A guide to a surprising Irish Paris: past & present

MyFrenchLife™ - MyFrenchLife.org - Irish Paris - Paris view

Paris is recognised for its culture, its iconic history, architecture and of course its literature which is like no other. However, upon moving to Paris, I realised there is an unexpected and subtle Irish influence within this culture. 

The Franco-Irish connection is often not noticed in Paris. Nevertheless, the Irish past and present are very visible if you look a little closer…

Irish Paris: a secret Franco-Irish history

MyFrenchLife™ - MyFrenchLife.org - Irish Paris - Centre Culturel Irlandais

  • Irish culture has historically influenced France and cultivated a unique bond between the two countries.
  • During the Fifth Republic, De Gaulle’s relations with Britain were difficult and after losing a referendum in 1969 (which led to his resignation), he sought refuge in Ireland.
  • In the Latin Quarter in Paris, you will find the Centre Culturel Irlandais; formerly a collegiate community of Irish priests and scholars in the late 1500s, while at present it is an Irish culture and education centre.
  • Even in the Latin Quarter today, the student community in the Irish College brings a lively spirit and Irish feel to Rue Mouffetard and Place Monge.

The Parisian literary world was shaken by Irish writing

MyFrenchLife™ - MyFrenchLife.org - Irish Paris - Shakespeare & Co bookshop

  • The Parisian artistic and literary imagination has captivated expatriate writers for over a century. So much so, that this history is a prominent attraction for many travellers.
  • Since I am a bookworm and writer, I strongly suggest a visit to Shakespeare & Co librarie. Much fascination at this bookstore stems back to great Irish authors, particularly James Joyce.
  • In 1920, Joyce accepted an invitation from Ezra Pound to visit Paris. His one week stay stretched into 20 years! Clearly, Paris was just as charmed by Joyce, as he was of Paris. It was here, where he became a famous avant-garde writer.
  • Thanks to Shakespeare & Co, Joyce’s controversial novel Ulysses (which was banned in the UK and in the USA) was independently published in 1922.
  • Thus, it can be seen that an Irish literary past flows through the streets of the French capital today.

A guide to discovering an Irish Paris today

MyFrenchLife™ - MyFrenchLife.org - Irish Paris - Irish bar - O'Sullivans cafe bar

The Irish influence in Paris may not be at all evident at first glance.

But you’ll be reminded that French culture is more diverse than traditionally perceived as you explore the Place de Dublin and Rue des Irlandais, or even as you come across the scattering of Irish bars around the French capital.

I arrived in France expecting to make many French friends, read Zola and Baudelaire and have a regime consisting of pain, vin et fromage.

While the last is admittedly true, connecting with the Irish in the French capital and engaging in events involving Franco-Irish cultural dialogues, I have come to appreciate this vibrant cross-cultural heritage, which I encourage others to discover.

On the surface, the cultural characteristics of the Irish and the French do not appear compatible, but historically and artistically, I’ve discovered a hidden compatibility and affinity of the two countries in Paris.

Have you discovered Irish Paris? Have you spotted any Irish gems you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below!

Image credits

  1. Paris by Danny VB via flickr
  2. Centre Culturel Irlandais via offi.fr
  3. Shakespeare and Company by Annie Chebi via flickr
  4. O’Sullivans by Jack Muckto via flickr

About the Contributor

Molly Russell

As a French and English literature student, I am fascinated by French culture, from arts and politics to vin et fromage. I am particularly interested in the architecture and urban history of Paris, where I recently completed my year abroad studying at La Sorbonne IV.

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One Comment

  1. SASSII Aug 6, 2021 at 3:24 AM - Reply

    Collecting research for my novel from the 80s..and appreciate the obsession from the vin( though having been too fond of it gave it up).to croissants amandes and all Frenchy in between. I’ve just come back from 3 days in Paris..doing a reke to see if I could stop crying at every memory of my wasted(and I mean a little wasted) life a paris..I am 49 and back in uni doing journalism.
    The 80s were in fact a mixed bag for young Irish in Paris..many stories to expose there and so much fun with that mad 80s fashion…my own 17 yr old daughter has now started her own love affair with Paris..history starts again..

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