Located on the left bank of the Seine, opposite Notre-Dame cathedral, the 5th arrondissement (which includes the Latin Quarter) is one of Paris’s oldest and most cosmopolitan districts. Students and academics of all nationalities rub shoulders with families who have lived here for generations. Discover its many facets, from historical sites and cultural venues to French cuisine and nightlife.
A place of history and learning
Paris’s 5th arrondissement is home to numerous sites and monuments that bear witness to the city’s history. Among the oldest and most remarkable vestiges are those of the Arènes de Lutèce, a Gallo-Roman amphitheatre built in the first century, and the Thermes de Cluny Roman baths adjacent to the Museum of the Middle Ages housed in the magnificent 13th-century Hôtel de Cluny. On the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève stands the monumental Pantheon, the ‘temple of the nation’, where France’s illustrious figures are buried.
The Latin Quarter straddles the 5th and 6th arrondissements. Its name stems from the Middle Ages when the students here were taught in Latin. It is the seat of prestigious educational establishments such as the Sorbonne University (where Cardinal Richelieu is buried), the Collège de France, and top Parisian high schools Louis Le Grand and Henri IV.
Down by the river, you could easily spend half a day in the magnificent Jardin des Plantes (botanical gardens). The 24-hectare French gardens feature remarkable trees and botanical curiosities, and the Grandes Serres (glasshouses) offer visitors a tropical experience. You can visit the natural history museums too, including the Grande Galerie de l’Évolution with its 7,000 animal specimens and skeletons. The Jardin des Plantes zoo is home to 600 animals, some of which are in danger of extinction.
A vibrant cultural life
With its established bookshops featuring literature from around the world, its art galleries showing a mixture of contemporary and classical works, the Institute of the Arab World with its themed exhibitions, and its well-known independent and art-house cinemas, the 5th arrondissement is also a cultural hot spot.
Art-house film buffs are regulars at the Studio des Ursulines, Champo and Reflet Médicis cinemas as well as the Filmothèque in the Latin Quarter.
It’s a book-lovers paradise too, home to specialist publishers Eyrolles, J. Vrin, and Pippa. Booksellers at the bookshops including the Librairie des PUF (Presses Universitaires de France), Album et Pulp’s Comics, Présence Africaine, Librairie Sud Est Asie, and the Abbey Bookshop for English language authors, will be happy to provide reading recommendations. If you’re a fan of English literature don’t miss the famous and delightful Shakespeare and Company bookshop!
Several religious establishments are worth visiting for their history and architecture, including the church and monastery of the Val-de-Grâce which currently houses the museum of the French Military Medical Service, the flamboyant Gothic Saint-Séverin church and the Paris Mosque, with its unique Moorish architecture and which also houses a hammam, a restaurant and tea-room. A real oasis in the centre of the city.
A foodie’s delight
From rue Mouffetard to the Latin Quarter, the 5th arrondissement has an abundance of great places to eat.
Traditional French brasseries can be found alongside legendary restaurants like La Tour D’Argent, chefs’ restaurants such as Hugo & Co and Baïeta and restaurants featuring cuisine from other parts of the world such as Kitchen Galerie Bis (KGB) and Lhassa.
A plethora of confectioners invite you to taste their specialities. If you have a sweet tooth you’ll be spoiled for choice, between Georges Larnicol’s Breton speciality kouign amman, Maison Odette’s cream puffs, Gelati d’Alberto’s home-made ice cream and the Flying Circus’s cinnamon rolls.
A vibrant nightlife
Whether you prefer jazz clubs, theatres, bars or cafés, rue Mouffetard, Saint-Michel and the Latin Quarter are well known for their nightlife and welcome revellers until the small hours of the morning.
The narrow, cobbled rue de la Huchette is famous for several of its establishments including the Théâtre de la Huchette – where Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano has been running since 1957 – and one of Paris’s best known jazz clubs, the Caveau de la Huchette.
A little further along, starting from place de la Contrescarpe, the legendary rue Mouffetard with its typical lively Parisian bars such as the Caveau des Oubliettes, is one of Paris’s most vibrant night spots. And in rue du Cardinal Lemoine you’ll find the oldest of the Parisian cabarets, the Paradis Latin.