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Latin Quarter, Paris: 16 Top Attractions, Tours & Hotels

Written by Lisa Alexander
Sep 9, 2019

Atmospheric Parisian cafés, quirky bookshops, and stylish students give the Latin Quarter a special Bohemian charm. This vibrant, artsy, and eclectic quarter is one of the oldest areas of Paris. During the Middle Ages, the Sorbonne University attracted scholars from all over Europe who learned and spoke Latin, explaining the quarter's name. There are still many higher education institutions in this historic academic quarter, including La Sorbonne and the Collège de France.

Roughly bounded by Boulevard Saint-Michel, Boulevard Saint-Germain-des-Prés, and the Seine River, the Latin Quarter represents one section of the city's 5th arrondissement in the Left Bank.

Most of the Latin Quarter is a medieval maze of winding, narrow streets and stone-paved alleyways, with a few quiet, hidden squares. Except for the Boulevard Saint-Michel, this quarter has a distinct old-world character. Tourists will be rewarded by wandering off into the side streets to explore the pedestrian lanes.

Awaiting discovery are ancient churches, picturesque riverside areas, and the ruins of a Roman amphitheater. The Latin Quarter's lively feel, with its restaurants, cinema, and theaters, makes this neighborhood among the best places to visit in Paris for dining and attending cultural events. Other essential things to do include dining on the Rue Mouffetard and shopping at the open-air bookshops along the Seine.

Plan your visit with our list of the top attractions, tours, and hotels in the Latin Quarter, Paris.

See also: Where to Stay in the Latin Quarter of Paris

1. Musée de Cluny (Musée National du Moyen-Âge)

Musée de Cluny (Musée National du Moyen-Âge)

Discover the beauty and depth of medieval art at the Cluny Museum. This National Museum of the Middle Ages is housed in the 15th-century Hôtel des Abbés de Cluny, formerly the Paris town house for the Benedictine abbey of Cluny based in the Burgundy region. The building happens to lie on the excavation site of an ancient Roman bath complex. One of the museum's rooms is in the ruins of the former Frigidarium (cold baths), which now displays Roman and Gallic sculptures of the 1st century AD.

The Cluny Museum is most renowned for its collection of medieval tapestries. The oldest of the tapestries is the Flemish Offrande du Coeur, a delicate declaration of love created in the 15th century.

The greatest treasure in the collection is the famous Lady with the Unicorn (Dame à la Licorne) tapestry series. Made in the 15th and early 16th century, the series of six tapestries is believed to be an allegory of the five senses. However, the meaning of the sixth tapestry with the inscription "À mon seul désir" ("To my sole desire") is still a mystery to scholars. These exquisitely detailed tapestries were created in the "millefleurs" ("thousand flowers") style of the time. Intricate patterns of flowers are interwoven among birds, rabbits, monkeys, and friendly dogs.

Renovations Update: The main building (the Hôtel des Abbés de Cluny) of the Musée de Cluny is closed for renovations until the spring of 2021. However, the museum will remain partially open. During the renovations, visitors will still have access to the Frigidarium (Roman baths) and can view a selection (70 works) of the museum's collection, including the Lady with the Unicorn tapestry. Visitors will also be able to take guided tours of the Roman baths archaeological site.

Address: 28 Rue Du Sommerard 75005, Paris (Métro Cluny-La Sorbonne, Saint-Michel, or Odéon station)

Official site: https://www.musee-moyenage.fr/en/home.html

2. Panthéon

Panthéon

Presiding over the Latin Quarter from its slightly elevated perch on the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève (Saint-Genevieve hilltop), the Panthéon is a mausoleum that holds the tombs of France's most prominent citizens. Above the porch featuring Corinthian columns, an inscription reads "Aux Grands Hommes la Patrie Reconnaissante," which means "To Great Men, Their Country is Grateful."

