Atmospheric Parisian cafes, quirky bookstores and stylish students give the Latin Quarter a special bohemian charm. This vibrant, artsy and eclectic district is one of the oldest parts of Paris. During the Middle Ages, the Sorbonne University attracted scholars from all over Europe who learned and spoke Latin, and explained the name of the quarter. There are still many higher education institutions in this historic academic district, including La Sorbonne and the Collège de France. Roughly bounded by Boulevard Saint-Michel, Boulevard Saint-Germain and the River Seine, the Latin Quarter represents part of the city’s 5th arrondissement on the Left Bank.
Most of the Latin Quarter is a medieval maze of winding, narrow streets and stone-paved alleys, with a few quiet, hidden squares. With the exception of the Boulevard Saint-Michel, this district has a distinctly old-fashioned character. Wander the side streets to explore the pedestrian lanes. Peek inside ancient churches, dine aboard a boat moored on the Seine River and discover the ruins of a Roman amphitheater. The vibrant feel of the Latin Quarter, with its restaurants, shops, movies and theaters, makes spending time here one of the best things to do in Paris.
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1 Cluny Museum (National Museum of the Middle Ages)
Discover the beauty and depth of medieval art at the Cluny Museum. This National Museum of the Middle Ages is housed in the 14th-century Hôtel de Cluny, formerly the Paris mansion for the Benedictine Cluny Abbey in Burgundy. The building happens to be located on the excavation site of an ancient Roman bath complex . One of the museum’s rooms is located in the ruins of the former frigidarium (cold baths), which now house Roman and Gallic sculptures from the 1st century AD.
The Cluny Museum is best known for its collection of medieval tapestries. The oldest of the tapestries is the Flemish Offrande du Coeur , a delicate declaration of love made in the 15th century. The greatest treasure is the famous Lady with the Unicorn ( Dame à la Licorne ) tapestry series. Created in the 15th century, the six tapestries in the series were intended as an allegory of the five senses and the pleasures of the senses. These beautifully detailed tapestries were made in the “millefleurs” style of the time. This technique features intricate patterns of flowers (“millefleurs” meaning “thousand flowers”), animals and birds. Besides the unicorn, look out for the little bunny and the friendly dogs.
Address: 6 Place Paul Painlevé 75005 Parijs (Cluny-La Sorbonne Metro station, Saint-Michel of Odéon)
This famous monument of the Latin Quarter is a mausoleum containing the graves of France’s most prominent citizens. Above the facade of 18 Corinthian columns, an inscription reads ‘Aux Grands Hommes la Patrie Reconnaissante’, meaning ‘To Great Men, Their Country is Grateful’. The famous architect Jacques-Germain Soufflot was commissioned by King Louis XV in 1756 to build a grandiose church to replace the destroyed Abbey of Sainte Geneviève. Soufflot managed to create a masterpiece of neoclassical style, with the architectural simplicity and monumentality of antiquity. After the church was completed, it was converted into a mausoleum by raising the church windows to give the interior a somber ambiance. The name Panthéon is inspired by the classical temples of ancient Greece that were dedicated to multiple gods. The entire space of the Panthéon is dedicated to remembering the achievements of France’s most influential men. Below the main dome, Foucault’s pendulum was shown here, which proved the rotation of the earth. There are 72 great citizens buried here. Among the famous names are the authors Victor Hugo and Emile Zola as well as the philosophers Voltaire and Rousseau.
Address: Address: 19 Place du Panthéon, 75005 Paris (Metro: Luxembourg station)
3 Saint-Sévérin Saint-Nicolas Church
As you walk through the Latin Quarter, take time to admire the historic churches, which are often missed by most tourists. The Eglise Saint-Séverin Saint-Nicolas is one of the finest examples of Flamboyant Gothic architecture in Paris. With its dark sanctuary lit by candles, the church has a somber and spiritual atmosphere. The architecture combines different styles, with a simple nave from the 13th century and stained glass windows from the 14th and 15th centuries. Other notable details of the interior include the pillars with elaborately carved capitals and fanciful keystones. The Church of Saint-Séverin Saint-Nicolas regularly organizes classical organ recitals open to the public.
Address: Address: 3 Rue des Prêtes Saint-Séverin, 75005 Parijs (metro: Saint-Michel, Cluny-La Sorbonne of station Maubert-Mutualité)
Official site: https://www.saint-severin.com/
4 Boulevard Saint-Michel & Place Saint-Michel
The busy main street of Boulevard Saint-Michel and the bustling Place Saint-Michel bring modern energy to the Latin Quarter. Unlike the narrow medieval streets that are tightly packed in most of the district, Boulevard Saint-Michel is a wide modern street designed by Haussmann in the 19th century. The Boulevard Saint-Michel is lined with artsy bookstores, clothing stores, busy cafes and other student cafes.
