- 27, Jun 2018
- All things Paris
- Amanda Mehtala & Arthini Pulenthiran
You never know just what you'l stumble upon when exploring Parisian neighbourhoods, let's explore the Latin Quarter
How about a trip to the Rive Gauche? Just south of the Seine River in the heart of Paris, lies the Latin Quarter and adjacent Saint Germain districts, boasting both celebrated monuments (Notre Dame anyone?), and a few hidden Paris spots that are definitely worth checking out. As the true intellectual center of Paris, The Latin Quarter is home to many students and young Parisians. Why is it called the Latin Quarter? Some of the first inhabitants of the city of Paris were, in fact, the Romans. As the intellectual hub of ancient Paris, the language spoken in this area was once Latin. While the daily conversation has definitely switched over to French since the Roman times, this oldest district of Paris still holds many remnants of its former past, both in name and interesting places to visit! With schools, parks, and vibrant nightlife, this neighbourhood is always busy day and night, and you are guaranteed to have a very lively experience. This is also an incredibly international Parisian neighbourhood, attracting people from all over the globe to explore Paris from medieval times to today. That's not to say there are no Parisians, locals hold this spot dear in their hearts. This historical Parisian neighbourhood has some of the most expensive real estate in the city, you may even cross a few well-known faces in the streets! For some can't miss Parisian experiences, and some more local hangouts - here is a guide to some of the best places and things to do in the Latin Quarter, and some quick ideas for activities near Saint Germain in Paris.
Take a walk!
Sometimes when visiting a new place, we forget to use our eyes. The Latin Quarter is a beautiful place to walk instead of taking public transportation. Let your eyes do the work for you! The riverbanks by the Seine are gorgeous and are a must-see in the neighbourhood, and can occupy hours of your time. Another great place to walk is the Rue Mouffetard. One of the oldest streets in the city, it looks like something out of a postcard. The charming cobblestone sidewalks and lovely architecture provide a very French atmosphere, and there are endless options along rue Mouffetard and throughout the Latin Quarter to grab a quick drink à la parisien. Instead of taking the metro or a taxi, we'd recommend putting on some comfortably chic shoes for a stroll through historic Paris. So there you have it, our very first tip to appreciating the Latin Quarter in Paris is simple!
Explore medieval Paris at the Cluny Museum
If you're going to explore one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Paris, you might as well start in medieval times at the beginning!The Cluny Museum of Middle Ages houses everything you can think of from the Middle Ages in Paris, when the city was nothing more than a growing hub around a river. With its fortress-like exterior featuring ruins of Roman baths, inside you'll discover artwork and more from the city's early beginnings. It's most famous piece, you might recognize, is a tapestry featuring a mysterious princess and her unicorn...we'll let you decide how this all fits into the history of the City of Lights!
Visit La Sorbonne University
While you're still in the Middle ages, why not check out Europe's second oldest university, La Sorbonne, dating back to the 1200s! The Sorbonne University is arguably what gives the neighbourhood its scholarly feel, a true edifice of the Latin Quarter. Thanks to this prestigious university, the neighbourhood is bustling with students at all times. The establishment has played a strong role throughout French history, being shut down and reopened multiple times with ever-shifting political and religious tensions. From its own chapel and amphitheatre, the entire complex has been classified as a historical monument. As you wander the halls of this amazing academic institution, imagine the original religious scholar Sorbon who began a small college near Notre Dame to educate twenty pupils, before growing into the institution of higher education that it is today. In addition to its status as an incredibly respected and admired institution, the university is also not bad to look at. Its gorgeous medieval architecture is most definitely a sight to see. Brains and looks, what's not to love?
See a show at the Lucernaire, urban art center
How about something a bit more contemporary? After a long day of walking through the Middle Ages, it might be nice to sit down, relax and enjoy a show. This theatre perfectly placed in the center of the quartier, easily accessible. In 1975, this modern cultural center was created in an old blow-torch factory in the heart of the Paris Latin Quarter. The aim of the Lucernaire founders was to create a shared space of urban culture. In addition to live performances, you will also find modern art exhibitions, film screenings, and a dining area at the Théâtre Lucernaire. Just as pretty as the outside, the theatres interior houses luxurious velvet seating where there is no bad spot in the house. And if you get hungry, the theatre has its own restaurant and bar in house, perfect to complete your night. What's better? This historic venue holds many shows featuring English subtitles, so even if your French isn't quite parfait, you won't miss a single word.
Stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens
Whether you want a pre-show stroll or a perfect picnic spot after a performance, you can always head just a few steps from the theatre over to the Luxembourg Garden right next door! You’ll often see many students lounging around during lunch time or taking a study break in the lawn, and if you come early enough you might even spy the local pack of Parisian firefighters taking a morning jog. This garden is one of the larger sized gardens of Paris, taking up twenty five hectares of land. The garden is filled with colors, and your eyes will never get bored with all the flowers and statues spread throughout the park. With secluded romantic gardens, tennis courts and classic little wooden boats for the kids to play in the fountains, there's something to amuse everyone in this Latin Quarter must-see. It’s a great spot to relax and enjoy a sense of nature you might not see otherwise in the city. Looking for some more must-see parks and gardens in Paris?
Lounge in a world famous bookshop - Shakespeare & CO.
