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A Moveable Feast: Travelling Like Ernest Hemingway

Among his many attributes, Ernest Hemingway was a prolific traveller. For fans wanting to see what made him tick and get a taste of his zest for life, hitting the road is the best way to do it.

By Gayatri Bhaumik
May 3, 2022

Acclaimed American author Ernest Hemingway—Papa, as his friends called him—led a colourful life of improbable adventures, brash confrontations, and frenzied writing. He was also a prolific traveller, living the jet-set life before planes became mainstream. For Hemingway fans, visiting his former haunts around the world is a fitting way to understand the complicated writer. But even if you don’t like his sometimes heavy, bleak novels, it’s worth travelling to some of the places Hemingway frequented to hear the myths and legends about him—and enjoy the way he lived life to the fullest.

There are plenty of options, too. Many of us know about his obsession with the Florida Keys, Paris, and Cuba. But what about his frolics in Madrid and Venice, his safaris across Africa, or his stints in Singapore and Bangkok? From elegant hotels and rowdy bars—he was a notorious boozer—to airy homes and great restaurants, you’ll find a great place to visit—and an intriguing Hemingway story to go with it.



Hemingway House Key West | Photo: Pixabay

He was born in the US, so it makes sense that there are many sites of interest for Hemingway fans in the country. We kick things off in Chicago, where a Queen Anne home—Hemingway’s childhood home—has been turned into the Ernest Hemingway’s Birthplace Museum, a window into how he spent his first six years.

Hemingway wrote some of his best works—“The Snows of Kilimanjaro” and “To Have and Have Not”, in Key West, so a visit down to Florida is key to see the place that inspired him. Start at the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, which still houses descendants of Hemingway’s six-toed cat. For the full effect, time your visit for the rowdy Hemingway Days, a five-day festival dedicated to celebrating the life and works of the famed author. Don’t forget to tuck into a Hemingway-approved liquid feast by downing a dry martini at his beloved Sloppy Joe’s. The bar’s owner, Joe Russell, supplied Hemingway with bootleg scotch during Prohibition.

Sloppy Joe's Bar | Photo: Sloppy Joe's

Despite his adventuring, Hemingway was drawn to his native country towards the end of his life, spending several years in Sun Valley, Idaho, and the town of Ketchum, where he died in 1961—his grave is in Ketchum Cemetery. Book the Celebrity Suite at the Sun Valley Lodge, where the writer finished penning “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, hit his favourite local watering holes, including Casino Bar and Pioneer Saloon, then line your stomach with French fare at Michel’s Christiana, where Hemingway had his own table. Die-hards shouldn’t miss the Ernest and Mary Hemingway House and Preserve, where the couple lived from 1959 to 1961—aspiring writers can even try to enrol in the library’s Hemingway Writer-in-Residence programme.



Photo: Bar Hemingway

Hemingway called Paris a moveable feast because, having visited it once, the city stays with you. He certainly knew what he was talking about because he spent plenty of time in the French capital—even during the Second World War—among other Lost Generation writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald. He had a particular affection for the Ritz Paris—there’s a Hemingway Suite—and its bar. In 1944, he famously gathered a group of resistance fighters at the Ritz’s bar and racked up a tab of 51 martinis while “liberating” the hotel from German forces—who had already left the city by then. Naturally, the scene of this boisterous “liberation” is now called Bar Hemingway.

Photo: Les Deux Magots

Hemingway also frequented many of Paris’s cafés, including three that are still famous for having been gathering places for the city’s greatest thinkers. Whether you choose to nab a table at Les Deux Magots or Café de Flore—both in Saint-Germain-des-Prés—or head to La Closerie des Lilas, near Hemingway’s former apartment in Montparnasse, you can practically feel Papa’s ghost working on his latest manuscript and arguing the merits (or lack thereof) of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”.



“Don Ernesto” spent a lot of time in Spain—he covered the Spanish Civil War as a journalist—and many joke there are few bars in Madrid he didn’t frequent. Still, it’s worth having a sherry—fresh from a cask—at La Venencia, where Hemingway would meet Republican soldiers, or a cocktail at Museo Chicote, where he brushed shoulders with other foreign journalists. While you’re here, why not feast at El Sobrino de Botín—the world’s oldest restaurant—where Hemingway would write during the day then enjoy a roast suckling pig lunch—and martinis—with friends.



Finca Vigia | Photo: Gayatri Bhaumik

He might have travelled across the world and fallen in love with different places, but Hemingway left his heart in Cuba. On arriving in Havana, Hemingway lived in room 511 at Hotel Ambos Mundos and wrote “For Whom the Bell Tolls”—the room is now a museum complete with his typewriter, reading glasses, and other personal items.

From 1939-1959, Hemingway lived at Finca Vigia, a Spanish colonial estate not far from Havana. It’s been preserved as he left it, with his 9,000 books, taxidermic safari trophies, and possessions arranged throughout. Poke your head into the breezy study—where Hemingway wrote his Noble Prize-winning novel “The Old Man and the Sea”—and see the pool where he and actress Ava Gardener frolicked and drank with abandon. Don’t miss seeing Pilar, Hemingway’s beloved fishing boat, which, if you believe the rumour, he used on espionage missions while working for the CIA.

Bodeguita Del Medio | Gayatri Bhaumik

Of course, Hemingway found beloved bars while in Cuba. He famously quipped “My mojito in the Bodeguita del Medio and my daiquiri in the Floridita”, and this has turned two rather unassuming watering holes into tourist attractions in the Old Havana district. He once drank fifteen extra-cold, sugarless daiquiris one day amidst the old-world furnishings of El Floridita—now, visitors share a daiquiri with the life-sized bronze Hemingway statue propped up at the bar. Just a few streets away, Hemingway would down mojitos at La Bodeguita del Medio alongside the likes of Marlene Dietrich and Nat King Cole. Now, the bar makes the cocktail in bulk for the tourists who spill into the streets dancing to the tunes of a live salsa band.

This only scratches the surface of the rich experiences that await you if you venture to follow in Hemingway’s footsteps. But doesn’t that already sound more interesting than whatever your Lonely Planet guide suggested?