Best Paris Strolls

Stroll 2: The Latin Quarter

Stroll 2 The Pantheon

Quick Description:  Medieval university area, many famous sites, picturesque streets.

Where: Left Bank, parallel to Ile de la Cite.  

Start and End at Place Saint Michel, outside Metro station Saint Michel – Notre Dame (#4 line). 

Duration: 1 hr walk, @3-5 hrs with venue visits.  Early Departure Option at about the 2/3 mark.  

Best Days: Wed – Fri. 

Best Time to Start: 9:30am – 11:30am

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Connects: by foot to Stroll 1 (Ile de la Cite), or Stroll 3 (Quarter of the Mint), and by quick Metro rides to Stroll 11 (Saint Germain – East), or Stroll 12 (Saint Germain – West), or Stroll 30 (Montparnasse).     

Past and Present: The big hill rising on the Left Bank parallel to Ile de la Cite was the main site of the Roman town of Lutetia from the 1st to the 5th centuries AD.  When the Romans were dispatched by the Franks in 464 AD a devout nun named Genevieve helped convert the victors to Catholicism, then built an abbey at the hilltop.  Later, other religious orders created abbeys on the slope.  In the 1100s these orders began to sponsor colleges, which collectively became known as the University of Paris.  Classes were taught in Latin, resulting in the area being called the “Latin Quarter.”  Today, the quarter boasts a large number of compelling attractions, including the Sorbonne buildings, the Pantheon, an outstanding museum of the Middle Ages, the city’s oldest churches, the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore, and much more, plus good restaurants for every budget and a lively student vibe.      

Attractions (in order):

  • Place / Fontaine / Boulevard Saint Michel: 19th century intersection featuring a dramatic, large carved fountain that is one of the city’s iconic symbols.
  • Thermes de Cluny (Roman Baths Ruins): Located along Blvd Saint Michel and Rue du Sommerard,   The ruins can be viewed from the street, but are guarded by an iron fence and cannot be entered.   However, the frigidarium rooms were excavated and are now used as exhibition spaces for the Musee de Moyen Age (see below).   
  • Musee du Moyen Age (aka Musee de Cluny): #28 Rue du Sommerard.  Outstanding collection of medieval art and artifacts housed in the 15th century mansion of the Abbots of Cluny and in excavated rooms of the Thermes de Cluny (Roman baths ruins).  It has just completed a seven year renovation and offers a new modern entrance on Rue Sommerard that is wheelchair accessible.  There is also a garden at the rear of the building with plant species that were grown in medieval times.  Wed-Mon 9-5:45, €12, under 18 free, EU citizens under 26 free, garden free.
  • Square Samuel Paty: At Place Paul Painleve, outside Musee du Moyen Age.  Charming small public park created in 1900, with varied sculptures, recently renamed for a teacher murdered by Islamic terrorists. Mon-Fri 9:30am-6:30pm, Sat-Sun 9am-5pm, free.
  • Place de la Sorbonne: Rue de la Sorbonne outside the Sorbonne campus.  This pedestrian plaza featuring benches beneath trees and a Roman era water well is a popular spot to stop for a rest on the walk up the hill.     
  • Chapelle de la Sorbonne: At Place de la Sorbonne.  17th century church with Cardinal Richelieu’s tomb.  The interior of the chapel may be entered only as part of official guided  tours of the Palace of the Sorbonne.  These tours are given 10:30am and 2:30pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and on one Saturday per month. Group size is 10-30 individuals.  The guide speaks in French only.  The fee is €15   Advance registration by email is required, and it is recommended that this be done about one month in advance.  See website for email address.  Also note: the Chapel has at times been excluded from the tour for security reasons.  Check status.      
  • Cinema du Pantheon: #13 Rue Victor Cousins.  The city’s oldest movie theater, still operating, showing classic films.  The cinema also offers a cafe inside (see “Dining Suggestions”) and a movie bookstore next door, Librarie du Cinema du Pantheon.
  • The Pantheon: Place du Pantheon.  Spectacular 18th century domed building intended as a shrine to St Genevieve, now holding the tombs of France’s great secular personages, plus Foucault’s pendulum, and offering rooftop vistas (300 stairs, no elevator).  Audio guides are available in 11 languages for a fee.  There are public restrooms on site.  Luggage is not permitted.  Daily 10am-6-6:30-7pm depending on the season, €11.5, under 18 free, EU citizens under 26 free. Roof panorama tour €3.5 additional, except persons admitted to the site free, lasts @45 minutes.  No panorama tour November through March.
  • Biliotheque Saint Genevieve: #10 Place du Pantheon. 19th century library with a splendid reading room that is free to visit (requires photo ID for daily library pass).  Mon-Sat 10am-10pm, free entry to site.
  • Church of Saint Etienne du Mont: Place Sainte Genevieve (left rear of Place du Pantheon).  16th century church with unique architectural features and the tombs of Saint Genevieve, Paris’s patron saint, as well as playwright Jean Racine and scientist Blaise Pascal.  Tues-Sat opens at 8:45am, Mon at Noon, Sun open from 8:45am to Noon and again after 2:30pm, free.
  • Musee de Collections Historiques de la Prefecture de Police: #4 Rue de la Montagne Saint Genevieve.  Museum of the history of the Paris Police.  Informational cards in French only, but most exhibits are understandable, and the whole takes about 30 minutes to peruse.  Mon-Fri 9:30am-5pm, free.
  • L’Hotel Colbert: #13 Rue de la Bucherie.  18th century mansion that once housed Paris’s first school of medicine and is now a government office building.   Its rotunda room may be visited with permission of the staff. 
  • Rue Galande: Street dating from Roman times, now a picturesque pedestrian way with centuries-old buildings, as well as restaurants and famous cabarets.  
  • Church of Saint Julien le Pauvre: #79 Rue Galande.  One of the city’s two oldest churches, dating from the 1200s, with simple interior, displaying icons.  Daily 9am-1pm and 3-6pm, free.
  • Square Rene Vivani: #2 Rue de Fouarre.  Small public park located between the Church of Saint Julien le Pauvre and the river road, on the site of a 6th century burial ground.  It features the city’s oldest tree, and good views of Cathedral Notre Dame and is often the site of special events.  Open Mon-Fri 8am-6:30pm, Sat 9am-6:30pm, Sun 9am-5-pm, free.
  • Shakespeare and Company Bookstore: #37 Rue de la Bucherie, along the river.  Famous eclectic bookstore handling English language titles.  Mon-Sat 11am-7pm, Sun 11:30am-7pm.
  • Petit Pont:  Bridge from the Left Bank to the island, arriving at one end of the large plaza (parvis) in front of Cathedral Notre Dame.  A bridge has been at this location since Roman times.  
  • Church of Saint Severin: #13 Rue des Pretres Saint Severin.  One of the city’s two oldest churches, dating from the 1200s, with a unique forest of carved columns in the interior and a deeply medieval atmosphere.  Daily 11am-7pm, free.   
  • Rue de l’Harpe:  Street dating from Roman times, now a picturesque pedestrian way.         

