Ahh Paris, the city that makes the heart sing! And it is not just the architecture or the museums, there is something about Paris that captures the imagination, and makes you want to put that feeling into words.
Well luckily, we don’t have to because there are a lot of famous writers and wordsmiths who have done the work for us, with some beautifully worded quotes and expressions about Paris.
Whether you are planning to visit the city, or are looking for famous quotes about Paris for instagram or twitter, there is something for everyone, along with a little tidbit to learn more about the exquisite City of Lights.
However, as a Parisienne myself for the past 10+ years, I have noticed there is an acute difference between the way locals speak about Paris, compared to foreigners. There is a romantism in the words of both, but for French writers it is with a touch of realism and chagrin.
Paris can be a difficult city to live in. The current favorite quote of most Parisians is “Métro, Boulot, Dodo“, meaning “commuting, working, sleeping”. (Dodo is French slang for sleep.)
Because of this complicated relationship, I’ve tried to provide some context as to these quotes, to provide a bit of background and understanding.
The fact is that Paris is a city that has played a big role in France’s turbulent history, and its past, present and future comes to life in these words. So with that, here are my favorite quotes about Paris, France. Allons-y!
1. Paris is not a city, it’s a world.
Original quote in French: “Paris n’est pas une ville, c’est un monde.” — French King François I
François I built the famous Chateau de Fontainebleau, known as the House of Kings, made French the official language of France, and tried to conquer a large part of Western Europe. (He failed, but you can read more about French Royals here.)
2. Whoever does not visit Paris regularly will never really be elegant.
Original quote in French: “L’être qui ne vient pas souvent à Paris ne sera jamais complètement élégant.” — Honoré de Balzac
Honoré de Balzac was a famous French author who wrote La Comédie Humaine, a collection of stories, novels, and essays. The French have a reputation of elegance that is rather well-earned.
3. Breathe Paris in, it feeds the soul.
Original quote in French: “Respirer Paris, cela conserve l’âme.”– Victor Hugo in his book Les Miserables.
The Miserables isn’t the happiest of tales, but even in its depths you can find the beauty of Paris.
4. Paris is worth a mass.
Original quote in French: “Paris vaut bien une messe” — French King Henry IV
Protestant Henry uttered these words in 1593 as he was converted to Catholicism, to try to get his capital city on his side, as many Parisians at the time were fiercely catholic.
5. To save Paris is more than saving France, it is saving the world!
Original quote in French: “Sauver Paris, c’est plus que sauver la France, c’est sauver le monde.” – Victor Hugo in his book Pendant l’exil (essays and speeches of 1852-1870). You can read more quotes about France here.
6. God invented Parisians so foreigners wouldn’t understand anything about French people.
Original quote in French: “Dieu a inventé le Parisien pour que les étrangers ne puissent rien comprendre aux Français.” – Alexandre Dumas, author of the 3 Muskateers, Count of Monte Cristo and many others.
7. The French Riviera is the greenhouse where the roots grow. Paris is the shop where the flowers are sold.
Original quote in French: “La Côte d’Azur est la serre où poussent les racines. Paris est la boutique où on vend les fleurs.” – Jean Cocteau, French poet and screenwriter.
8. Life, it is Paris! Paris, it is life!
Original quote in French: “La vie, c’est Paris ! Paris, c’est la vie !” — Marie Bashkirtseff, a famous Russian artist who lived and died in Paris, at the age of 25.
9. Add a couple of letters to Paris: it’s paradise.
Original quote in French: “Ajoutez deux lettres à Paris : c’est le paradis.” – Jules Renard, French writer.
10. To be Parisian is not to be born in Paris, it is to be reborn there.
Original quote in French: “Être parisien, ce n’est pas être né à Paris, c’est y renaître.” — Sacha Guitry, a French actor and director from the early 20th century.
