Best Paris Strolls

Stroll 11: Saint Germain – East

Stroll 11 Church of Saint Germain-des-Pres

Quick Description:  Renaissance streets, magnificent park, famous churches, art museums.   

Where: Left Bank, west of the Latin Quarter and the Quarter of the Mint. 

Start and End at Boulevard Saint Germain, by the church of Saint Germain-des-Pres, outside Metro station Saint Germain-des-Pres (#4 line).

Duration: 1 hr walk, @2-4 hrs with venue visits.  One Early Departure Option.   

Best Days: Mon and Wed – Sat.

Best Time to Start: 10:00 am or later

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Connects: by foot to Stroll 12 (Saint Germain – West), and by quick Metro rides to Stroll 1 (Ile de la Cite), or Stroll 2 (The Latin Quarter), or Stroll 3 (Quarter of the Mint), or Stroll 30 (Montparnasse).

Past and Present: This famous neighborhood gets its name from the Abbey of Saint Germain-des-Pres, which owned much of the Left Bank from the 6th to the 17th centuries.    During that time, it was a rural mix of farms, fields, woods and tiny hamlets (“des pres” means “of the meadows”).  Development of the area as a residential and commercial zone began in the early 1600s when Queen Marie de Medici (widow of King Henri IV) constructed the Palais du Luxembourg as her new residence.  Within a century, many in the aristocracy had moved here, building townhouses and walled estates.  The intellectual classes followed and this became a hotbed of the Revolutionary movement.  Then, in the mid-19th century Boulevard Saint Germain was installed, café culture was born and retailing boomed.  Today, Saint Germain’s eastern half – covered by this stroll – boasts the beautiful public park, Jardin du Luxembourg, two important churches, Saint Germain-des-Pres and Saint Sulpice, the historic Odeon Theater, the Delacroix and Luxembourg art museums, picturesque streets, well-known restaurants and a variety of retailers.         

Attractions (in order):          

  • Church of Saint Germain-des-Pres: Place Saint Germain-des-Pres.  Catholic church built and restored from the 1100s to the 1800s, located at the site of an abbey founded in the 600s. Mon-Sat 8am- 7:45pm, Sun 9am-8pm, free.
  • Abbey Palace:  #3 Rue de l’Abbaye, behind the church.  16th century palace of the abbot of Saint Germain-des-Pres, with a distinctive brick and masonry façade.  Now a teaching institution.  Not open to public.       
  • Musee Eugene Delacroix: #6 Place de Furstemberg, opposite the Abbey Palace.  Small museum dedicated to the great 19th century painter, located in his former home and displaying mostly his drawings and studies for paintings.  Wed-Mon 9:30am-5:30pm, €7 (free to EU citizens under 26) €15 combo ticket with Musee du Louvre.
  • Cour du Commerce Saint Andre: Running between Rue Saint Andre-des-Arts and Blvd Saint Germain.  Following the path of the moat of the 1203 city wall, this picturesque, partly covered street dates from 1776 and features huge original cobblestones, several restaurants, including Paris’s oldest, Le Procope, and a view into the adjacent Cour du Rohan, a private residential enclave dating from the 1500s.     
  • Georges Danton Statue:  Blvd Saint Germain at the Carrefour de Odeon.  Statue of one of the leading figures of the French Revolution. 
  • Rue de Tournon: Running north from the vicinity of the Carrefour de l’Odeon to the Palais du Luxembourg.  Elegant street lined with mansions dating from the 1500s through the 1700s, including the one-time home of United States Admiral John Paul Jones, as well as some upscale retailers. 
  • Odeon Theatre de L’Europe:  Place de l’Odeon, optional detour.  Theater with an impressive temple-like appearance, dating from 1819 and still operating as a venue for live shows in various genres.  Interior open only for performances.     
  • Jardin du Luxembourg: Rue de Vaugirard entrance.  Paris’s second largest public park dates from the early 1600s when it was a private royal garden.  Most of the grounds are arranged in the formal style “a la Francaise” later employed at Versailles.  It is the site of the Palais du Luxembourg (now home to France’s Senate and closed to visitors) the Medici Fountain and the Musee du Luxembourg (see below). Other features include a central pond for toy sailboats, a fruit orchard, tennis courts, a marionette theater, and many statues.  The park is open daily from 7:30am to dusk (4:30-9:30pm depending on the season).  Entry is free.  The metal chairs scattered around the grounds can be used by anyone.         
  • Musee du Luxembourg: #19 Rue de Vaugirard.  Museum presenting changing art exhibitions, mostly focused on 19th and 20th century artists.  Mon-Thurs 10:30am-6pm, Fri-Sun 10:30am-7pm, €13 (€9 age 16-25 and other discounted admissions.)
  • Church of Saint Sulpice: Place Saint Sulpice.  Large Baroque church built in the 1600s and 1700s, with significant history and artworks (and a featured locale in the bestselling novel “The Da Vinci Code”).  Daily 7:30am-7:30pm, free. 
  • Fontaine des Quatre Eveques:  Place Saint Sulpice, in front of the church.  The “Fountain of the Four Bishops” was designed by Louis Visconti and constructed from 1843 to 1848.  Its sculptures celebrate four Catholic bishops of the 1600s.
  • Place du Quebec and Fontaine L’Embacle: Place du Quebec, at Blvd Saint Germain, across from the Church of Saint Germain-des-Pres. The plaza was inaugurated in 1980 to celebrate the French speaking Canadian province of Quebec.  Fontaine L’Embacle is a sculpture presented by the province to the city of Paris and installed here in 1984.  It emulates the break-up of an ice jam on a river.

