Where Hemingway once walked, and students now weave in and out of Soufflot Hall (the Sorbonne University’s art gallery) and the Sainte-Geneviève Library, is the storied Latin Quarter, straddling parts of the fifth and sixth arrondissements of Paris. With the rise of Right Bank neighborhoods like Belleville, Canal Saint-Martin, and Pigalle, it may be easy to forget this historic corner behind Notre Dame Cathedral. However, the Quartier Latin is still rife with interesting things to do and see, and its beauty is beyond comparison. Take this petite balade (stroll) and reintroduce yourself to its charm.
Stay at Le 66. Neither a hotel nor bed-and-breakfast, it is more of a home, and you are the guest. You can stay in one of the four rooms in this 18th-century property, enjoying the terrace garden and hanging out with friendly cats. And be sure to start the day with Le 66’s hearty breakfast.
If you wind your way down rue Censier, it turns into rue Buffon, running parallel to the Jardin des Plantes. The Tuileries and Luxembourg gardens might have all the glamor, but this sizable botanical garden has just as much to offer, if not more, especially in the warmer months. There’s also the Grande Galerie de l’Évolution (plenty of taxidermied animal specimens) and the Muséum national d’histoire naturelle.
Just behind the Grande Galerie de l’Évolution is perhaps one of Paris’s best surprises: the Grande Mosquée de Paris. It’s a grand display of Moorish architecture, from the minaret to the horseshoe arches and mosaic detailing in the courtyards.
If you’re not yet hungry, take a quick spin through the Arènes de Lutèce. The entrance is so plain you might just walk by, but peek in to see the ruins of a Roman amphitheater. Now surrounded by gardens, it offers a shady picnic spot.
For lunch, there are a few options. Walking up rue Lacépède will land you right into the lively Place de la Contrescarpe, which buzzes with cafés. Here you’ll find traditional French food, a relaxed atmosphere for people watching, and a nice spot for a drink. If you walk 15 minutes more, you’ll be at the beloved expat establishment Treize au Jardin, right across from the Luxembourg gardens. This comfort food café serves up hearty plates — benedicts, American pancakes, cheese grits, and quiches. It’s American fare with a European flair. It’s also ideal for a snack — one look at the dessert bar and you’ll want one of everything — especially the carrot cake.
The Red Wheelbarrow is an Anglophone bookshop and two doors down. You’ll want to admire the doors — beautiful robin-egg blue — before hopping inside to peruse the shelves. There’s a wide selection for children and adults, from cooking to business, and narratives and mysteries. It’s homey and less crowded than its nearby and more famous competitor, Shakespeare & Co.
Just around the corner is the Pantheon. You could climb it, or you could duck into the beautiful Sainte-Geneviève Library that’s just to the left. Go visit and peek inside one of the marvelous great study halls — soaring, gracefully arched ceilings and walls upon walls of books.
Now you have a couple options. If it’s not yet 3 p.m., you can swing by Place Maubert near the Seine and catch the farmer’s market. Smell the cheese, buy a bouquet, take a look at the goodies. You’ll also want to taste the prize-winning croissant at La Maison d’Isabelle — winner of the best all-butter croissant in Île-de-France in 2018. And at just 1€, you might as well grab a few. Even if you miss the market, the croissant is worth sampling. And, if you didn’t swing by Place de la Contrescarpe earlier, now is the perfect time for a petite pause. Grab a drink and watch the passersby.
After you’re done with goûter, it’s time to walk deep into the 5th arrondissement. Technically, we’ll be leaving the Quartier Latin, but it’s the best way to wrap on the neighborhood.
If you’ve ever ridden the metro to Gare d’Austerlitz, you’ve probably observed (if you were looking up from your phone), a magnificent dome in the distance. The dome belongs to Val-de-Grâce, which in its past served as a convent and medical school. It is now a military hospital and church. The church is a beautiful display of Baroque architecture, designed by François Mansart, with a baldacchino that is reminiscent of the one in the Vatican.
