What to See and Do in the Latin Quarter

After a visit to the Marais, pass by the Île de la Cité. Considered to be the ancient cradle of the city of Paris by Clovis, it is home to some historical gems. Located in the heart of the capital, it is one of two natural islands within the Seine. Found in the 1st arrondissement and surrounded by the 4th, 5th, and 6th, it is connected to the rest of the city by 9 bridges. The bridges Pont de Change, Pont de Notre-Dame, and Pont d’Arcole let you go to the right side of the river. As for the bridges, Pont Saint-Michel, Petit-Pont, Pont au Double, and Pont de l’Archevêché, they connect you to the left bank. Pont Saint-Louis is the only bridge that gives you access to the Île Saint-Louis, its cousin. Finally, Pont Neuf crosses the entire length of the island from the right bank to the left.  It is on the Île de la Cité that you can find one of the symbols of Paris: the Notre-Dame Cathedral.

 

Île de la Cité 

Ile de la Cité

The Île de la Cité is one of the most historic places in Paris.  Besides its many bridges, you can admire the Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-Paris.  Dating back to the 12th century, it entices 30,000 visitors per day, which makes it the most visited monument in France before the Eiffel Tower. What makes it an important element for France is connected to its location. In fact, if you are around 25 meters from its front entrance, you’ll find kilometer “0” under your feet, which symbolizes the starting point for all the streets of France.

 

Continuing your visit, take rue de la Cité on your right. The Hôpital de l’Hôtel-Dieu is the oldest hospital in Paris. Founded on the principles of charity and hospitality in 651 by the bishop, Saint-Landry, it is today one of the hospitals for the Assistance Publique Hôpitaux de Paris and is part of the Faculty of Medicine at the Paris Descartes University. The proximity to Notre-Dame-de-Paris is not by chance, since it was at a time where medicine was still not a precise science, they often asked for God’s help to save the sick.

Continue on rue de la Cité and take rue de Lutèce, and finally rue Aubé on your right.  Here you’ll discover the Flower Market (including birds) as well as the metro station Cité (line 4). Located on Quai de la Corse and Place Louis-Lépine, the Flower Market offers, since 1801, a large variety of plants and flowers, open from 8am to 7:30pm, 7 days a week. Sundays you can also see merchants selling birds and accessories (cages, seed, etc.)  The market is certainly charming. It is placed under forged iron framework decorated with glass, which gives it a very 19th century style and reminds you of the “Belle Epoque”. For those that love “Paris-Mélancolique”, this is something you can’t pass up.

 

Marché d'Aligre
Crédits © Heather Cowper

Rue de Lutèce will bring you to Sainte Chapelle, located on Boulevard du Palais.  Built in 1242 under Saint-Louis, it was one of the beautiful jewels of French heritage.

Its unique architecture and its astounding décor bring in thousands of visitors every day. Its façade, decorated with colorful stained glass casting a semi-mystical light inside the church, opens the doors to a masterpiece of gothic architecture. Initially, Sainte Chapelle was built to host the Crown of Thorns (also known as the Holy Crown), which was placed on Christ’s head during the crucifixion, a piece of the Holy Cross, and other relics. You can note that it made the list of historical monuments in 1862 and UNESCO’s Global Heritage in 1991. On your right, you can admire the Tribunal de Grand Instance and its magnificent doorway with golden décor similar to Versailles that is coupled with the chapel. On the far left and right, you’ll see respectively the building of the Ordre des Avocats à la Cour de Paris and the one for the Cour d’Appel.

Finally, continuing down this side of the river, you’ll arrive at the Conciergerie. This building from the 13th century, along with Sainte Chappelle, are part of the traces of the Palais de la Cité, the old home of French kings that was transformed into a state prison in 1370. The word “conciergerie” designates the housing for a concierge, and here of course is the prison where he held his prisoners. We remember the notable incarceration of Mare-Antoinette in 1793 before her execution by the guillotine during the French Revolution.

After a stroll on Quai de l’Horloge, take rue de Harlay. On your right, you can look at the statue of Henri IV on Place Dauphine, and on your left the building of the Cour de Cassation. Walk along Quai des Orfèvres. Well known by the name Quai des Orfèvres at number 36 on the street, you’ll find the Direction Régionale de la Police Judiciaire de Paris.

 

Quai des Orfèvres
Quai des Orfèvres

To finish your visit, go to Pont Saint-Louis located at the very end of Île de la Cité behind the Notre Dame Cathedral.  You can then cross over it at your leisure, because it is exclusively open to pedestrians.  When the weather is nicer, you’ll see street artists there.  You are now on Île Saint-Louis.

Route from l’Île de la Cité to l’Île Saint-Louis.

 

Île Saint-Louis

Île Saint Louis
Île Saint Louis – credits : Ralf.treinen / Wikimedia Commons under CC BY-SA

 

Smaller than its sister, the Île de la Cité, it has more of a residential function.  There are many private mansions that are listed as historical monuments, especially the Hôtel Lambert.

Besides these spectacular private mansions, you can discover the Eglise Saint-Louis that was built in the 17th century.

