Best Paris Strolls

Stroll 12: Saint Germain – West

Stroll 12 Centaur Statue

Quick Description:  Picturesque upscale area, lots of shopping at boutiques and major department store, Catholic shrine, art museum, taxidermy shop/museum, other intriguing sites. 

Where: Left Bank, west and south of the Church of Saint Germain-des-Pres. 

Start at Boulevard Saint Germain, by the church of Saint Germain-des-Pres, outside Metro station Saint Germain-des-Pres (#4 line).  End at the intersection of Boulevard Saint Germain and Rue du Bac, outside Metro station Rue du Bac (#12 line).

Duration: 1 hr walk, @4 hrs with venue visits.  Three Early Departure Options.   

Best Days: Mon – Sat.

Best Time to Start: 10am or later.

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Connects: by foot to Stroll 13 (Musee D’Orsay to Musee Rodin), and by quick Metro ride to Stroll 15 (Concorde-Tuileries-Vendome), or Stroll 16 (Concorde-Madeleine-Expiatoire), or Stroll 17 (Concorde to Place de l’Alma).

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, the land was a rural mix of farms, fields, woods and tiny hamlets (“des pres” means “of the meadows”).  Its development as a residential zone began in the early 1600s when Queen Marie de Medici (widow of King Henri IV) constructed the Palais du Luxembourg in the eastern half of the district.  Within a century, many in the aristocracy had moved there, building townhouses and walled estates.  Different changes came in the mid-19th century. Boulevard Saint Germain was installed and the city’s first department store, Le Bon Marche, opened in the western part of the district, leading to that area becoming a swanky commercial zone. Today, that western part – the subject of this stroll – is still mostly commercial, and still features Le Bon Marche, along with many unique boutiques and luxury brand stores.  But there are a lot of other attractions here too, from the Catholic shrine, Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, to the Malloil art museum, to the famed Deyrolle taxidermy shop, and much more, plus many good dining options.        

Attractions (in order):           

  • Church of Saint Germain-des-Pres: Place Saint Germain-des-Pres (at Boulevard Saint Germain), at start of route.  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.  
  • Rue du Dragon: Running south from Blvd Saint Germain.  Picturesque, upscale commercial street. 
  • Carrefour de la Croix Rouge (Red Cross):  Historic confluence of five upscale commercial streets.  
  • Boutiques of Rue de Grenelle and Rue des Saints-Peres: Adjacent to the Carrefour de l Croix Rouge.  These two intersecting streets are densely packed with the boutiques of international fashion and cosmetics brands. 
  • Espace Foundation EDF#6 Rue Recamier.  Space for the  Foundation’s changing exhibitions relating to technological innovations, electronic games, art and music, societal change, and health and climate issues.  Tues-Sun Noon-7pm, free.
  • Square Roger Stephane (formerly Square Recamier).  At the dead end of Rue Recamier.  Created in 1933, this secluded park’s pastoral design is highly unusual for Paris. Open Mon-Sat 9-8:30, Sun 9:30-8:30, free.
  • Hotel Lutetia: #45 Blvd. Raspail.  Built in 1910, this luxury hotel with Art Nouveau features has a connection to the arts and to World War II.  Recently renovated, it features two restaurants and a bar, plus tea service. 
  • Centaur Statue: Carrefour de la Croix Rouge, at the beginning of Rue du Cherche Midi.  A 1985 tribute to Picasso that has become an iconic symbol of the neighborhood.
  • Rue du Cherche Midi: Running south from the Carrefour de la Croix Rouge.  Picturesque, upscale commercial street historically associated with sundial makers and featuring sundial sculptures, as well as many modern boutiques for fashion and jewelry.
  • Le Bon Marche#24 Rue de Sevres, at the beginning of Rue du Bac.  “The Good Market” or “The Good Deal” is Paris’s first department store, dating from the 1860s, and still one of its top shopping venues.   Mon-Sat 10am-8pm (Thurs to 8:45pm) and Sun 11am-7:45pm.  
  • Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal: #140 Rue du Bac, just behind Le Bon Marche.   Shrine to Saint Catherine-Laboure, a nun of the Daughters of Charity, whose reported visitations by the Virgin Mary in 1830 led to the minting of the Miraculous Medal.  The lovely chapel displays the saint’s body in a glass sarcophagus and the building’s forecourt has panels telling her story.  Wed-Sat 7:45am-1pm, 2:30-7pm, Tues 7:45am-7pm, free.  Check website for schedule of masses and other events. 
  • Jardin Catherine-Laboure: #29 Rue de Babylone, an optional detour.  Former vegetable garden of the Daughters of Charity, now a park.  Mon-Fri 8am-7:30pm, Sat-Sun 9am-7:30pm, free.  
  • Jardin de l’Hotel Matignon: #36 Rue de Babylone, an optional detour.  Garden of the residence of France’s Prime Minister.  Open to visitors the first Saturday of each month, April-October 1-6:30pm, November-March 1-5pm, as well as during the nation’s annual two-day “Rendez-vous aux Jardins,” in early June, free. 
  • Salle des Martyrs de la Societe des Missions Etrangeres: #128 Rue du Bac (basement level).  Sleekly designed, small museum presenting exhibits relating to the work and martyrdoms of the Society’s Catholic missionaries in Asia in the 19th and 20th centuries.  Tues-Sat 11am-6:30pm, Sun 1-6pm, free.    
  • Square des Missiones Etrangeres: #105 Rue du Bac.  Public park installed in 1939, featuring a variety of trees, flowerbeds, a gazebo, benches, a wall mural and a stone bust of Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand.  Good spot for a picnic.  Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat-Sun 9:30am-5pm, free.
  • Musee Malloil: #59-61 Rue de Grenelle.  Museum displaying the artworks of famed French-Catalan sculptor Aristide Malloil (1861-1944), and also hosting special exhibitions (e.g.: glass creations from Murano, Italy; Canaletto’s paintings).  There is a café on premises.  Museum open daily, 10:30am-7pm (Fri to 9:30pm), €12. 
  • Fountain des Quatre Saisons (Four Seasons):  Next to Musee Malloil.  Magnificent, large wall fountain sculpted in the 18th century. 
  • Church of Saint Tomas d’Aquin (Saint Thomas Aquinas): #3 Place Saint Tomas d’Aquin, accessed from Blvd Saint Germain or Rue du Bac. Handsome 17th century church with significant artworks, named for the famous philosopher-priest of the late 1200s.  Mon-Sat 8:30am-7pm, Sun 9am-Noon, 4-7pm.  Admission is free, but a donation may be solicited. 
  • Deyrolle: #46 Rue du Bac.  Taxidermy shop founded in 1831 that is more like a museum, displaying creatures from insects to elephants on two atmospheric floors.  Tues-Sat 10am-7pm, Mon 10am-1pm, 2-7pm, free.

