Cities Journal

Follow The Footsteps Of Ernest Hemingway


This might just be the drunkest of all literary tours. Prepare yourself for booze and bohemian spirit. Ernest Hemingway was born and raised at 439 North Oak Park Avenue (now 339 North Oak Park Avenue). Start there.

Visit Lake Michigan where his family had a summer home, Windemere, on nearby Walloon Lake, near Petoskey. The cottage is now a National Historic Landmark. After leaving high school, he spent six months working at the Kansas City Star newspaper. At 18, Hemingway signed up to be an ambulance driver on the Italian Front in 1918, travelling to Milan and then Fossalta di Piave, around 40 miles north of Venice. He was wounded by mortar fire, earning the Italian Silver Medal of Bravery in the process.

He returned to the States in 1919, and after almost a year out, took a job at the Toronto Star. Hemingway and his new wife, Hadley Richardson, moved to 39 rue Descartes, Paris, in December 1921. La Closerie des Lilas was a favoured haunt – today’s menu includes filet de boeuf Hemingway – as were the cafés in the 6th or 14th arrondissements.

He became obsessed with bullfighting after attending the San Fermin festival in Pamplona in 1923, and returned at least nine times. His time in Pamplona, and other parts of inspired him to write The Sun Also Rises and Death in the Afternoon. His favoured Pamplona venues included the Gran Hotel La Perla, Bar Txoko, Bar Torino, and the Hotel Quintana – all of which can still be visited.
In 1927, Richardson and Hemingway divorced, and the writer married Pauline Pfeiffer, who worked in Paris for Vogue magazine. Their honeymoon was taken in Le-Grau-du-Roi – which recently featured in Telegraph Travel’s Secret Seaside series. Here he planned Men Without Women. He came back in 1948.

”This is a fine place… with a long beach and fine fishing port.”

Pfeiffer and Hemingway went on safari in 1933, visiting Mombasa and the Serengeti. The trip inspired Green Hills of Africa. Sailing his boat named Pilar, he would often visit the Caribbean, and spent many months in Bimini in the Bahamas, living at the Compleat Angler Hotel (which no longer exists) and scouring the surrounding seas for marlin, tuna and swordfish.

Hemingway covered the Spanish Civil War in 1937 and 1938, and was present at the Battle of the Ebro. His Barcelona drinking favorites included Marsella and Boadas.  Hemingway lived in the Hotel Ambos Mundoes in Havana for several months in 1939. El Floridita and La Bodeguita del Medio were among his favourite bars and Finca Vigia – where he wrote The Old Man and the Sea – is now a museum.


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