Of course the most intellectual neighbourhood of Paris has its own share of gorgeous bookshops and libraries. The Shakespeare and Company Bookshop might be the most notable Parisian address. One step inside and you will realise why this place is a book-lover’s dream. The bookshop holds thousands of new and used books in the English language, even containing translations of classics. Throughout the years, celebrated authors from around the globe have visited this location to meet fans, and hold book launches and signings. The quaint shop with its nooks and crannies perfect for reading has even been the set of a few Hollywood movies (Seen Before Sunset anyone? More on that here!). Right next door is the shop’s sister café which serves the most delicious of French pastries and coffees to compliment your next read.
Grab some French food at the market
At some point during your walk through the Latin Quarter, you are bound to get hungry, and the Parisian neighbourhood has two perfect choices!
For your classic outdoor French food market, Maubert Market is the place to go. Skip over the fancy restaurants and live like a Parisian for this meal, even bring your wares over to the Luxembourg gardens for a picnic! This charismatic food market has over 45 booths to choose from making sure that everyone in your party is satisfied. It is opened on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday until mid afternoon, so plan accordingly!
Rain or shine, you can always head inside to the covered market at Saint Germain. On the Parisian map since the 1700s, this chic covered market has been completely redone as part of a new neighbourhood project and frequented by the locals of the Saint Germain neighbourhood. In addition to delicious food stands, you'll find a selection of restaurant options, in addition to some boutiques, a community center, underground parking, even a public pool!
For a bit of tranquility, and history, visit one of the Latin Quarter churches
As one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city, it is no wonder that the Latin Quarter features some truly glorious churches with some spectacular architecture. The most obvious are of course Notre Dame and its smaller neighbour Saint Séverin, but once you head a few steps into the depth of the Latin Quarter you'll find it to be rich with different religious establishments to explore. In no particular order, here's our 3 favorites:
Saint Germain des Près Church - few realise that right around the corner from the Notre Dame, in the outskirts of the medieval Paris Latin Quarter, lies one of the oldest churches in Paris. Far outdating Notre Dame, the Saint Germain de Près abbey dates back to the 6th century, under the reign of one of the very first kings of France. It's of course had a few restorations over the years, but still holds its secret early Parisian charm.
Saint Sulpice - a more modern option for your Latin Quarter visit, dating from the 19th century that is, would be this lovely location and its beautiful fountain just outside.
Saint Etienne du Mont - at the steps of the Pantheon, this smaller but all-the-more charming edifice holds a special secret, the church houses remnants of Saint Genevieve herself, deemed the savoir saint of Paris after having supposedly saved the city through prayer from an attack by the Huns. Paris blogger extraordinaire Vanessa Grall explains more about this unique address to visit in the Latin Quarter.
You never know what you'll find on exhibition at the Fondation EDF
Who would have thought EDF, France's major electricity provider, would be responsible for a modern exhibition center in the heart of a chic Latin Quarter shopping district? At the Fondation EDF there's always something interesting to explore, so stop in while your wandering the streets of Saint Germain and see what interesting tidbits they have to share. The focus is always on changing society and exploring tomorrow's issues. Demonstrations change every few months so you never quite know what you'll stumble across, and it's always free of charge. Past exhibitions have included everything from the history of video games, creative uses of Artificial Intelligence, even creating artificial climates!
STOP FOR A (TINY) BITE AT THE SMALLEST BAKERY IN PARIS
Walk to quickly and you might just miss it, because the smallest bakery in Paris, probably in all of France, is certainly tiny! One person at a time standing room only to enter Cupcake and Macaron. Can you guess what 2 desserts they serve? Wedged in between a yellow mailbox and a restaurant, this tiny little door is home to the award winning 'Best Cupcake in Paris.' Not to miss!
Address: 1 rue du Four, 75006 Paris
Chez Georges, a truly Parisian bistrot
When you've explored the Latin Quarter to your heart's content, there's nothing better than stopping by Chez Georges, a no-fuss typical Parisian bistro where you can get beer, wine, and a classic planche of French dried sausage and cheese. Situated on a seemingly quiet little road, the Parisian street comes alive at night, when many locals come for a drink at one of the many bars and restaurants lining this Saint Germain hidden spot. Chez Georges has been around since the 1950s, and seemingly hasn't changed since. The walls are always lined with posters of current shows and exhibitions, so take notes for your next adventure while you sip a glass of Bordeaux.
Address: 11 rue des cannettes, 75006 Paris
A chic wine bar, Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels
Or maybe you'd rather forgo the bistrop for something a bit more chic? Then head around the corner to the Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, a little Parisian wine bar right in the heart of the Saint Germain neighbourhood. With a huge selection of wine (over 600 on the menu!) for any budget, the staff are always willing to answer questions and give their recommendations. The menu of refined tapas and entrées is the perfect pairing, with an interior decor making you feel like you're in a Parisian chic living room. Insider tip: as space is limited, we recommend making a quick reservation in advanced to ensure seating.
Address: 7 rue Lobineau, 75006 Paris
There you have it, all the best places for a bit of French culture and food in the historic Latin Quarter and Saint Germain neighbourhood of Paris.
Did we miss any hidden spots in the Paris Latin Quarter? Leave us a comment!
Read our Paris Montparnasse neighbourhood guide, and we'll be adding more neighbourhood guides to this series, to give you a taste of each unique corner of Paris
Want to get a head start and book your Latin Quarter theatre night?