The celebrated architect Jacques-Germain Soufflot was commissioned by King Louis XV to build a grandiose church replacing the ruined abbey of Sainte Geneviève. Soufflot created a masterpiece of Neoclassical style, with its facade modeled after the ancient Pantheon in Rome and dome inspired by St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

The entire space of the Panthéon is devoted to remembering the accomplishments of France's most influential writers, scientists, politicians, and other historical figures. Foucault's pendulum, that proved the rotation of the earth, was demonstrated here in 1851 and still is on display. There are 72 great citizens buried in the Panthéon's crypt. Among the famous names are the authors Victor Hugo and Emile Zola, as well as the philosophers Voltaire and Rousseau. Since 1995, five of France's most esteemed female citizens have been buried in the Panthéon including Nobel Prize-winning physicist Marie Curie.

For amazing views of the Paris cityscape, tourists can climb up (over 200 steps) to the Panthéon's dome. Open from April until October, the dome's colonnaded balcony provides breathtaking, 360-degree panoramic outlooks. It's easy to spot the most important monuments, including the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower. The Panthéon is open from 10am until 6pm (until 6:30pm in spring and summer) every day of the year except on January 1st, May 1st, December 25th, and the morning of June 17th.

Address: 19 Place du Panthéon, 75005 Paris (Métro: Luxembourg station)

3. Eglise Saint-Sevérin Saint-Nicolas

Eglise Saint-Sevérin Saint-Nicolas

The Eglise Saint-Séverin Saint-Nicolas is one of the finest examples of Flamboyant Gothic architecture in Paris. With its dark sanctuary illuminated by candles, the church has a somber and spiritual ambience. The architecture combines various styles, with a simple nave from the 13th-century and stained-glass windows dating from the 14th and 15th centuries. Other noteworthy details of the interior include the pillars with elaborately carved capitals and fanciful keystones.

The Church of Saint-Séverin Saint-Nicolas regularly hosts classical organ recitals open to the public. Many visitors enjoy attending a concert here and find that listening to the holy music adds to the experience.

Address: 3 Rue des Prêtes-Saint-Séverin, 75005 Paris (Métro: Saint-Michel, Cluny-La Sorbonne, or Maubert-Mutualité station)

4. Boulevard Saint-Michel & Place Saint-Michel

Boulevard Saint-Michel & Place Saint-Michel | Marie Thrse Hbert & Jean... / photo modified

The busy main thoroughfare of Boulevard Saint-Michel and the bustling Place Saint-Michel bring modern energy to the Latin Quarter. In contrast to the narrow medieval streets that are tightly packed in most of the quarter, the Boulevard Saint-Michel is a wide modern avenue designed by Haussmann in the 19th century. The Boulevard Saint-Michel is lined with artsy bookstores, clothing shops, busy cafés, and other student hangouts.

At the end of Boulevard Saint-Michel, a few steps away from the Seine River, is the Place Saint-Michel. This atmospheric public square is the real heart of the Latin Quarter. The square is crowded day and night with locals on the way to the Métro, students headed to class, and tourists arriving from the Métro station to explore the nearby sights.

The centerpiece of the Place Saint-Michel is the monumental Fontaine Saint-Michel. Commissioned by Haussmann under Napoleon III, this stunning fountain depicts the archangel Michael vanquishing the Devil. The allegorical image evokes the theme of good battling evil. In the local tradition, tourists may want to toss a coin into the fountain and make a wish.

Address: Boulevard Saint-Michel, 75005 Paris (Métro: Saint-Michel or Cluny-La Sorbonne)

5. Rue Mouffetard Restaurants

Café on Rue Mouffetard

On the gently sloping Montagne Sainte-Geneviève hill, the Rue Mouffetard is one of the oldest and most atmospheric streets in Paris. Known simply as "La Mouffe," this narrow street is lined with historic shops, 16th to 18th-century houses, and quaint restaurants that are popular with students. The street is especially lively on weekend evenings when many street musicians come out to entertain diners.

