Best Paris Strolls

Stroll 29: The Southern Fifth

Stroll 29 Jardin des Plantes

Quick Description:  Jardin des Plantes, Natural History Museum galleries, Zoo, Roman amphitheater park, Grand Mosque of Paris, Hemingway’s apartment building, food market street. 

Where: Left Bank, Fifth Arrondissement, southeast of the Latin Quarter and Pantheon.

Start and End at the southwest corner of Rue Monge and Rue Daubenton, outside Metro station Censier-Daubenton (#7 line).

Duration: 45 min walk, @6 hrs with all venues.  Two Early Departure Options, both near the midpoint.  

Best Days:  Wed – Thurs, Sat – Mon

Best Time to Start: 9:30am – 11:30am  

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Connects: by quick Metro rides to Stroll 4 (The Louvre & Vicinity), or Stroll 5 (Palais Royal & Vicinity), or Stroll 10 (Ile Saint Louis & Vicinity), the last being the closest.

Past and Present: What is now the southern 5th Arrondissement lay outside the 1203 city wall and was not annexed by the city until 1724, so it developed separately.  Mostly, it was an area of industries, such as tanneries, which made use of the Bievre River that flowed through it.  An exception was the Jardin de Plantes, a royal preserve for medicinal plants created in 1626.  But by the 20th century, the river was covered over and the industries were gone.  Today, this is a pleasant, mostly residential neighborhood with compelling attractions for visitors.  The Jardin is still here and includes gardens and greenhouses, plus a zoo and the Natural History Museum galleries. Nearby is a Roman amphitheater made into a park, as well as Hemingway’s first apartment building, a lively market street, the Grand Mosque of Paris, which is  open to visitors, and a church that served as a setting in Victor Hugo’s novel “Les Miserables.”  The many dining options in the area offer a variety of cuisines and prices.  

Attractions (in order):  