Dining Suggestions (in order):

  • Fish La Boissonerie, #69 Rue de Seine.  Inventive French cuisine, emphasis on fish.  Small traditional room with stone walls, table and bar seating.  Daily 12:30pm-2:30pm, 7pm-10:45pm.  Prix fixe lunch @€29.  
  • La Jacobine, #59-61 Rue Saint Andre-des-Arts (actually located in the Cour du Commerce Saint Andre).  French cuisine, large portions.  Traditional, homey room.  Mon 6:30-11pm, Tues-Sun Noon-11pm.  Average Cost: @€21-40.
  • Café Le Procope, #13 Rue de l’Ancienne Comedie (with a back entrance at Cour du Commerce Saint Andre).  Founded in the 1700s, this place lays claim to being the city’s original restaurant, and the first to serve coffee.  Franklin, Jefferson, Diderot and other Enlightenment figures dined here.  French cuisine.  Charming heritage rooms, some outdoor seating. Daily 11:45am-Midnight.   Prix fixe menu @€31.5-38-50.
  • Le Comptoir, #9 Carrefour de l’Odeon.  Foodie favorite restaurant under the direction of chef Yves Camdeborde.  French cuisine.  Small traditional room, outdoor seating, Daily Noon-11pm.  Average Cost: @€29-65.   Note: no reservations – and there is always a line. 
  • Les Editeurs, #4 Carrefour de l’Odeon.  French cuisine.  Traditional room with library décor (you can read the books while you dine), outdoor seating.  Daily 8am-2am.  Prix fixe lunch @€23-28.  
  • Breizh Café – Odeon, #109 Rue de l’Odeon.  Breton creperie chain with a la carte menu. Casual modern room, outdoor seating.    Mon-Fri 11:30am-11pm, Sat-Sun 10am-11pm.  Average cost @€11-20. Note: no reservations – and often a line.
  • La Ferrandaise, #8 Rue de Vaugirard. French cuisine.  Handsome traditional rooms on two floors, one stone walled, the other wood paneled.  Tues-Fri Noon-2:30pm, 7-10:30pm, Mon-Sat 7-10:30pm.  Prix fixe options @€16 (lunch only), €37, €55.    
  • La Maison du Jardin, 27 Rue de Vaugirard.  French cuisine. Traditional room. Mon-Fri, 12:15pm-2pm, 7:15-10pm, Sat 7:15-10pm.  Prix fixe lunch @€23-27-28.
  • Classico Argentino – Madame, #46 Rue Madame, at the corner with Rue de Vaugirard.  Chain serving empanadas, soups, salads, ice cream.  Modern casual room.  Mon-Fri Noon-3pm, 6pm-11pm, Sat-Sun Noon-4pm, 6pm-11pm. Low to moderate prices, many combo meals offered.
  • Le Canton, #5 Rue Gozlin, near Blvd Saint Germain. SE Asian cuisine.  Casual room, a few outdoor tables.  Mon-Fri Noon-2:30pm, 7-10:30pm, Sat 12:15-11pm. 3 course lunch prix fixe @€15. 
  • Les Deux Magots, #6 Place Saint Germain des Pres, opposite the church, at start and end of route.  Famous hangout of 19th and 20th century artists, writers and actors.  Light French cuisine (sandwiches, salads, foie gras etc.).  Period room, terrace behind hedge with view of church.  Daily 7:30am-1 am.  Average cost: @€10-40.  
  • Café de Flore, #172 Blvd Saint Germain, one block west of the church, at start and end of route. Famous hangout of 19th and 20th century artists, writers and actors.  Light French cuisine (sandwiches, salads, foie gras, etc.).  Period room, open and glassed-in terrace.  Daily 7:30am-1:30am.  Average cost: @€10-40.
  • Brasserie Lipp, #151 Blvd Saint Germain, one block west of the church, on the opposite (south) side of the boulevard, and directly opposite Café de Flore, at start and end of route.  Famous hangout of 19th and 20th century artists, writers and actors.  French / Alsatian cuisine.  Distinctive, mirrored, period room.  Daily 9am-12:45am, Average cost: @€55 3 courses.  

Ready to stroll?
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Stroll Map

Ready to stroll?
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