Join MyRoomIn for a tour of the Latin Quarter, an absolute must-see for any visit to Paris! Of course you know all about Notre Dame, the Panthéon, the prestigious Sorbonne University, and the Boulevard Saint Michel and its famous fountain, every one a legendary part of Paris history. But this neighborhood has much more to offer than its great monuments. The Latin Quarter, one of the oldest parts of the capital, is bursting with hidden treasures that you probably don’t even know about!
For starters, a bit of advice: start your tour of the Latin Quarter by crossing the Pont de Sully, one of the bridges leading to the Ile Saint Louis. From here, you’ll have one of the most breathtaking views of Notre Dame Cathedral, and a bit of the Eiffel Tower off in the distance for an extra bonus! Romance guaranteed…
Stroll along the Boulevard Saint-Germain till you reach the intersection with the Boulevard Saint-Michel, and then step back in time to explore Paris of the Middle Ages. On this corner you’ll find one of the rare surviving sites from the medieval period, the Musée de Cluny. In a superb, certified historic monument that was once a mansion, the Musée National du Moyen-Age holds an extraordinarily rich collection of medieval art, as well as the Thermes de Cluny, ancient vestiges of the Gallo-Roman era, when Paris was still called Lutèce! Talk about traveling back in time!
Right nearby, stop in the Square René Viviani, which is home to the oldest tree in Paris (over 400 years old)! From there you’ll have a lovely panoramic view of Notre Dame.
The Latin Quarter is also – and maybe above all – the historical home to students and great thinkers: the prestigious Sorbonne rubs shoulders with the Panthéon, whose majestic dome and neoclassical columns face the Luxembourg Gardens. The area is also home to a number of schools with centuries-old reputations: behind the Panthéon, two of the oldest high schools in France, where the crème de la crème of French students go to school: the Lycée Henri IV (Pompidou was a teacher there, and Sartre a student) and Louis le Grand (Richelieu went to school there!), which is so named because it enjoyed the « official patronage » of the Sun King, Louis XIV.
And then there’s the Collège de France, near the Place Maubert, a center of learning that existed well before the Sorbonne, founded in the 16th century by François 1! Not far from there, if you’re hungry, stop off at one of the best bakeries in Paris, Eric Kayser, at 8 Rue Monge. Or have a quick coffee at the hip organic Café Strada, at 24 Rue Monge, where you also have wi-fi and excellent fresh-pressed juices.
Closer to the Luxembourg Gardens, we recommend the restaurant Le Salon, which actually sits on top of the Cinéma du Panthéon. This cafe-restaurant was tastefully decorated by the actress Catherine Deneuve, who created a subdued and intimate atmosphere with large sofas. A decidedly Left Bank, intellectual-chic vibe!
Still on the Boulevard Saint-Michel, pop into the famous Joseph Gibert bookstore, where students, profs and bookworms go for the latest bestseller, used books, foreign-language books, and every kind of guidebook. A genuine goldmine if your passion is reading or teaching! And if you still need more, you can also head for Rue de la Bûcherie, where you’ll find the iconic English-language bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, which has floor-to-ceiling books and tons of history. Browse, chat and lose yourself for an hour or two.
End your Latin Quarter tour at one of the most beautiful green spaces in Paris, the Luxembourg Gardens. To be truly Parisian, head straight for one of the green metal chairs arranged around the Fontaine Médicis. On sunny days, every student in Paris comes here to « study » while sunning. The perfect place to crack open one of those books you just bought…
You will have figured out by now that the Latin Quarter is an area that attracts tourists, but it’s also the historical home to great minds, intellectuals and students who have for centuries given it its reputation. It’s also a perfect neighborhood for losing yourself wandering through quaint, winding streets, from the Rue de la Huchette to the Rue de Bièvre, where François Mitterrand once lived.
Right now in the Latin Quarter:
- Galerie Pippa: Permanent exhibit: Sous le ciel de Paris
- Musée de Cluny: Temporary exhibit from April 13 to August 29: Enamels from Limoges as profane decor. From the collections of Cardinal Guala Bicchier.