A walk in the Latin Quarter

Visit one of the oldest districts in Paris … gardens, university faculties, monuments and Roman vestiges

The Latin Quarter is situated on the left bank of the Seine and is one of the oldest districts in Paris. The area takes its name from the Latin language, taught in the Middle Ages at many schools in the district. Parisians and tourists enjoy the lively and convivial atmosphere here. As you wander at will, you’ll come across great museums, Roman vestiges, exceptional monuments and splendid gardens.

1 / Saint-Michel fountain

Fontaine Saint Michel, Paris © OTCP - Amélie Dupont

The Place Saint-Michel is a pleasant spot to meet up at and a good starting point for a walk. This public square, situated on the corner of Boulevard Saint-Michel and Rue Saint-André des Arts, is often the scene of improvised music concerts and dance performances. The Saint-Michel fountain is a monumental work! It features the Archangel Michael defeating Evil and is framed by a large triumphal arch and pink marble columns to harmonize with the architecture of the buildings surrounding the square.

Did you know? The Saint-Michel fountain was built under Napoleon III as part of baron Haussmann’s urban planning, which included constructing major boulevards, including Boulevard Saint-Michel, to fluidify traffic. The fountain was constructed in memory of the former Saint-Michel chapel on Ile de la Cité.

Fontaine Saint-Michel – 9 - 13 place Saint-Michel, Paris 5e

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2 / Boulevard Saint-Michel

From Place Saint-Michel, you can see the beginning of Boulevard Saint-Michel. Built by Haussmann, it is a major road running from north to south. The student demonstrations of May 68 took place here. As you stroll along, you will come across bookshops, such as Joseph Gibert, a few art house cinemas, and, in the northern part, the Sorbonne square and the leafy Luxembourg Gardens.

Boulevard Saint-Michel, Paris 5e et 6e

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3 / Rue Saint-André des Arts and Rue de la Huchette

Quartier Latin, Paris  © OTCP - Jacques Lebar

Take your time discovering the district around Boulevard Saint-Michel, firstly on the Rue Saint-André des Arts side and then on the Rue de la Huchette side. Enjoy exploring and getting lost in these tiny, picturesque streets evocative of medieval Paris, and full of cosmopolitan restaurants, cafes, pubs and ready-to-wear clothes shops.

Rue Saint-André des Arts, Paris 6e

Rue de la Huchette, Paris 5e

Did you know? The Théâtre de la Huchette situated at 23 Rue de la Huchette has been presenting ‘La Cantatrice Chauve’ (‘The Bald Soprano’) and ‘La Leçon’ (‘The Lesson’) by Eugène Ionesco for more than 60 years. That amounts to of 18,500 performances!

Théâtre de la Huchette – 23 rue de la Huchette, Paris 5e

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Continue your walk along Rue Saint-Séverin and Rue Galande to see two splendid medieval churches.

4 / Church of Saint-Séverin

Built between the 13th and 15th centuries in the flamboyant Gothic style, the church of Saint-Séverin houses a choir surrounded by pillars in the shape of palm trees, a twisted column, and a collection of rare Gothic stained-glass windows.

Eglise Saint-Séverin - 1 rue des Prêtres Saint Séverin, Paris 5e

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5 / Church of Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre

Built in the 12th century, the church of Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre is the oldest church in Paris. With its exterior buttresses, it has lots of charm. Also of interest, its listed interior, with Gothic columns decorated with harpies and a collection of icons dating from 1900 and dedicated to the Greek Melkite faith.

Did you know? The churches of Saint Severin and Saint-Julien-Le-Pauvre regularly play host to prestigious concerts. An opportunity to return to these places and admire their remarkable interiors.

Eglise Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre - 79 rue Galande, Paris 5e

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6 / Square René Viviani

Paris, square René Viviani © Mairie de Paris - Guillaume

Head to the Square René Viviani, a little public garden next to the church of Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre.
Relax in the shade of the oldest tree in the capital, a robinia planted in 1601, and enjoy this lovely green spot that offers a superb view of an emblematic monument of the Middle Ages: the cathedral of Notre-Dame-de-Paris!