End your tour with an apéro and dinner at l’Académie de la Bière. Serving up traditional Belgian fare and an extensive beer list, it’s fun, lively, and affordable. I recommend the leek pie, the croque monsieur (beer involved), and the chocolate mousse. Fries and beer are also a given.
Le 66 – 66 Rue Lhomond, 75005 Paris
Jardin des Plantes & Muséum national d’histoire naturelle – 57 Rue Cuvier, 75005 Paris
Grande Galerie de l’Évolution – 36 Rue Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire, 75005 Paris
Grande Mosquée de Paris – 2bis Place du Puits de l’Ermite, 75005 Paris
Arènes de Lutèce – 49 Rue Monge, 75005 Paris
Treize au Jardin – 5 Rue de Médicis, 75006 Paris
The Red Wheelbarrow – 9 Rue de Médicis, 75006 Paris
Sainte-Geneviève Library – 10 Place du Panthéon, 75005 Paris
Panthéon – Place du Panthéon, 75005 Paris
La Maison d’Isabelle – 47ter Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75005 Paris
Val-de-Grâce – 74 Boulevard de Port-Royal, 75005 Paris
L’Académie de la Bière – 88Bis Boulevard de Port-Royal, 75005 Paris
- While you’re out and about, why not take a stroll through some of Paris’ prettiest squares (or, a virtual tour from home!).
- Check out some other suggestions for what to do in Paris’ Latin Quarter.
- You’ve heard of the slow fashion movement, now check out the slow flower movement sweeping through Paris.
Written by Marissa Wu for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Haven In for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long-term or buy in France or Italy? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates.
4 comments on “A Guide to Paris’s Latin Quarter”
Good blog about Paris, it brings back memories of the Latin Quarter, the many streets in Latin Quarter surrounding what was the student and intellectual center continues to attract tourists and Parisians.
I tried to write a blog about it, hope you like it: https://stenote.blogspot.com/2018/09/paris-at-latin-quarter.html
Paris, 1997. I was four days into a weeklong mid-November vacation and heading down from the village of Montmartre via funicular. After admiring the froglike Art Nouveau entrance at Abesses, I zipped down the steps to hop on le métro. Le Panthéon awaited. I had meandered in Montmartre too long — not a difficult thing to do — chasing ghosts of Picasso and Lautrec as they revisited the impoverished years; trying to find Anouk Aimée’s character Anne’s tony apartment building in Lelouch’s Un Homme et Une Femme; and tracing the steps of two pairs of lovers in Paris Blues.
After people-watching on le boulevard St-Michel and Nôtre-dame-peeping (I had experienced vespers there the previous day, Sunday, in late afternoon), it was close to three. Munching on an organic carrot muffin I had saved from my Sunday-morning bounty at a street market near my hotel in the 6e, I made my way up Ste-Geneviève and peered up at the magnificently ominous Panthéon. Awesome architecture on the exterior and creepy crypts inside — but I had made it there.
What a colorful, buzzing quartier the 5e is! I desired to see more of it, enjoy an apéro, oui, but before I could exit Le Panthéon, I stubbed my booted foot (my right one) on one of those gorgeous columns. Limping out into the street, I was met with lavender and mauve hues of an early sunset. With great effort, I hobbled past la Sorbonne and, as if on cue, an accordion melody rippled through the crisp air. Hotel-bound, I bought des crêpes de jambon et fromage Gruyère from a cart, and I regretted both my clumsiness and my choice to ignore the extroverted Quartier Latin’s seductive cry to stay ’til night … really late.
My very first visit to Paris was in February, 1953. I have been back for many, many visits and had the good fortune to live in the 5th for just over a year. I love Paris. Esp. the 5th, and, know it well.
This is my 87th year, and one that I had planned for my last-ever trip to Europe, to include a month in Paris’ 5th, and, another month in Budapest (which vies for my Paris loyalty). However, the corona virus has interfered, and, I must now face the likelihood of having already taken my last-ever trip to Europe in 2019. Sigh and Sob…
Your photos are great! And many are lovely. Thank you so much for all, the words, the photos; for me, it is heartwarming to see and read.
Great and informative – if I can ever go to Paris again, I plan to go to several if your suggestions.