11. Paris by day, Paris by night, under sun or rain, Paris will always be… Paris!
Original quote in French: “Paris le jour, Paris la nuit, sous soleil ou sous la pluie, Paris sera toujours… Paris!” – Jules Renard, French writer.
It rains a lot in Paris, in case you were wondering. You can listen to more mixed reviews about the city in this list of classic songs about Paris.
13. Secrets travel fast in Paris.
Original quote in French: “Les secrets voyagent vite à Paris” — Napoleon Bonaparte
The self-declared Emperor of France, knew that French bourgeois were a close-knit society, ready to spread gossip like wildfire. He wouldn’t let that stop him from trying to conquer Europe however, if only those dastardly British would get out of his way.
14. The real Parisian doesn’t like Paris, but he can’t live anywhere else.
Original quote in French: “Le vrai parisien n’aime pas Paris, mais il ne peut vivre ailleurs.” — Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, French journalist.
Most Parisians (like myself!) have a love-hate relationship, but no one really thinks about moving, do they?
15. The heart of Paris is a flower. A flower of love so pretty that we keep in our heart, that we love for life.
Original quote in French: Le coeur de Paris, c’est une fleur. Une fleur d’amour si jolie que l’on garde dans son coeur, que l’on aime pour la vie. — Charles Trenet, French singer-songwriter.
16. But Paris is a real ocean. Throw in a stone, but you’ll never know how deep it is.
Original quote in French: “Mais Paris est un véritable océan. Jetez-y la sonde, vous n’en connaîtrez jamais la profondeur.” — Honoré de Balzac, French author.
17. Paris! Paris outraged! Paris broken! Paris martyred! But Paris, liberated!
Original quote in French: “Paris ! Paris outragé! Paris brisé! Paris martyrisé! Mais Paris, libéré!” — General Charles De Gaulle
The future President of France said these words while riding an American tank on the Champs Elysées, at the liberation of Paris in June 1944 after 4 years of German occupation. A city on its knees, that was ready to rise up again.
1. A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of life.
– Thomas Jefferson, U.S. Ambasador to France
The American Declaration of Independence had led France’s King Louis XVI to support the new country, against their ancient enemy the British. This US-Franco success would mean that France would gain an important figure in Thomas Jefferson as ambassador between 1785-1789.
The future 3rd President of the United States would leave France right before the French Revolution (which in turn cost King Louis XVI and his wife Marie-Antoinette their heads).
Jefferson on the other hand, continued to have a way with words, helping the revolutionaries draft up France’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, based on the U.S. Declaration of Independence.
2. 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.
— American poet Allen Ginsberg who lived in Paris for a period of 6 years between 1957-63.
3. England built London for its own use, France built Paris for the whole world.
Translated quote in French: “L’Angleterre a bâti Londres pour son propre usage, la France a bâti Paris pour le monde entier.” — American Ralph Waldo Emerson, philosopher who lived in Paris for several years.
4. 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.
– Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
The quote comes from the book “A Moveable Feast” which is a memoir by American author Ernest Hemingway, about his years as a struggling writer in Paris during the roaring 1920s.
At the time, Hemingway was in Paris as a young journalist, working for Canada’s national newspaper, the Toronto Star. The memoir was published after his death in 1964.
5. America is my country and Paris is my hometown.
— Gertrude Stein
Like Hemingway, Gertrude Stein moved to Paris at a young age, and she made France her home for the remainder of her life.
It was in Paris that she would host salons where the leading figures of literature and art, such as Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, Ezra Pound, Sherwood Anderson and Henri Matisse, would meet in the 1920s.
6. I do not believe there is another city on earth so beautiful as Paris, nor another people with such an appreciation of the beautiful as the French…
– Edward Hopper, American painter
Whether he was talking about the architecture, the culture, or the art de vivre, he certainly appreciated his time in Paris.
7. When good Americans die they go to Paris.
– Oscar Wilde.
