On the Parisian bar scene, it seems like you can’t throw a stone without hitting the ghost of some literary giant. F. Scott Fitzgerald was a well-liquored regular at Harry’s New York Bar, and the bar at The Ritz was such a favorite of Ernest Hemingway that they named Bar Hemingway after him. Yet while these American novelists were known for a certain brand of understated masculinity, the flamboyance associated with the Irish scribe Oscar Wilde is part of what makes his former haunt, Le Bar de L’Hotel, so elegantly delicious.
Wilde lived his last days (and even breathed his last breath) at the legendary L’Hotel, nestled in the heart of the bohemian Left Bank. Those on the “literary walks of Paris” circuit make the hotel’s Louis XVI-style lounge, Le Bar, a stop for its Wilde lore and paraphernalia. Photos of the playwright and antique editions of his work are discreetly dotted around the antique-laden space, and the comfortable velvet sofas and armchairs (perfectly situated under warmly glowing lamps) do indeed seem an ideal place to seek literary inspiration.
That said, the chic, celeb-sprinkled clientele (everyone from Salvador Dali to Frank Sinatra to Elizabeth Taylor has at one time hung out here, and modern day stars follow their lead) often seems more immersed in their conversations than communing with literary spirits. Of course, their desire to chat their hearts out is perhaps unsurprising given Le Bar’s legendary discretion –nothing makes it beyond the thick, muffling carpets or heavy oak doors.
Wilde was known as much for his dandy-ish style as his scintillating wit, and Le Bar’s well-dressed patrons tend to follow suit. The mix of hotel guests, upper-crust locals, and film stars looking to keep a low profile embrace Parisian sophistication. Black pants, designer flats, and a chic scarf would do you quite well. The people-watching is superb–especially after patrons spill in from the adjacent Michelin-starred restaurant post-meal, it’s an enthralling cast of characters.
Speaking of characters…the bar shares a certain simpatico with the mood of Wilde’s masterpiece The Importance of Being Earnest. In the play, the protagonists assume fictitious identities in order to avoid bothersome obligations. While you don’t have to pretend to be someone else to enjoy Le Bar, it’s definitely fun to fancy yourself a Left Bank bohemian for the night and forget your cares over a stiff drink. The ghosts of the literary giants would approve!
Read more about Le Bar de L’Hotel in Our Paris Guide
Rachel Levin contributed to this post._________
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