Did you know? The nearby Rue Galande is lined with medieval houses. At number 42, observe the sculpted bas-relief depicting Saint Julian and his wife conveying Christ in a boat. Dating back to the 14th century, it is one of the oldest in the capital.

Square René Viviani - 2 rue du Fouarre, Paris 5e

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7 / Musée de Cluny – The medieval world

Musée de Cluny - Le monde médiéval, Paris © Michel Denancé - Bernard Desmoulin

Turn onto Rue Saint Jacques and continue exploring the Middle Ages with a visit to the Cluny museum, housed in a 15th-century building. The museum’s collections bring together masterpieces from the medieval period, including the ‘Lady and the Unicorn’ tapestries.

You can also see the ancient Baths, built by the Romans when they occupied the Left Bank of Paris between the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. The monumental remains of these baths can be seen from the Boulevard Saint-Michel. The medieval-inspired garden adjoining the museum is a pleasant place to take a short break. The plants and vegetation here echo those around the famous ‘Lady and the Unicorn’ tapestries.

Did you know? The Gallo-Roman Baths are amongst the best preserved monumental ancient vestiges in Northern Europe. You can visit the ‘frigidarium’, a 14-metre-high vaulted room.

Musée de Cluny – le monde médiéval - 28 rue du Sommerard, Paris 5e

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8 / The Sorbonne

La Sorbonne - Cour d'honneur, Paris

Walk up Boulevard Saint-Michel. From the tranquil Place de la Sorbonne, on your left, you can admire the famous Sorbonne building, commissioned by Richelieu in the 17th century and designed by the architect Jacques Lemercier. Founded in 1253 by Pierre de Sorbon, chaplain and confessor of Saint-Louis, the Sorbonne was originally a theological college for poor students. It was integrated into the University of Paris, where arts, law and medicine were also taught, and was so prestigious that its name became that of the entire University.

Université de la Sorbonne – place de la Sorbonne, Paris 5e

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9 / The Pantheon

Le Panthéon, Paris © Thinkstock

Continue walking along the boulevard and then turn left into Rue Soufflot to reach the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève. In front of you is the Pantheon, the resting place of great figures of the nation such as Victor Hugo, Voltaire, Rousseau, and Pierre and Marie Curie. This impressive monument has the appearance of a temple and is topped by a massive dome. Step inside to see the murals, Foucault's pendulum, and the Necropolis of the Great Men. If you still have some energy left, climb the stairs to the upper part of the dome. From here you will have an outstanding view of Paris and its landmarks.

Did you know? The Montagne Sainte-Geneviève takes its name from an historical event. Here, in 451, Genevieve persuaded Parisians not to flee from the threat of invasion by the Huns. She was subsequently attributed with having saved Paris and became the patron saint of the capital.

Panthéon - place du Panthéon, Paris 5e

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10 / Rue Mouffetard and Place de la Contrescarpe

Quartier Mouffetard, Paris © OTCP - Amélie Dupont

Now, head over to the Mouffetard district. Relax with a drink on a cafe terrace on Place de la Contrescarpe opposite the circular fountain. Then stroll along Rue Mouffetard, lined with restaurants, cafes, shops and fruit & vegetable stalls. This lively and picturesque cobbled street has existed since the Middle Ages and is popular with students.

Place de la Contrescarpe, Paris 5e

Rue Mouffetard, Paris 5e

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11 / Arènes de Lutèce

Go along Rue Monge until you come to another ancient Roman site, the Arènes de Lutèce. Adjoining the Square Capitan public garden, this ancient theatre used to welcome up to 15,000 people. Today, it provides a fine setting for open-air shows. The site is freely accessible, so don’t hesitate to take a look!

