizabeth Braddon

“Paris is a mighty schoolmaster, a grand enlightener of the provincial intellect.”

François Villon

“Good talkers are only found in Paris.”