At the end of Boulevard Saint-Michel, a stone’s throw from the River Seine, is Place Saint-Michel. This atmospheric public square is the real heart of the Latin Quarter. The square is busy day and night with locals heading to the metro, students going to class and tourists visiting the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. The centerpiece of the Place Saint-Michel is the monumental Fontaine Saint-Michel . Commissioned by Haussmann under Napoleon III, this beautiful fountain depicts the Archangel Michael conquering the devil. The allegorical image evokes the theme of good fighting evil. Stop in the tourist tradition of tossing a coin into the fountain and making a wish.
Address: Address: Boulevard Saint-Michel, 75005 Paris (metro: Saint-Michel or Cluny-La Sorbonne)
5 Atmospheric medieval streets
A mandatory tourist experience is getting lost in the labyrinth of narrow streets in the Latin Quarter. The narrowest street is Rue du Chat Qui Pêche (The Cat Who Fishes), an alley that runs from Rue de la Huchette to the River Seine. This small street only offers enough space for pedestrians to walk a file. Rue de la Huchette is lined with small shops and with restaurants aimed at tourists and students (but not gourmets). Other historic streets worth exploring include Rue Saint-Sevérin , where the Eglise Saint-Sevérin is located, and Rue de la Harpe , another street lined with restaurants and cafés.
On the gently sloping hill of the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève, Rue Mouffetard is one of the oldest and most atmospheric streets in Paris. Known as ‘Mouffe’, this narrow street is lined with historic shops, houses from the 16th to 18th centuries and lovely restaurants popular with students. (The upper part of the street is “Little Athens” with mainly Greek restaurants.) The street is especially lively on weekend evenings when many buskers come to entertain guests. Rue Mouffetard starts at the Panthéon and ends at Place de la Contrescarpe , a pleasant square with many terraces.
6 Bouquinistes & Bookstores
To discover the typical Latin Quarter atmosphere, take a stroll along the Quai de la Tournelles, which runs along the Seine River. Les Bouquinistes are riverside booksellers along the quays around the Pont Marie (bridge). This popular open-air bookstore has quaint stalls full of classic and modern literary works. In addition to used and new books, postcards and posters are also for sale. Across the street from the bookstalls at 53 Quai des Grands Augustins is Restaurant Les Bouquinistes . This modern restaurant offers Guy Savoy’s gourmet cuisine. In an enchanting location near the Pont Neuf, the restaurant offers views of the River Seine and the bookstalls along the quay.
The old streets of the Latin Quarter are also filled with many eclectic bookstores, including the legendary second-hand bookstore Shakespeare and Company at 37 Rue de la Bûcherie. This bohemian bookstore sells old editions of everything from Shakespeare to James Joyce. Shakespeare and Company is a well-known gathering place for writers, and some in-house writers even live here, sleeping on beds between the library aisles. The store organizes literary events such as book readings, children’s events and book launches. The nearest metro station is Saint-Michel.
7 Dine on the River Seine
For an unforgettable culinary experience, try one of the péniches along the banks of the River Seine around the Pont Saint-Michel. péniches are charming, small moored boats with inviting restaurants. These boat restaurants offer a unique tourist experience that is often missed by tourists. The restaurants have an outdoor terrace with magical views of the River Seine, Notre Dame Cathedral , the Ile-Saint-Louis , and the Pont Neuf (bridge). Some piniches restaurants also offer live musical entertainment.
To enjoy a more luxurious meal, there is the legendary Tour d’Argent , one of Paris’s most renowned gourmet restaurants. This Michelin-starred restaurant is located at 15 Quai de la Tournelle, on the waterfront of the River Seine. The dining room dazzles guests with spectacular views of Notre Dame Cathedral. The refined (and expensive) restaurant is known for its classic French cuisine. One of the restaurant’s legendary desserts is called “Les Crêpes Belle Epoque” (crêpes served in an orange sauce). Make sure you book in advance and wear appropriate clothing. The nearest metro stations are Saint-Michel or Maubert – Mutualité stations.