Rue Mouffetard begins near the Panthéon and ends at the Place de la Contrescarpe, a pleasant square with many sidewalk cafés. One of Paris' most noteworthy market streets, the Rue Mouffetard is a bustling local grocery-shopping destination renowned for its selection of bakeries, cheese shops, and other specialty food stores. There are also traditional market stalls (only open in the mornings) stocked with an abundance of colorful fresh fruits and vegetables.

Popular Tours

6. Atmospheric Medieval Alleyways & Pedestrian Streets

Narrow street in the Latin Quarter

An obligatory tourist experience is getting lost in the Latin Quarter's labyrinth of narrow medieval streets. The narrowest street is Rue du Chat Qui Pêche (The Cat Who Fishes), an alleyway that runs from Rue de la Huchette to the Seine River. This tiny street only provides enough space for pedestrians to walk single-file. Rue de la Huchette is lined with small shops and with restaurants geared to tourists and students (but not gourmands). Taking a walk down this pedestrian-only street gives visitors a taste of the bustling Latin Quarter atmosphere.

Other historic streets worth exploring include Rue Saint-Sevérin, where the Eglise Saint-Sevérin is located. This pedestrian-only street has several quaint casual restaurants. The Rue de la Harpe is a side street full of restaurants, many of which have sidewalk terraces for soaking up the street scene.

7. Bouquinistes & Bookshops

Bouquinistes

To discover the quintessential Latin Quarter ambience, take a stroll down the Quai de la Tournelle, which runs along the Seine River. Les Bouquinistes are riverside book sellers along the quays around the Pont Marie (bridge). This popular open-air bookshop features separate stalls stocked with classic and modern literary works. In addition to used and new books, there are also postcards and posters for sale.

Across the street from the book stalls at 53 Quai des Grands Augustins is Les Bouquinistes. This upscale contemporary-style restaurant features the gourmet cuisine of Guy Savoy. In an enchanting location near the Pont Neuf, the restaurant offers views of the Seine River and the book stalls set up along the quay.

The Latin Quarter's ancient streets are also filled with many eclectic book stores including the English-language bookshop Shakespeare and Company at 37 Rue de la Bûcherie. Founded by American expatriate George Whitman in 1951, this legendary bookshop sells editions of everything from Shakespeare to James Joyce. Shakespeare and Company is a well-known gathering place for writers and has a tradition of inviting young aspiring authors to lodge here, sleeping on cots in between the bookshelves. The shop hosts literary events such as book readings. In 2015, Shakespeare and Company opened a café next to the bookshop.

8. Dining by the Seine River

Dining by the Seine River

Dining at a péniche is one of the most memorable things to do in Paris. Dotted along the banks of the Seine River, péniches are charming little docked boats with inviting restaurants. These riverside barge restaurants offer a unique tourist experience that's often missed by tourists. In the Latin Quarter at 3 Quai de Montebello, La Nouvelle Seine is an alluring péniche restaurant that offers gourmet cuisine, as well as theatrical entertainment. From the dining room, guest can admire superb views of the Notre-Dame Cathedral.

For a traditional French gastronomic experience, tourists can indulge in a meal at the Michelin-starred Tour d'Argent restaurant at 15 Quai de la Tournelle. The dining room dazzles guests with its spectacular views of the Seine River and the Notre-Dame Cathedral. The refined (and expensive) restaurant is famous for its classic French cuisine, especially its signature "Marco Polo" roast duck.

Address: La Nouvelle Seine, 3 Quai de Montebello; Tour d'Argent, 15 Quai de la Tournelle (Métro: Saint-Michel or Maubert-Mutualité station)

9. Eglise Saint-Étienne-du-Mont

Eglise Saint-Etienne du Mont

Another exquisite historic church, the Eglise Saint-Étienne-du-Mont was built in the 15th century from the Late Gothic period to the Renaissance. The architecture shows the evolution of styles. The nave of the church features stellar Gothic vaulting, while the round pillars were influenced by Renaissance design. The church is famed for its rood-screen, which has a central marble section and a spiral staircase at each end.