 

But for the gourmands, know that you will taste the best ice cream in all of Paris on this little isle at the Maison Berthillon. Its lovely and typically Parisian front from the previous century will make you delve into the palate of a thousand and one flavors. While tasting your ice cream, you can also have a coffee in the tea salon that is paired with the boutique.

You’ll find the Maison Berthillon at 31, rue Saint-Louis en l’Île.

 

The next step on this trip tinged with melancholy: the Latin Quarter. To get there, cross the Seine on the bridge, Pont de Sully, while walking along the Square Barye.  This bridge will let you reach the 5th arrondissement arrive directly on Quai de la Tournelle. Take Boulevard Saint-Germain and walk for 10 to 12 minutes until you reach 6, place Paul-Painlevé.

 

Latin Quarter

Quartier Latin
Credits : Bobbsled under Creative Commons 2.0

There you will stumble upon the Musée National du Moyen-Âge. Initially the Hôtel de Cluny, the museum was converted in 1843. This private hotel, built at the end of the 15th century, has been listed as a historical monument since 1846.

The Musée National du Moyen-Âge – Thermes and Hotel de Cluny, or simply Musée de Cluny, is specialized in ancient, medieval, and Renaissance history in France. It holds many objects and art works from this time period.

Included in these walls hides the Thermes de Cluny, Gallo-roman thermal baths dating back to the 2nd century.

After a visit, turn left on Boulevard Saint-Michel, and then right on rue de Vaugirard, and you’ll arrive at Jardin du Luxembourg and the Sénat.

 

Jardin Luxembourg

This garden was created in 1612 at the request of Marie de Medici. It includes gardens, fountains, and statues that you can admire while walking across the park.

A 5-minute walk from there, at 1, rue Victor Cousin, you can discover the Sorbonne, created in 1253 by Robert de Sorbon under the king Saint- Louis.

Initially a school for theology students, the Sorbonne is now connected to the University of Paris (founded in 1200 under the king Philippe-Auguste).

To know: Richelieu had been the Headmaster, and the school was the center of the famous demonstrations in May 1968.

Take rue Victor Cousin again, and turn left on rue Cujas, then take a right on Place du Panthéon.  In 5 minutes you will be there.  Before you stands one of the most beautiful monuments in the world, a historical gem for our country.

 

Panthéon

The Panthéon, listed as a historical monument since 1920 and 2008, is where important personalities that have left their mark on French history rest, like Pierre et Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, Jean Jaurès, Gaspard Monge, Jean Moulin, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire, and Emile Zola. The monument was initially supposed to house a church in honor of Saint Genevieve, but when it was finished, the State reclaimed the monument during the French Revolution and it became the tomb of the greatest men in the nation in 1791. The first to be laid to rest there was Mirabeau, writer, journalist, and French revolutionary. You can visit this temple of the spirit of the Enlightenment for the modest sum of 7.50 euros at full price, or 4.50 euros at a reduced rate (for anyone 18-25 that is a non EU citizen). Entry is free for anyone under 18, for 18-25 year olds from the European Union, for those looking for a job, and everybody on the first Sunday of the months of January to March and from November to December.

The Latin Quarter is overflowing with historical sites from the dawn of time. The arenas of Lutèce attest to the city’s Gallo-roman past dating back to the 1st century.

Arènes de Lutèce
Crédits © Shadowgate

To get there, take rue Clovis, then rue Cardinal Lemoine to your left, and then rue Monge on the right.

To make your stay in Paris a little bit wild, on the corner of rue Clovis, take a left on rue du Cardinal Lemoine up to number 28.  You’ll find one of the oldest cabarets in France: Le Paradis Latin. Founded in 1802 initially as a theater, it became one of the top posh nightspots in Paris since 1830.

For the more literary, go to 37, rue de la Bûcherie to discover one of the more typical English bookshops: Shakespeare and Company. In an intimate and cozy atmosphere, choose a book among the thousands of works that almost flood off the shelves, and seat yourself comfortably in a nook in this lovely shack to lose yourself in a book.

 

Our recommended hotels in this neighborhood

4 stars:
Hôtel Saint Paul Rive Gauche : familial boutique-hotel, marriage of French elegance and English comfort, idealy located in the heart of Paris.
Hôtel Louis 2 : two minutes walk from the french Senate, this little haven of charm and light, offers all the comfort of a high-class character hotel.
Relais Hôtel du Vieux Paris : Built in 1480, you’ll fall under the spell of this vintage building bursting with poetry.

3 stars:
Hôtel de l’Observatoire Luxembourg : just next to the magnificient Jardins du Luxembourg, this charming hotel offers you originaly decorated rooms.
Hôtel Saint Jacques : you’ll be swept away to the magical 19th century with frescoes and beautiful rooms with crown moldings, in the heart of the Latin Quarter.
Hôtel Atmosphères : mid-way between a boutique design hotel and a contemporary photography gallery, the Hôtel Atmosphères offers a unique stay amidst a permanent display exhibition.

1 & 2 stars:
Hôtel du College de France : Located in the heart of the Latin Quarter, 5 minutes walk from Notre-Dame Cathedral, perfectly equipped and modern rooms.

 

And if you’d rather go to Montmartre, check this article !

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