The legendary district of Saint-Germain-des-Prés has a dual identity these days. On the one hand, it’s filled with boutiques showcasing goods by some of the top luxury brands. But it’s also popular with students, who like to meet up for a drink in one of the area’s numerous cafés and bars. Vibrant, cosmopolitan Saint-Germain is definitely in vogue!
Fill up your shopping basket at Saint-Germain’s elegant covered market. It houses around 20 food shops, including the cheese shop Michel Sanders, which has a particularly good selection of Comté and Mimolette. Boucherie Polmard on Rue de l’Abbaye is the place to buy high quality meat, some of it from their own farm. There are also plenty of opportunities to indulge your sweet tooth. Sample French macaroons at Ladurée and Pierre Hermé, St Tropez’s signature cake at La Tarte Tropézienne, cream puffs at La Maison du Chou and Italian ice cream at Grom. If you’re looking for a fine food stockist, you’ll enjoy browsing the range of French products at Ma Collection Marchande de Saveurs, and authentic Spanish goods at Bellota-Bellota. For wine lovers, there’s an excellent selection of fine wines at La Dernière Goutte, or you could stop off and savour a glass at the wine cellar L’Etna.
Cafés and bars
Located in the chic 6th arrondissement of Paris, Saint-Germain-des-Prés was the post-war haunt of such luminaries as Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Picasso, Man Ray, Léo Ferré and Georges Brassens. Some of the places where the intellectual and artistic élite used to meet still exist today, notably the Café de Flore, Les Deux Magots and Brasserie Lipp. But Saint-Germain and the neighbouring Latin Quarter are also the stomping ground of students from all over. For a British vibe, head for O’Neil, a pub serving home-brewed beers. Chez Georges near the Saint-Sulpice church gets top marks for its friendly atmosphere and amazing wine list. And Le Pantalon right next to the Panthéon is an affordable bar popular with a younger crowd.
Time for a meal? You’re in the right place – Saint -Germain-des-Prés has any number of trendy little canteens and gourmet restaurants well worth trying. On Rue du Four, Il Caffè Da Rosa serves Italian, Spanish and Portuguese breakfast and teatime specialities, and has a patio where it’s pleasant to sit out on sunny days. At Italian sandwich bar Cosi, you can choose from 20 different foccaccia fillings. La Crémerie – a ‘cave à manger’, or eat-in wine shop with no markup on the wine, provides an authentic setting in which to sample delicious specialities. Burger enthusiasts can head for Razowski, Maison Burger and PDG Rive Gauche, while fans of the hearty fare of southwest France will enjoy the cured meat platters at J’Go. For fish and seafood, Fish la Boissonnerie is your best bet. To eat with the in-crowd, try Semilla: it’s one of the trendiest restaurants in the area. The people behind it have also opened Freddy’s, another ‘cave à manger’. La Compagnie des vins surnaturels, a cozy, elegant bar, is a good place to kick back in the evening: you can have bite to eat while choosing from their superb wine list.
There are plenty of options in the area for an evening out. Prescription Cocktail Club offers a discreet setting in which to sip a sophisticated cocktail. Le Crocodile, a bar in the 5th arrondissement a stone’s throw from the Jardin du Luxembourg, has a cocktail menu featuring some 350 choices, and a party atmosphere. After-hours fun continues until dawn at Cavern, a bar, club and concert venue. Clubbers wishing to brush shoulders with celebs can try to get into the very exclusive Montana.