At the entrance to Our Lady Chapel are the epitaphs of the philosopher Blaise Pascal and the dramatist Jean Racine, who are buried in the church. The church is also said to contain a stone from the tomb of Saint Genevieve. Spectacular 15th- to 16th-century stained-glass windows depict scenes of the Apocalypse and the Parable of the Marriage Feast. The Eglise Saint-Étienne-du-Mont is found just steps behind the Panthéon and is open for visits every day (except during the school holiday period when it is closed on Mondays). Mass is held here every day and several times on Sundays.

Address: Place Sainte-Geneviève, 75005 Paris (Métro: Maubert-Mutualité or Cardinal Lemoine station)

10. Place de l'Odeon

Place de l'Odeon | Dan / photo modified

The Place de l'Odeon is an elegant square lined by lovely old Parisian buildings. The most important monument on the square is the impressive Théâtre de l'Odéon. This theater is the home of the Comédie-Française, a theater company that performs classic French theater such as comedies by Molière and drama by Victor Hugo. On warm days, students like to linger on the arcaded patio and steps of the theater.

The charming side streets around the Place de l'Odeon are delightful to explore. Tourists will enjoy wandering around to discover the trendy boutiques and happening restaurants. For a change of scenery just a few steps away, the tranquil Jardins du Luxembourg are a perfect place to relax and enjoy a picnic lunch in the setting of a formal French garden. The closest Métro station is Odéon.

11. Eglise Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre

Eglise Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre | Guglielmo / photo modified

On the Quai Saint-Michel beyond Square Viviani, the Eglise Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre is an interesting historic church. It was built in High Gothic style between the mid-12th and mid-13th century. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the Rector of the University was elected in this church, and its bell was rung to announce the beginning of lectures. The interior of Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre Church is dominated by an icon-decorated screen installed in 1901. There is a lovely perspective of the church's silhouette from a spot on Rue Galande near the Eglise Saint-Sevérin.

The Eglise Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre is open for visits every day of the year except on holidays. The church regularly hosts classical music concerts.

Address: 79 Rue Galande, 75005 Paris (Métro: Saint-Michel, Cluny-La Sorbonne, or Maubert-Mutualité station)

12. Sorbonne University

Sorbonne University

Known as "La Sorbonne," this ancient academic institution was founded in 1253 as a college for poor students of theology who could live and study at the school's expense. The college soon developed into a leading school of theology and during Napoleon's reign was given the status of a State university.

Many Sorbonne University buildings were rebuilt in the 19th century. The entrance to the Sorbonne at 47 Rue des Ecoles, the Grand Hall features allegorical statues of Homer (representing the Arts) and Archimedes (representing the Sciences). The main lecture hall, the Grand Amphithéâtre, has seating for 935, and above the podium is the celebrated mural by the Neoclassical painter Puvis de Chavannes, Le Bois Sacré (The Sacred Grove). In the courtyard of the Sorbonne is a Baroque chapel built between 1635 and 1642 with a dome painted by Philippe de Champaigne.

Besides admiring the exterior of the Sorbonne buildings, visitors may take a guided tour to see the interior. However, guided tours are only offered a few times a month (two Wednesdays and one Saturday), during European Heritage Days, or by appointment for groups (on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays).

Address: 47 Rue des Ecoles, 75005 Paris (Métro: Cluny-La Sorbonne or Maubert-Mutualité station)

13. Jardin des Plantes & Musée National d'Histoire Naturelle

Jardin des Plantes & Musée National d'Histoire Naturelle

A legacy of the Royal Garden of medicinal plants kept by King Louis XIII in the 17th century, this lush green space is a tranquil spot to relax and escape to nature, right in the heart of Paris. The Jardin des Plantes includes several different gardens. Highlights are the romantic Jardin de Roses (Rose Garden), the Jardin Alpin (Alpine Garden) featuring mountain plants, and the Jardin de l'École de Botanique (Garden of the School of Botany) with an exceptional variety of flowers and plants arranged in an educational manner to help viewers understand biodiversity.