The Irish poet lived in Paris off-and-on in the late 19th century, eventually fleeing to the city to escape British persecution for being gay. He died in Paris at 46, from meningitis and poverty.
8. Paris… is a world meant for the walker alone, for only the pace of strolling can take in all the rich (if muted) detail.
– Edmund White
The American author lived in France for 7 years, writing books such as Our Paris: sketches from memory (1995), Marcel Proust (1998), and The Flaneur: a stroll through the paradoxes of Paris (2000), based on his time there.
9. To know Paris is to know a great deal.
— Henry Miller
American author Henry Miller lived in Paris in the 1930s, becoming fluent in French in the process. He left a few months before the outbreak of WWII.
10. But of Paris it can be said that the right bank of the Seine belongs to the world, and the left bank to France.
— Mary Butts, English writer.
There is always a big debate between Parisians, as to whether they are Left Bank or Right Bank. Mary Butts lived in Paris in the 1920s and understood this.
The Left Bank with its competing students and bourgeois vibes, or the Right Bank with its hipsters and bobos? It is never easy to decide!
11. London is a riddle. Paris is an explanation.
— Gilbert Keith Chesterton, English writer.
Whether it was love or envy, Chesterton had a point. You can read more quotes about the England and France here.
12. In Paris, they just simply opened their eyes and stared when we spoke to them in French! We never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language.
— Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad
French isn’t the easiest language to learn, as Mark Twain will testify! (If you are interested, here are some resources to learn French, as well as some bilingual classics for beginners.)
13. There is but one Paris, and however hard living may be here, and if it became worse and harder even—the French air clears up the brain and does good—a world of good.
— Vincent Van Gogh, Dutch painter
Vincent van Gogh may be more famous for his paintings about Provence and the South of France, having spent many years up to his death in the town of Arles. But with his younger brother Theo living in Paris, Vincent visited the City of lights often.
A notable absinthe and pastis drinker, we can only presume he was referring to them with this interesting quote.
14. I think Paris smells, and not just sweet but melancholy and curious, sometimes sad but always enticing and seductive.
— M.J. Rose, author of The Book of Lost Fragrances, which is set in Paris
The author continues: “She’s a city for all the senses, for artists and writers and musicians and dreamers, for fantasies, for long walks and wine and lovers and yes, for mysteries.”
15. The chief danger about Paris is that it is such a strong stimulant.
— T.S. Eliot, American author
T.S. Eliot spent one year in Paris, visiting as an exchange student from Harvard university at the age of 22. He would remain a lifelong francophile.
16. I had forgotten how gently time passes in Paris.
— Kristin Hannah author of The Nightingale
The book continues with: “As lively as the city is, there’s a stillness to it, a peace that lures you in. In Paris, with a glass of wine in your hand, you can just be.” You can read more French wine quotes here.
17. Though I often looked for one, I finally had to admit that there could be no cure for Paris.
— Paula McLain author of The Paris Wife
American author Paula McLain is a best-selling author known for her novel, The Paris Wife, a fictionalized account of Ernest Hemingway’s first marriage while in Paris.
18. You stumble, and you soar. And, if you’re lucky, you make it to Paris for a while.
– Amy Thomas author of Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light
Based on her own life, American author Amy Thomas left Manhattan for Paris to write ad copy for Louis Vuitton. A job working on the Champs-Élysées, strolling the charming streets, and exploring the best patisseries, is it every foreigners dream come true?
19. Paris is the city in which one loves to live.
— Margaret Anderson, author of Little Review
The author continues: “Sometimes I think this is because it is the only city in the world where you can step out of a railway station—the Gare D’Orsay—and see, simultaneously, the chief enchantments: the Seine with its bridges and bookstalls, the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Tuileries Gardens, the Place de la Concorde, the beginning of the Champs Elysées—nearly everything except the Luxembourg Gardens and the Palais Royal. But what other city offers as much as you leave a train?”