8 Saint-Etienne du Mont Church
Another beautiful historic church, the Eglise Saint-Etienne-du-Mont was built in the 15th century, from the late Gothic period to the Renaissance. The architecture shows the evolution of styles. The nave of the church features a Gothic vault, while the round pillars were influenced by Renaissance design. The church is famous for its red screen, which has a central marble section and a spiral staircase at both ends. At the entrance to the Chapel of Our Lady are the epitaphs of the philosopher Blaise Pascal and the playwright Jean Racine, who are buried in the church. It is also said that the church contains a stone from the tomb of Saint Genevieve. Spectacular 15th to 16th century stained glass windows depict scenes from the Apocalypse and the Parable of the Wedding Feast.
Address: Address: Place Sainte-Geneviève, 75005 Parijs (metro: Maubert-Mutualité of kardinaal Lemoine-station)
9 Place de l’Odeon
The Place de l’Odeon is an elegant square lined with beautiful old Parisian buildings. The main monument on the square is the impressive Théâtre de l’Odéon . This theater is home to the Comédie-Française , a theater company that performs classic French theater such as comedies by Molière and drama by Victor Hugo. On warm days, students enjoy hanging out on the covered terrace and the steps of the theater. The charming side streets around the Place de l’Odeon are wonderful to explore. Take a stroll and discover the trendy boutiques and restaurants. For a change of scenery just a stone’s throw away, the tranquil Jardins du Luxembourgare a perfect place to relax and enjoy a picnic lunch in the setting of a formal French garden. The nearest metro station is Odéon.
10 Church of Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre
On the Quai Saint-Michel, past the square Viviani, the Eglise Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre is an interesting historic church. It was built in the High Gothic style between the mid-12th and mid-13th centuries. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the rector of the university was elected in this church, and his bell was rung to announce the start of the lectures. The interior of the Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre church is dominated by a screen decorated with an icon, installed in 1901. The silhouette of the church is beautiful from a spot on Rue Galande near the Eglise Saint-Sevérin.
Address: Address: Rue Galande 79, 75005 Parijs (metro: Saint-Michel, station Cluny-La Sorbonne of station Maubert-Mutualité)
11 Sorbonne University
Known as “La Sorbonne”, this ancient academic institution was founded in 1253 as a college for poor theology students who could live and study at the school’s expense. The college soon developed into a leading school of theology and became a university. During Napoleon’s reign, the Sorbonne was significantly expanded and gained the status of a state university. The current buildings were built between 1885 and 1901 with 22 large lecture halls and hundreds of classrooms. The main front of the Sorbonne on Rue des Ecoles is decorated with allegorical images of the sciences. The main lecture hall, the Grand Amphithéâtre, seats 2,700, and the auditorium features the famous mural by neoclassical painter Puvis de Chavannes, The Sacred Grove . A Baroque chapel was built in the courtyard of the Sorbonne between 1635 and 1684.
Address: Address: Rue des Ecoles 47, 75005 Parijs (metro: Cluny-La Sorbonne of station Maubert-Mutualité)
12 Plant Gardens & National Museum of Natural History
This lush green space is a legacy of the Royal Garden of Medicinal Plants that King Louis XIII preserved in the 17th century. It is a peaceful place to relax and escape to nature, in the heart of Paris. The Jardins des Plantes contains a botanical garden with an exceptional variety of flowers and plants. The gardens have a special focus on biodiversity and support ecological programs. In the gardens is the Musée National d’Histoire Naturelle, which provides a comprehensive overview of the various areas of natural history, including botany (the collection contains more than 10,000 plant species), mineralogy (with remarkable giant crystals), zoology, ecology and paleontology. The museum is also a study place for students from the nearby University of Paris.
Address: Address: 57 Rue Cuvier 75005 Paris (metro: Place Monge or Jussieu station)
13 Archaeological site of Arènes de Lutèce
The Lutetia Arena is the remains of an ancient Roman amphitheater of Paris, discovered in 1869. These ruins give an idea of the enormous size of the original amphitheater, which was once used to stage gladiator and animal fights. The elliptical arena was 56 meters long and 48 meters wide, approximately the same size as the interior of the Colosseum in Rome. The amphitheater was built around 200 AD in the Roman city of Lutetia (site of today’s center of Paris), but later in the same century, during a barbarian raid in 285, it was used as a quarry for building defensive walls. Although the amphitheater had only 36 rows of seats, it could accommodate an audience of 17,000, which in ancient times was almost the entire population of the city.