Inside the gardens is the Musée National d'Histoire Naturelle, which offers a comprehensive view of the various fields of natural history including botany (with an extensive historical collection), mineralogy (with notable giant crystals), geology, anthropology, and paleontology.

Address: 57 Rue Cuvier 75005 Paris (Métro: Place Monge or Jussieu station)

14. Arènes de Lutèce Archaeological Site

Arènes de Lutèce Archaeological Site | ctj71081 / photo modified

The Lutetia Arena is the remains of an ancient Roman amphitheater of Paris, discovered in 1869. These ruins give an idea of the huge size of the original amphitheater, once used to stage gladiator and animal fights. The elliptical arena was 56 meters long by 48 meters across, roughly the same dimensions as the interior of the ancient Colosseum in Rome.

One of the quarter's hidden gems, this amphitheater and the Roman baths at the Musée de Cluny are the only vestiges of the ancient Roman city of Lutetia (which overlaps with today's Paris city center). The Arènes de Lutèce was built around the 1st and 2nd century AD, but later during a barbarian incursion in 285, it was used as a quarry of stone for building defensive walls. Although the amphitheater had only 36 tiers of seating, it could accommodate an audience of up to 17,000, which was almost the entire population of the city during antiquity.

Today, locals use the Arènes de Lutèce as a park (it's surrounded by tall, leafy trees) and kids play soccer here. The site is open to the public for visits (free of charge) from 8am until 6pm in the winter with later hours in the spring and summer.

Address: 49 Rue Monge, 75005 Paris (Métro: Cardinal Lemoine, Place Monge or Jussieu station)

15. Grande Mosquée de Paris

Grande Mosquée de Paris | Amn Tsdn / photo modified

An oasis of Islamic culture right in the Latin Quarter, the Grande Mosquée de Paris is just a few steps away from the Jardin des Plantes. A relatively recent addition to the neighborhood, the Grand Mosque of Paris was built between 1922 and 1926. The mosque is frequented by the local Muslim community but also offers tourists a unique and exotic experience.

The interior of the Grand Mosque is a stunning masterpiece of Hispano-Moorish style. The prayer hall features magnificent carpets, and the hammam replicates the baths of North Africa with colorful mosaic tile decorations. Featuring delicately adorned archways, the courtyard with its emerald-tiled adornments was inspired by the Alhambra Palace in Granada.

The Grand Mosque is open to the public for visits every day except Fridays and Muslim holidays. Visitors may amble through the lush fountain-adorned garden and enjoy fresh mint tea at the salon de thé (tea salon) in the garden's courtyard, or savor a delicious meal of authentic Moroccan couscous at the Mosque's restaurant, Aux Portes de l'Orient.

It is also possible to visit the hammam to soak in the traditional Turkish-style hot and cold baths or to get a pampering massage. The hammam is only open to women.

Address: Entrance to Mosque: 2 Bis Place du Puits de l'Ermite; Tea Salon and Restaurant: 39 Rue Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire 75005 Paris (Métro: Place Monge or Censier - Daubenton station)

16. Musée National Eugène Delacroix

Place de Furstenberg

This excellent small museum celebrates the life and work of French Romantic painter, Eugène Delacroix. The museum is found at the border of the Latin Quarter and the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood on the handsome Place de Furstenberg, housed in the artist's former apartment. Delacroix chose this location as his residence because of its pleasant little garden, where he could build an art studio.

With a collection spanning Delacroix's career, the museum's exhibitions show the different themes that Delacroix depicted, as well as his artistic influences. The collection boasts numerous masterpieces. Highlights include the Mary Magdalene in the Desert painting exhibited at the Salon of 1845 and another religious composition titled Annonciation, painted in 1841. Many of the other famous works by Delacroix are found in the Musée du Louvre across the Seine River in the 1st arrondissement.

Throughout the year, the museum hosts cultural events, workshops, conferences, and concerts. There are also temporary exhibitions such as thematic assortments of paintings by Delacroix or on different aspects of the artist's persona and his creative process.

