It’s no secret that Americans have long had a love affair with Paris. Over the years, artists and intellectuals have flocked to France’s capital city to be inspired. From dancers to writers, editors to painters, Paris has long been a haven for American expats. And decades, even centuries, later, they’ve left their mark on the City of Light. From the Lost Generation to the Jazz Age, we’re sharing the stories of several famous Americans who lived in Paris as well as how you can follow in their footsteps.
5 Famous Americans Who Lived in Paris
Josephine Baker (1906-1975)
A St. Louis native, Josephine Baker made her name known far across the Atlantic. Her dancing and singing career took off and eventually led her to perform in La Revue Nègre in Paris in 1925. “Baker was soon among the most popular and highest-paid performers in Europe, having the admiration of cultural figures like Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and E. E. Cummings,” according to Biography. Not only did she shine on the stage, but she also fought in the Resistance and against racism, per the Smithsonian.
Visit the Pantheon
Dating back to the 1700s, the Panthéon has worn many hats over the centuries: church, necropolis, crypt. But today you can visit the Panthéon, where important figures such as Marie Curie and Victor Hugo in French history are buried. And in 2021, Josephine Baker was inducted into the Panthéon and thus the first black woman to have done so, per PBS.
Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)
“America is my country and Paris is my hometown,” said Gertrude Stein, famous American writer. Born in Pennsylvania, Stein moved to Paris in 1903. Stein was well-known for the literary salons she hosted with a glamorous guest list, often including Picasso, Hemingway, Cézanne and Matisse, per Urban Insider. Inspired by Cubism, Stein struck up a friendship with Pablo Picasso, who even painted her portrait, and collected his artwork, according to Britannica.
Explore the Musée de Luxembourg and Musée Picasso
Until January 28, 2024, Musée de Luxembourg is showing its exhibition, Gertrude Stein and Pablo Picasso. “Their friendship crystallized around their respective work, which laid the foundations for Cubism and the pictorial and literary avant-gardes of the 20th century,” according to the Musée de Luxembourg. Later, you can head across the Seine and visit the Picasso Museum to admire this famed Cubist painter.
Pay your respects at the Père Lachaise cemetery
With nearly 3 million annual visitors, the Père Lachaise cemetery has remained an important part of Parisian history since it was created in 1804. You can wander this greenery-filled cemetery and celebrate the many lives of those who shaped Paris culture and history. You can visit the graves of important figures, such as Gertrude Stein, Honoré de Balzac, Edith Piaf and Molière.
F. Scott (1896-1940) and Zelda Fitzgerald (1900-1948)
Born in Minnesota, F. Scott Fitzgerald left his legacy on American literature and beyond. In 1920, he married Zelda, who was also a writer. And in 1924, the Fitzgeralds took a trip to the Côté d’Azur, where he penned one of his hallmark titles, The Great Gatsby. The protagonist’s opulent lifestyle wasn’t much different from the author’s rambunctious rhythm. Often moving between different cities and countries, the Fitzgerald family was nomadic. But in 1925, they moved to Paris, where they rubbed elbows with other writers and artists.
Take a Roaring Twenties Walking Tour
Turn back the clock to the Roaring Twenties and explore a world similar to one in Midnight in Paris. Enjoy a private walking tour as you stroll past several famed brasseries that welcomed jazz dancer Josephine Baker at one time. You’ll also discover Closerie des Lilas, where Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Pablo Picasso partied back in the day. Your guide will invite you to imagine life in the Montparnasse neighborhood in the ’20s and revisit art history of the time.
Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)
“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,” wrote Ernest Hemingway. Hailing from Illinois, this Nobel Prize-winning author started his career in the Midwest but moved to Paris in the 1920s. Gertrude Stein coined the phrase “the lost generation,” referring to those disillusioned following World War I; but it was Hemingway who popularized the term, per The Collector.
Find a good read at Shakespeare and Company
A trip to this renowned English-language bookstore is an essential for your trip to Paris. Just steps from Notre Dame, this bookstore was started by an American named George Whitman in 1951. Before 1964, the store was called Le Mistral. But Whitman changed it to its current name after Sylvia Beach, who opened the original Shakespeare and Co., in 1919. Located at 12 rue de l’Odéon, Beach’s store welcomed writers such as James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, according to its site. You might even see the bookstore’s cat meander about the store. You can peruse the book selection and stop by its next-door café as you people watch along the Seine.
Stay in themed suites at the Ritz
After walking the streets just as these famed authors did à l’époque, you can enjoy a stay in the Ritz suites dedicated to several American writers. Marked with rare photos of the author and a hearty book collection, the Hemingway suite overlooks the garden and offers its own bar, where you can sip on a Dry Martini like Ernie himself. The Ritz also will tempt you with its F. Scott Fitzgerald suite, where you can curl up with a good book in its reading nook. You’ll enjoy regal views over the Vendôme and can even enjoy the suite’s hammam.
Where to Stay in Paris
This five-star B-Signature hotel is located in the historically rich Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood. Savor a stay in one of this boutique hotel’s 50 rooms, and indulge in one of its spa treatments. With its biodegradable cleaning products and plastic alternatives, Hotel Montalembert is committed to reducing its impact on the environment. After breakfast in bed (only if you’d like!), you can explore the Left Bank and the Louvre, which is a short walk away.
Hôtel des Académies et des Arts
This four-star hotel on the Left Bank will inspire you with its art-centered space. Not only can you get some shut eye after a day of exploration but you can also visit its art exhibitions and create art yourself in the café atelier. When you’re not crafting your next chef d’oeuvre in the hotel’s workshop, you can enjoy some kombucha at L’Honesty Bar.
Want to delve even deeper into France’s rich history? Take a look at some of our history-inspired tours: A Historical and Cultural Escape to Paris and Unique Experience of the Highlights of Paris. Need some help planning your trip?