The true heart of Paris is Quartier Latin, or the Latin Quarter. Experience the soul and the charm of this old Parisian district that today is an awesome mix of traditions, classical architecture, cultural heritage, Roman and medieval history, students, French gastronomy, and quaint little places.
Dauphine Saint Germain is situated between Saint-Germain-des-Prés and The Latin Quarter in a 17th century building, only a 10-minute walk from Notre-Dame Cathedral. The hotel features elegant rooms with en-suite bathroom and a breakfast with fresh pastries. Close to the Metro Station Saint-Michel. The Louvre is only a 20-minute walk away.
Hotel Atmospheres is located a 10-minute walk from the Luxembourg Gardens and 200 m from the Maubert Mutualité Metro. The hotel offers en-suite accommodation, a garden, a fitness centre and a sauna. All rooms have a flat-screen TV with cable channels and free Wi-Fi.
Do you need to find the right neighbourhood to stay in Paris? – See Where to Stay – Parisian Neighbourhoods
Perhaps the most hidden gem in the Latin Quarter is the ancient Roman arena, Arènes de Lutèce. It is tucked away behind the hotels and other houses in Rue Monge, but if you look for it, you will between the house façades spot a gate leading to a spectacular place. The Roman arena is still there today, now ‘serving modern purposes’ such as being an attractive field for playing games of Pétanque and football – and popular with both mature Pétanque players in the morning and the quarter’s children in the afternoon.
Together with the Thermes de Cluny, the Arènes de Lutèce have some of the most significant Roman remains in Paris. It was constructed in the 1st century AD as an amphitheatre where gladiatorial combats and animal fights could take place. Sometimes the arena was filled with water to imitate great sea battles! Back then it was a lot deeper than today where the area has been covered with gravel. The lower sections were used to keep the animals in cages that had direct access to the arena.
The theatre could seat around 15,000 people – nearly twice the population of the city – and still today it is easy to imagine how the area and rows of seats seethed with eager spectators shouting, applauding, and booing. Prominent Romans were seated at the lower seating areas, whereas the higher sections were for the poorer, slaves, and women! Along the stage, remnants of nine niches can still be seen, probably by then used for statues. There are also remains of the animal cages.
Later in the history of Paris, some of the stones from the arena were recycled to be used in the city’s defences, and at one point the theatre was even ‘recycled’ as a cemetery!
Another gem in Quartier Latin is the 2000-year-old street Rue Mouffetard – the authentic street in Paris, believed to be the oldest, that was first used by the Romans. Later, it was the animal skinners’ street, its name referring to ‘mouffet’ (skunk). It was by then an awful place that smelled horribly because of the animal stench – and had absolutely no resemblance with the picturesque houses and cosy atmosphere that you experience there today! Nevertheless, there are still a few medieval houses that only add to the charm of the street!
The Rue Mouffetard is a street of restaurants and cafés where you among more recent ethnic places also find both the traditional bistrot-like restaurants with a heartfelt Parisian atmosphere, often at student-friendly prices, and more trendy places serving French speciality dishes.
Despite its chequered history, the Rue Mouffetard is today a lively and popular street frequented by the students of the Sorbonne and other schools in this district of Paris, as well as visitors to the Latin Quarter. Delightful scents meet you especially at the end of ‘The Mouffe’ where the street several times a week is turned into a street market that besides its bakeries and other speciality food shops have market stalls with fruit, cheese, fish, meat, wine and more – including a lot of fresh produce.
Halfway down the cobbled Rue Mouffetard in the 5th arrondissement, you pass Place de la Contrescarpe which is bordered by the Rue du Cardinal Lemoine on one side and the Rue Lacépède on the other. It is a lovely and vibrant plaza and in its own unique way the epitome of the neighbourhood. For many people, visitors and locals alike, it is the heart of the Latin Quarter.
Several cafés and restaurants (Café Delmas, Café des Arts, La Contrescarpe…) surround the Place de la Contrescarpe and a coffee in a terrace café on the square is a great opportunity for people watching. There is a beautiful fountain in the middle and trees that provide shade on a hot summer day.