Address: 6 Rue de Furstenberg, 75006 Paris (Métro: Saint-Germain-des-Prés or Mabillon station)

Official site: http://www.musee-delacroix.fr/en

Where to Stay in the Latin Quarter of Paris for Sightseeing

The Latin Quarter is one of the most charming areas in Paris, with its warren of meandering medieval streets and peaceful spots alongside the Seine River. Scattered throughout the Latin Quarter are interesting bookshops, locally owned retail boutiques, and authentic French bistros. The atmospheric Boulevard Saint-Michel is lined with bustling sidewalk cafés and stores that cater to the local students but also appeal to tourists. Because of its energy and central location, the Latin Quarter is a great place to stay. Below are highly rated hotels that we recommend.

  • Luxury Hotels: The five-star Relais Christine is a haven of relaxation and refinement, nestled on a quiet street near the Seine River. The tastefully adorned rooms have views of a garden or inner courtyard. A surprising hideaway in the Latin Quarter, the four-star Hotel Da Vinci has an upscale spa with professional massage therapists. A continental breakfast (with fresh croissants) or a hearty full breakfast is available. Off Boulevard Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the four-star Hotel Relais Saint-Germain offers plush guest rooms with sophisticated decor. Accommodations include breakfast in the room or at Le Comptoir, the hotel's popular "bistrot brasserie" restaurant.
  • Mid-Range Hotels: Just off Boulevard Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the family-run Hotel Pas de Calais has a cozy welcoming feel and beautiful rooms decorated in French country or modern style. A continental breakfast (including artisan pastries) is available. At the other end of Boulevard Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the boutique Odeon Hotel is a five-minute walk from the Luxembourg Gardens. A buffet breakfast is available. The elegant Hotel Left Bank Saint-Germain offers a great location and delightful rooms adorned in French country style. A traditional French breakfast is available.
  • Budget Hotels: On a quiet street only a block from the Cluny Museum, the Hotel du College de France provides basic accommodation at an affordable price. Some rooms have balconies for admiring the stately Parisian buildings on the street. A breakfast buffet is available. Almost next door, on a quiet street, the Hotel Marignan includes free breakfast and laundry facilities. Art Nouveau touches add flourish to the interior of the Grand Hôtel des Balcons, which occupies a splendid 19th-century townhouse near the Luxembourg Gardens. Some of the rooms are large enough for families. A buffet breakfast is available.

Tips and Tours: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to the Latin Quarter, Paris

  • Tours of the Latin Quarter: Join an expert guide on a Paris Latin Quarter Night Walking Tour for a two-hour exploration of the neighborhood's landmarks, history, architecture, characters, and lore. This guided evening stroll includes stops at the Cluny Museum, the Sorbonne University, and the Eglise Saint-Étienne-du-Mont.
  • Be Part of the Café Society: Whether you sip your coffee at a busy sidewalk terrace on the Boulevard Saint-Michel or at a locals' hangout on Rue Mouffetard, you can't miss this essential Parisian experience.

More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com

Must-See Landmarks Nearby: At the heart of Paris, the Latin Quarter is the perfect starting point to begin exploring the city's cultural attractions. Within walking distance are must-see landmarks such as the fashionable Boulevard Saint-Germain-des-Prés with its legendary cafés and the glorious Notre-Dame Cathedral on the Île de la Cité. Other amazing historic Paris churches are nearby: Saint-Chapelle also on the Île de la Cité, the Eglise Saint-Louis en l'Île on the Île Saint-Louis, and the Eglise Saint-Sulpice in the 6th arrondissement.

Museums near the Latin Quarter: To admire masterpieces of fine art, tourists need only take a short stroll across the Seine River where the Musée du Louvre displays a world-renowned collection. Other top-rated museums in Paris are within walking distance, such as the Musée d'Orsay in the 7th arrondissement, a veritable temple of Impressionist art filled with gorgeous paintings by Monet, Renoir, Degas, Pissarro, and Cézanne, among others. Steps away from the Musée d'Orsay in the 7th is the Musée Rodin with its wonderful tree-shaded sculpture garden.

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