Dining Suggestions (in order):

  • Bouillon Racine: #3 Rue Racine.  French cuisine.  Attractive Art Nouveau room dating from 1906.  Daily Noon-11pm.  Prix fixe menus @€17.5-35. (Note: “Bouillon” normally means a “worker’s restaurant,” with basic dishes at very low prices, but that not the case here.)
  • Brasserie Balzar: #49 Rue des Ecoles.  A neighborhood stalwart.  French / Alsatian cuisine.  Traditional room.  Daily 8:30am-11pm.  Prix fixe lunch @€21-28-38. 
  • Salon du Pantheon: #13 Rue Victor Cousins, in the mezzanine of Paris’s oldest movie house, Cinema du Pantheon.  Light fare.  Eclectic lounge décor.  Mon-Fri Noon-7pm.  Average cost: @€10-20.     
  • Café de la Nouvelle Mairie:  #19 Rue des Fosses Saint-Jacques a block from Place du Pantheon. Wine bar/bistro, French cuisine, cheese and meat boards. Art Deco room, outdoor seating.  Mon-Fri 8am-Midnight.  Average cost: @€15-40.    
  • Les Pipos: #2 Rue de l’Ecole Polytechnique, at Place Larue.  Wine bar/bistro with French cuisine.  Rustic room, some outdoor tables. Mon-Sat 9am-1am.  Average cost @€20-40.
  • Nossa Churrasqueira: #1 Rue de l’Ecole Polytechnique, just off Place Larue.  Portuguese chicken rotisserie.  Casual room, outdoor seating.  Daily Noon-3pm, Tues-Sat 7-11pm.  Average cost @€16-25.
  • Beaurepaire: #1 Rue de la Bucherie.  Basque cuisine, tapas and boards.  Rustic décor, outdoor seating on a quiet plaza that has twice been used as a movie set.  Daily 8am-Midnight.  Average cost @€15-35.
  • Au Coin des Gourmets Rive Gauche: #5 Rue Dante.  Cuisine of Southeast Asia.  Peaceful room.  Tues-Sun Noon-2:30pm, 7-10:30pm, Mon 7-10:30pm.  Prix fixe lunch menus @€17-29-30-36.
  • La Fourmi Ailee:  #8 Rue du Fouarre.  French cuisine, including quiches and salads, affordable wines.  Cozy library-like décor.   Daily, Noon-Midnight.  Average cost per dish @€11-17.

Ready to stroll?
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Stroll Map

Ready to stroll?
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