One of the must-see places in the Latin Quarter is the Luxembourg Gardens – one of the loveliest gardens in Paris! The garden is full of history since it takes visitors back to Marie de Medici’s time in the beginning of the 1600s. Designed as an Italian baroque garden, it was a beloved garden and home of Marie de Medici, even long before she became Queen of France.
The delightful garden is really an oasis in Paris on the border of the Latin Quarter. With its countless sculptures, fascinating architecture, and pretty flower beds, it is an attractive park where you can chill out and enjoy the atmosphere.
Besides walking, jogging, and sitting in the traditional mint green chairs, a favourite activity is sailing with small boats on the central lake.
Today, the Luxembourg Palace serves as the seat of the French Senate.
Sorbonne, located in the Latin Quarter, is a prestigious university in Paris. Its history goes back to 1257, when Robert de Sorbon, a chaplain of King Louis IX, founded a college for theology.
The historic Sorbonne building can be found at 47 rue des Écoles. The neighborhood teems with students on their way to and from lectures.
The Parisian university is known for being the starting point for the student uprising in 1968, which in a short time spread to the whole of Europe.
Another wonderful garden in the Latin Quarter in Paris is the Jardin des Plantes which has been classified as a national historical landmark and has been open to the public for around 400 years. It is a garden with a unique diversity of plant species that come in all shapes, colours, and scents.
Besides greenhouses, the park also features the National Museum of Natural History, the Reptiles and Amphibians Laboratory, the Gallery of Evolution, the Gallery of Palaeontology, a zoo, a botanical school, and so much more!
About 4,500 species are represented in the 10,000 square metres that the park covers. This includes an Alpine Garden, an Art Deco winter garden, a Rose Garden, as well as displays of Australian and Mexican plant species – just to mention some of the highlights! You can easily spend a few hours relaxing in the garden and getting an insight into the botanical world!
The Panthéon is the temple of the French nation that was built by the architect Jacques-German Soufflot under Louis XV to glorify the French monarchy. It was completed in 1790 after some turbulent years, culminating with the French Revolution in 1789.
From originally being a religious monument and church dedicated to Saint Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris, the Panthéon changed status to being the resting place for prominent French people, including generals, scientists, and writers. The architectural masterpiece houses tombs of famous people such as Voltaire, Émile Zola, Victor Hugo, Pierre and Marie Curie, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Alexandre Dumas.
Standing inside (and even outside) the building is an awe-inspiring experience.
The traditional booksellers with their green stalls along the Seine on the edge of the Latin Quarter is really the epitome of Paris. The river view cannot get more scenic than when the owners open their little boxes with antiquarian books, art objects, vintage prints, souvenirs and much more.
The history of the bouquinistes goes back to the 16th century, when it became common to set up stalls on the Parisian bridges and along the Seine. The local riverside merchants sold second-hand books and the like.
For some years the bouquinistes had to leave since their bookstalls were banned, but later, it became legal again and the stalls reappeared. Today, the riverside booksellers from Quai de la Tournelle to Quai Voltaire on the Left Bank (and from Pont Marie to Quai du Louvre on the Right Bank) are unique historic and cultural heritage in Paris. It is really a special experience to stroll past the charming stalls to see if you can make a good find among the over 900 stalls along the Seine!
Experiencing the atmosphere in a traditional café or restaurant in the Latin Quarter is a must. There are true hidden gems tucked away in the streets of the old student district of Paris. The narrow crooked streets are full of awesome places that contribute to the charm and the very special setting in the Latin Quarter.
One of these gems is Le Berthoud, a traditional brasserie with tapestries on the walls and dark woodwork, serving tasty dishes from the French kitchen at very reasonable prices. It is a cosy place that is popular among locals and tourists alike!
9 Places to Visit in the Latin Quarter – The Heart of Paris
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9 Places to Visit in the Latin Quarter – The Heart of Paris:
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