20. It’s true, you never forget your first love, and for me, that will always be Paris.
— Caitriona Balfe
This famous quote about Paris was by Caitriona Balfe, an Irish actress, who started her career as a model in Paris.
21. There are only two places in the world where we can live happy: at home and in Paris.
— Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
The years spent in Paris were a very productive for Hemingway, allowing him to develop his own style, publish many books, including his famous novel The Sun Also Rises in 1926.
22. When spring comes to Paris the humblest mortal alive must feel that he dwells in paradise.
— Henry Miller, author
While Hemmingway was employed at the Toronto Star in Paris, his contemporary Miller was employed by the Chicago Tribune Paris edition as a proofreader. During his 10 years in Paris, he also published several novels like along with Tropic of Cancer, Black Spring and Tropic of Capricorn.
23. Paris is the most beautiful city in the world. It brings tears to your eyes.
— Lee Radziwill
Jackie Kennedy and her sister Lee Radziwill lived in Paris as young women, and Radziwill continued to live in the city till her death. She famously owned a beautiful apartment in an exclusive neighbourhood off of the Champs Elysées in the 8th-arrondissement with views of the Eiffel Tower.
24. I like the Eiffel Tower because it looks like steel and lace.
— Natalie Lloyd
Best-selling children’s author Natalie Lloyd says this about that much-loved monument that dominates the Parisian skyline. (When I say much-loved, I mean at the moment, the Eiffel Tower was detested when it was first built!)
25. There’s nowhere that life feels more eternal, your dimwit youth more important, than Paris.
— Charles Finch, author of “The Last Enchantments”, a fictional novel about an American exchange student at the University of Oxford, living on the Old Continent.
26. An artist has no home in Europe except in Paris.
— Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosopher.
A beautiful quote by the German philosopher, especially given the tense relationship between France and Germany at the time, after the Franco-Prussian war of 1870.
You can read more about famous French artists and international artists calling France their home here.
27. What an immense impression Paris made upon me. It is the most extraordinary place in the world!
English author Charles Dickens may be more famous for his novels based in England such as Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, and Great Expectations. But it was after his first trip to Paris that he wrote this famous quote about Paris in a letter to a friend.
A few years later, he would write a Tale of two cities set in both London and France, against the backdrop of the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror.
From Film and Television
1. We’ll always have Paris.
— Humphrey Bogart, Cassablanca
One of the most memorable lines about Paris is a farewell, coming from the 1942 movie Casablanca, when Rick (Humphrey Bogart) says those words to his former lover Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman).
Bogart and Bergman’s characters have a brief affair in Paris on the eve of World War II that gets torn apart with the German invasion of France. When he speaks those words to Ilsa at the end of the movie, he says goodbye to Bergman as she must flee to safety, never to reunite.
2. Paris is always a good idea.
— Audrey Hepburn, Sabrina
The incontournable (unmissable) Audrey Hepburn, in the movie Sabrina said this famous quote about Paris in 1954 as she heads off to culinary school, and it still rings true.
Later in the film she explains: “Paris is for changing your outlook, for throwing open the windows and letting in la vie en rose.”
3. That Paris exists and anyone could choose to live anywhere else in the world will always be a mystery to me.
— Midnight in Paris
French actress Marian Cotillard as Adriana in the movie Midnight in Paris espouses on her love of living in Paris. (As a local, I can tell you it is not always what it is cracked up to be, but there you go. You can read more about living in Paris here.)
4. If you’re going to be sad, you might as well be sad in Paris…
— Gossip Girl
Blair Waldorf in the TV show Gossip Girl always knows how to make the best of it!
5. It’s Paris, everyone’s serious about dinner.
— Emily in Paris
Ashley Park played by Mindy Chen in the Netflix TV show Emily in Paris says this all-too-true quote about Paris. Yes, French people take dinner very seriously.
If you enjoyed that article, you may like to read more poems about Paris. A bientôt!