During our recent explorations of the sixth arrondissement, I found myself walking down rue des Beaux Arts. A plaque on the wall caught my eye.
“Oscar Wilde, Poet and Dramatist… Died in this building on November 30th, 1900.”
Intriguing. The plaque was on the wall of a hotel that was simply named l’Hôtel. Also intriguing. I had heard of this hotel, especially the suite that had been turned into an Oscar Wilde homage. This was my chance to see it.
I popped in to talk to the receptionist, who told me the suite cost €800 – €1,000 a night in the high season. He added that he was happy to show me inside.
Here’s what I found.
But first: What was Oscar Wilde’s connection to Paris?
Irish writer Oscar Wilde, who wrote The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest, was renowned for his razor sharp wit, conversation skills, and flamboyant style. While he was a favourite party guest in the London parties and salons of the late 1800s, many people turned their backs on him when his homosexuality became public, and he was sent to prison.
Wilde’s reputation was ruined in London, so once he was released from jail he came to Paris. He rented a furnished apartment at the Hôtel d’Alsace (now the five-star l’Hôtel), where he stayed until his death in 1900, famously saying that he was “dying beyond his means”. Wilde is buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery in the 20th arrondissement, not far from a children’s library called Bibliotheque Oscar Wilde.
The story of the hotel
l’Hôtel Paris was built in 1828. By all accounts, it was a pretty grim place, even when Wilde stayed there 70 years later. By the 1960s the hotel became the place to be seen in Paris, hosting a range of famous guests from Salvador Dali, Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor to Jim Morrison and Serge Gainsbourg.
With 20 bedrooms, L’Hotel is one of the smallest 5 star hotels in Paris, and its website boasts that “each bedroom is different – each is opulent, fabulous, and sexy, just like Paris”. As l’Hotel was Oscar Wilde’s last home, the Oscar Wilde’s Suite and cocktail bar Wilde’s Lounge are named in his honour.
It’s quite a lovely hotel, just beyond the lobby is a circular tower that goes all the way to a skylight. Be sure to look up! Address: 13 Rue des Beaux Arts, 75006 Paris, France
Oscar Wilde’s Hotel Room: Then
When Wilde stayed, the place was dingy and cheap. He wrote to his publisher to say that state of the hotel “really breaks one’s heart: it is so sale [filthy], so utterly depressing, so hopeless. Pray do what you can”.
It isn’t clear if Wilde actually stayed in the “Oscar Wilde Suite”, though it seems unlikely, not least considering the room is big with a balcony, and Wilde was essentially penniless at the time. Some reports suggest the bed’s headboard is the only part that Wilde would have seen, others suggest that Wilde actually stayed in the basement.
One of the last things Wilde wrote was: “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.”
The wallpaper of Wilde’s time is most certainly gone now. The room is redecorated in the style of his London home. By Paris hotel standards, it’s quite a spacious room at 35 sqm (377 sqft), and features a large private terrace and bathroom with a separate bath and walk-in shower.
Oscar Wilde’s Hotel Room: Now
It’s a charming room, unlike any I’ve seen in Paris, however I’m not sure the TV matches the wooden finishings, period furniture, and eye-catching wallpaper.
The room is certainly unique, with pictures of Wilde framed on the wall, as well as his last hotel bill and caricatures of the writer.
There’s something quite special about a room being dedicated to one of the greats who had stayed there.
A look at the private outdoor terrace
The suite has a very spacious balcony, huge by Paris hotel standards. And while it’s not exceptionally private given the residential buildings surrounding it, it still seemed very quiet.
And that’s it! If you’re a huge Oscar Wilde fan you should make a beeline for this hotel room. Or at the very least, the bar downstairs.
Other things to find in the area
While you’re in the sixth arrondissement, you can find everything from the charming Luxembourg Gardens to the decadent Cafe de Flore. Here’s a link to our full findings from the area.
That’s it! Happy exploring. If you want more from this district, here’s what we found in podcast and YouTube form.
The Earful Tower podcast episode
This podcast episode on the 6th district of Paris includes an interview with prolific author and local resident John Baxter, and our final ranking on the district out of 100.
Video guide to the 6th arrondissement
Thanks to the Patreon members for keeping the Earful running, and to Charlotte Pleasants for the additional reporting.