Arènes de Lutèce - 49 rue Monge, Paris 5e

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12 / Grande Mosquée de Paris

Grande Mosquée de Paris © OTCP - Amélie Dupont

Go back onto Rue Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire to admire the Grande Mosquée de Paris, opposite the Jardin des Plantes. Topped with a 33-metre minaret, the mosque offers a haven of peace with its patio, tearoom and hammam. Take a guided tour to admire the sumptuous interior of this monument, built in the 1920s, then enjoy a mint tea and delicious sweet specialities.

Grande Mosquée de Paris - 2 bis place du Puits-de-l'Ermite, Paris 5e

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13 / Jardin des Plantes and Grandes Serres (Botanical garden and greenhouses)

Jardin des Plantes été

This botanical garden offers a delightful green interlude and is spread over 24 hectares. Designed in the French-style, it is planted with remarkable trees. Tucked away in the middle of the garden are the large, elegant greenhouses that recreate the biodiversity of a tropical rainforest, the flora of deserts and of New Caledonia.

Botanical features to discover on your walk include an alpine garden, a rose garden, a collection of Japanese peonies and a large plant maze.

Did you know? The Jardin des Plantes has existed for 400 years. The garden was created in 1635 by Louis XIII, to train doctors and apothecaries. At that time, it was called the ‘Jardin Royal des Plantes Médicinales’ (‘Royal Garden of the Medicinal Plants’) and was already a place for the study of plants, open to the public.

Jardin des Plantes - 36 rue Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire, Paris 5e

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14 / Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle

Within the Jardin des Plantes, your attention will be caught by several monumental buildings of the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle. The Grande Galerie de l'Evolution presents the amazing history of biodiversity through 7,000 specimens of stuffed animals and skeletons. Finish off with a visit to the Galerie de Paléontologie et d'Anatomie Comparée.

To discover the beauty of the shapes and colours of minerals, head to the Galerie de Minéralogie et Géologie. Here you can admire giant crystals weighing 2 to 3 tons, meteorites, and the French Crown jewels, including the Grand Sapphire of Louis XIV.

Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle – 57 rue Cuvier, Paris 5e

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15 / Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes

Flamants roses de la Ménagerie du jardin des Plantes, Paris

The garden is also the site of one of the world’s oldest zoos: the Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes, created in 1794. The zoo is home to 150 species of animals, a third of which are threatened with extinction. Discover 600 animals in a green setting, including the adorable red panda hidden in a bamboo forest, Nénette the orangutan - star of the menagerie, and snow panthers with their magnificent fur.

Did you know? The Ménagerie takes part in breeding programmes and the reintroduction into the wild of endangered species such as the Arabian Oryx and the Golden Lion Tamarin.

Ménagerie du jardin des Plantes - 57 rue Cuvier, Paris 5e

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16 / Outdoor sculpture museum

Jardin Tino Rossi, Paris © OTCP - Marc Bertrand - Augustin Cardenas

On leaving the Jardin des Plantes via Place Valhubert, turn onto Quai Saint-Bernard and continue until you get to number 11. The outdoor sculpture museum in Square Tino Rossi provides a cultural promenade past works by Brancusi, César and Zadkine and runs parallel with the Seine. Worth noting, the fantastic view of Ile Saint-Louis!

Musée de la Sculpture en plein air - Square Tino Rossi - 11 quai Saint-Bernard, Paris 5e

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17 / Institut du Monde Arabe

Institut du Monde Arabe, cour, Paris © Fotolia - MasterLu

Situated beside the Seine, the Institut du Monde Arabe, designed by architect Jean Nouvel, is easily recognizable by its ornate metallic moucharaby. It offers a programme of exhibitions, shows, and talks to illustrate the diversity and wealth of Arab-Islamic civilization.
To finish this walk at a remarkable viewpoint, go up onto the Institute’s rooftop terrace to enjoy wonderful panoramic views of the Seine, and the two islands, Ile de la Cite and Ile de Notre-Dame.

Institut du monde arabe - 1 rue des Fossés Saint-Bernard, Paris 5e

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