Address: Address: Rue Monge 49, 75005 Paris (metro: Cardinal Lemoine, Place Monge or Jussieu station)
14 Great Mosque of Paris
Discover an oasis of Islamic culture in the heart of the Latin Quarter, just a few steps from the Museum of Natural History . A relatively recent addition to the district, the Grand Mosque of Paris was built between 1922 and 1926. The mosque is visited by the local Muslim community but also offers tourists a unique and exotic experience. The interior of the Grand Mosque is a beautiful masterpiece in the Hispano-Moorish style. The prayer room features beautiful carpets and the hammam replicates the baths of North Africa with colorful mosaic tiles. The patio with subtly decorated arches is inspired by the Alhambra Palace in Granada.
Stroll through the lush, fountain-adorned gardens and sip fresh mint tea in the Salon de Thé (tea room) on the terrace, or enjoy a delicious meal of authentic couscous in the Mosque’s restaurant . It is also possible to visit the traditional hot and cold baths and relax in the sauna. Check the schedule; certain days are reserved for men, others for women. For those who want to learn more about the architecture, guided tours are available. The tea room and restaurant entrance are located in a different location from the mosque, on a parallel street.
Address: Address: Entrance to the mosque: 2 Bis Place du Puits de l’Ermite; Tea room and restaurant: 39 Rue Saint-Hilaire 75005 Paris (metro: Place Monge or Censier – Daubenton station)
15 Eugène Delacroix National Museum
This excellent little museum is located on the edge of the Latin Quarter and the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district. The museum celebrates the life and work of French Romantic painter Eugène Delacroix. The collection spans Delacroix’s career and gives visitors an in-depth sense of the artist. The museum’s exhibitions showcase the various themes Delacroix depicted, as well as his artistic influences. For example, the museum displays Moroccan artifacts from his trip to Morocco in 1832. Highlights of the collection include the Magdalene in the Desert painting exhibited at the Salon of 1845 and another religious composition called the Education of the Virgin, painted in 1842. The museum also features the artist’s only three attempts at fresco painting, created in 1834. Many of Delacroix’s other famous works can be found at the Musée du Louvre across the Seine in the 1st arrondissement.
Address: Address: Rue de Fürstenberg 6, 75006 Parijs (metro: Saint-Germain-des-Prés of Mabillon station)
Official site: https://www.musee-delacroix.fr/en
Where to stay in the Latin Quarter of Paris for viewing
The area between the Seine and Boulevard Saint-Germain is one of the most charming in Paris, with its warren of small streets lined with shops, bistros, cafés and small hotels. Known as the Latin Quarter, this is one of the most sought-after neighborhoods, with an abundance of tourist attractions just a short walk from Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapelle and two of the city’s best art museums. These highly rated hotels are in the Latin Quarter:
- Luxury hotels : Between Boulevard Saint-Germain and the river, opposite the Louvre and a 10-minute walk from the Musee d’Orsay, Hotel Da Vinci features a spa, swimming pool, beautifully decorated rooms and excellent service. Located on Boulevard Saint-Germain in l’Odeon, the boutique Relais Saint-Germain hotel includes breakfast and preferential table bookings for dinner at Le Comptoir. Located on a quiet street between Boulevard Saint-Germain and IÎle de la Cité, the spacious rooms at Relais Christine overlook a flowered courtyard and offer free parking.
- Mid-Range Hotels: Family-run Hotel Pas de Calais is located just off Boulevard Saint-Germain, near the Musee d’Orsay. It has a glass-covered courtyard with flowers, free Wi-Fi and individually decorated rooms. At the other end of Boulevard Saint-Germain, the boutique Odeon Hotel has soundproof windows and is a five-minute walk from the Metro and the Jardin du Luxembourg. The elegant and independent Left Bank Saint Germain is located just off Boulevard Saint-Germain.
- Budget Hotels: The hotel is located just a few steps from the Cluny Museum. Some rooms at Hotel du College de France have spacious balconies with chairs and tables. Almost next door, on a quiet street, Hotel Marignan offers free breakfast and laundry facilities. The Art Deco touches accentuate some of the rooms at the Grand Hotel des Balcons, between Boulevard Saint-Germain and the Jardin du Luxembourg; some are large enough for families.
Tips and tours: how to get the most out of your visit to the Latin Quarter, Paris
- Latin Quarter Tours: Join an expert guide on a Paris Night Quarter Night Walking Tour for a two-hour insider’s exploration of the district’s sights, history, architecture, characters and lore. This guided evening walking tour takes you from medieval Paris to the meeting places of Picasso, the Beat poets and Jim Morrison.
- Join the Café Lifestyle: Whether you have a cup of coffee at a small table on the rue du Buci or in the famous Les Deux Magots, where Hemingway once wrote, you cannot miss this almost obligatory Parisian experience.