Paris has featured in myriad books and movies, from the gritty darkness of 1995’s La Haine (featuring a breakthrough performance by local boy Vincent Cassel), through Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code and the cartoony technicolour of Gene Kelly’s An American in Paris – and always ends up with a starring role.
A Moveable feast by Ernest Hemingway
Still used by many as a guide to Hemingway’s Paris, this memoir of his years as a struggling writer from 1921 – 1926 is a good evocation of Paris between the wars. Great names dropped? Hilaire Belloc, Aleister Crowley, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein.
The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris by John Baxter
Ex-pat Australian John Baxter has lived in Paris for many years and knows as well as anyone what makes the modern city tick and what’s worth seeing. It helps that he’s a beautiful writer, too.
A Year in the Merde by Stephen Clarke
A funny comic novel about an Englishman’s year in Paris trying to assimilate and, generally, failing. Great insights into les differences and you’ve got to love a table of contents that reads thus: “OCTOBRE … I visit different parts of Paris, touristy and less so, treading in plenty of dog-poop, literal and metaphorical.”
Shakespeare and Company by Sylvia Beach
The 1959 memoirs of the American who started the first Shakespeare and Company bookshop in 1919. Recounts growing up in America and ends with the liberation of Paris in 1945. Anyone who refused to sell a Nazi officer the book he wanted deserves to be read.
Almost French by Sarah Turnbull
The story of an Australian journalist who follows her heart to Paris on a whim and ends up settling there is part love story, part social commentary and totally amusant. A perfect fun read to guide you through the minefield of French society.
Jean-Luc Godard’s 1960 movie about a criminal (Jean-Paul Belmondo) on the run from the police and hiding out in Paris with his American girlfriend (Jean Seberg) ranges far and wide across the city. Belmondo and Seberg were beautiful and so was the Paris they sauntered and (later) ran through.
The whimsical romantic comedy starring Audrey Tautou is set mainly in the Montmartre neighbourhood and many of the locations can still be found today. The Cafe des Deux Moulains, where Amelie works as a waitress, is much the same as in the movie.
Midnight in Paris
Woody Allen’s glorious, delightful love letter to Paris stars Owen Wilson as a writer who gets magically transported to the Paris of Hemingway and Gertrude Stein and, in turn, becomes disenchanted with his life. Has done more for tourism in the city than any movie for a long time.
The sequel to Before Sunrise is set in Paris and again stars Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke as they meet nine years after the original. Paris is a co-star as the couple meet in the Shakespeare and Company bookshop and then stroll the streets talking love and life.
Paris, Je t’aime
As good a title to finish on as anything, Paris, Je t’aime is an anthology of 18 short films all set in different arrondissements of Paris. A wonderfully eclectic collection of stories from directors as diverse as Joel and Ethan Coen, Gérard Depardieu, Wes Craven and Gus Van Sant.