Dining Suggestions (in order):

  • Les Deux Magots, #6 Place Saint Germain des Pres, opposite the church.  Founded in the 1880s, famous as a hangout of 19th and 20th century artists, writers and actors.  Light French cuisine (sandwiches, salads, foie gras etc.).  Period room, terrace seating behind hedge with view of church.  Daily 7:30am-1am.  Average cost: @€10-40.  
  • Café de Flore, #172 Blvd Saint Germain, one block west of the church. Founded in the 1880s, famous as a hangout of 19th and 20th century artists, writers and actors.  Light French cuisine (sandwiches, salads, foie gras, etc.).  Period room, glassed enclosed terrace seating, outdoor seating.  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.  Founded in the 1880s, famous as a hangout of 19th and 20th century artists, writers and actors.  French / Alsatian cuisine.  Distinctive, mirrored, period room.  Daily 9am-12:45am.   Average cost: @€55 three courses.    
  • Bar de la Croix Rouge: #2 Place Michel Debre (aka Carrefour de la Croix Rouge), near Rue de Grenelle.  Casual, modern café with open / glass enclosed terrace seating, shaded by a chestnut tree, offering salads, open faced “tartine” sandwiches, and other light fare.  Mon-Sat 7am- 10pm, Sun 8:30am-8pm.  Moderate prices.
  • Au Sauvignon: #80 Rue des Saints-Peres, at Rue de Sèvres.  Casual wine bar/bistro, in business since 1954, offering salads, open faced “tartine” sandwiches, boards, and other light fare.  Eclectically decorated rustic room, outdoor seating.  Mon-Sat 8am-11pm, Sun 9am-10pm.  Moderate prices.
  • Le Recamier: #4 Rue Recamier.  French cuisine, with emphasis on soufflés.  Elegant traditional room plus seating in glass enclosed terrace and outdoors under a pergola.  Daily Noon-2:45pm, 6-11pm.  Average cost: @€45 3 courses.
  • Le Nemrod: #51 Rue du Cherche Midi, at Rue Saint Placide.  Café offering French cuisine, inspired by foods of the Auvergne region, including large salads. Traditional room, glass enclosed terrace and outdoor seating.  Daily 7:30am-1:30am.  Moderate prices.     
  • Mamie Gateaux Tea Salon: #66 Rue du Cherche Midi, at Rue de l’Abbe Gregoire.  Tea salon offering pastries, quiche.  Retro 1950s décor, outdoor seating.  Tues-Sat 11:45am-6:45pm.  Moderate prices.  
  • Le Grand Epicerie de Paris: #38 Rue de Sèvres, at Rue du Bac, opposite Le Bon Marche department store.  Huge gourmet food and wine emporium where a picnic lunch can easily be assembled – and three nearby parks provide places to consume it.  Mon-Sat 8:30am-9pm, Sun 10am-8pm.  Moderate to expensive.
  • Café Varenne: #36 Rue de Varenne, at Rue du Bac.  French cuisine. Traditional room, outdoor seating.  Mon-Fri 7:30am-10:30pm, Sat 9am-8pm.  Moderate prices. 
  • Al Dente: #38 Rue de Varenne, just left of Rue du Bac.  Italian cuisine, short menu with mains, pizzas, salads, plates to share.  Modern room.  Tues-Sat Noon-2:30pm, 7-10:30pm.  Average cost: @€25-40.  

Ready to stroll?
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Stroll Map

Ready to stroll?
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