  • Grande Mosquee de Paris#2 bis Place du Puits de l’Ermite, off Rue Daubenton.  Built starting in 1922, this is the chief mosque in France.  It features rooms and courtyards elaborately decorated with mosaics in the Moroccan style, plus a 108-foot-tall minaret, a hammam and a restaurant / tea room (see “Dining Suggestions”). Open to visitors Sat-Thurs 9am-Noon and 2-6pm, except Muslim holy days.  Self-guided tour €3 (€2 students and children).  Guided tour available. 
  • Jardin des Plantes, Musee de Histoire Naturelle, La Menagerie (Zoo):  Entry gate at Rue Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, at the end of Rue Daubenton.  The Jardin des Plantes was created in 1626 as a royal preserve for growing medicinal plants.  It later became the site for the Musee de Histoire Naturelle (Museum of Natural History). It also is the site to which the Menagerie of animals at Versailles was relocated during the Revolution, and the Menagerie thereafter became the nation’s first public zoo. Today, the Jardin is a major botanical research institution, maintaining a variety of outdoor gardens and greenhouses open to the public.  The Natural History Museum today has three different public galleries housed in separate buildings within the Jardin.  And the Menagerie is still here and welcoming visitors.  The stroll route directs you first to the Museum’s galleries, then the Jardin’s gardens and its tropical rainforest greenhouse, then to the Menagerie.    Tickets: The outdoor gardens of the Jardin des Plantes are open daily 8am-6:30pm, with free access.  Tickets must be purchased for each Museum Gallery, the Tropical Rainforest Greenhouse and the Menagerie.  Tickets should be purchased online in advance, reserving a date and time.  Tickets can be purchased on site when you arrive, but are subject to availability.  For Museum Galleries, tickets are €10, €7 for various categories of persons, additional for special exhibits and for Virtual Reality Cabinet and Children’s Gallery.  For the Greenhouse tickets are €5.  For the Menagerie, tickets are €13, €10 for ages 3-25.  
  • Grand Galerie de l’Evolution: #36 Rue Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, inside the Jardin des Plantes.  Museum explaining the evolution of the natural world and its animal species, with innovative exhibits including animal reproductions and interactive computer stations.  The open floor plan is several stories high and dramatically exposes the building’s original 19th century iron beams, glass ceiling and stone walls.  Best to start at the top and move down.  Nearly all exhibit cards are in French but English translation sheets are also posted.  In addition, the Grande Galerie has separate venues for Virtual Reality encounters with evolution and for child experiences. Wed-Mon 10am-6pm. 
  • Galerie de Geologie et de Mineralogy:   #36 Rue Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, inside the Jardin des Plantes.  Museum explaining the creation of rocks and minerals, with exhibits and information about giant crystals, gemstones, azurites, meteorites and more, from a total collection of about 130,000 specimens acquired over hundreds of years.  Wed-Mon 10am-6pm. 
  • Galerie de Paleontologie et de Anatomie Comparee#2 Rue Buffon, inside the Jardin des Plantes.   Museum explaining the anatomical structures of animals and plants from prehistoric times to the present, including extensive exhibits of skeletons and fossils. Wed-Mon 10am-6pm. 
  • Grande Serres de Jardins de Plants, or Serre des Forets Tropicales Humides (Tropical Rainforest Greenhouse):  Jardin des Plantes.  Large greenhouse devoted to tropical plants.  Wed-Mon 10am-5:15pm. 
  • La Menagerie – le zoo de la Jardin des Plantes:  Jardin des Plantes.  One of the world’s oldest zoos, created during the Revolution to save the animals at the Menagerie of Versailles, it features a monkey house, a petting zoo, lions and bears, among other species.  Daily 10am-6pm.
  • Fontaine Cuvier:  Corner of Rue Cuvier and Rue Linne, near a gate exiting from the Jardin des Plates complex.  Dramatic 1840 sculpted fountain celebrating the “father of paleontology,” Baron Georges Cuvier.   
  • Arenes de Lutece: #49 Rue Monge, and entrances on Rue des Arenes and Rue de Navarre. First Century amphitheater of the Roman town of Lutetia.  It is now mostly restored and part of a park, so there is full access to the stands and the arena floor.  Adjacent to the arena is Square Capitan, a park area with a flower garden and children’s playground. Mon and Thurs-Sat 10am-9pm, Sun and Tues-Wed 9:30am-8:30pm, free. 
  • Rue Rollin: Running for one block from Rue Monge (opposite the Arenes de Lutece) to Rue du Cardinal Lemoine.   This street, first appearing on maps of the 1500s, was where several famous persons have lived or died (as plaques attest).  It is now is a pedestrian way, and the Rue Monge end is accessed via a two-story staircase, which is festooned with flower pots in warm weather.  (A route around the staircase is offered.)
  • Hemingway’s First Residence: #74 Rue du Cardinal Lemoine, adjacent to Rue Rollin .  A plaque marks the apartment building where Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson, lived in the early 1920s, before he became a famous author, as described in his memoir, “A Moveable Feast.”  The interior is not open to the public.  
  • Place de la Contrescarpe: Near Hemingway’s apartment building, at the confluence of Rue du Cardinal Lemoine and three other streets.  Picturesque circle with a fountain and plants, bordered by cafes, set at the location of the ditch surrounding the 1203 city wall and one of its entry gates. 
  • Rue MouffetardRunning downhill from Place de la Contrescarpe to Square Saint Medard.  Historic, colorful market street on site of an old Roman road, with many food retailers and dining options.  Outdoor stall vendors open Tues-Sun 8am-1pm, but stores and restaurants are open most days, from morning till evening.  The street also features historic landmarks, such as the Fontaine du Pot au Fer. 
  • Church of Saint Medard: Square Saint Medard, at bottom of Rue Mouffetard.  Catholic church dating from the 1100s, but mostly built from the 1500s to the 1800s, with notable architectural features and artworks.  A setting in Hugo’s novel “Les Miserable.”  Sept-June Tues-Sun 8am-Noon, 3-7pm, July-Aug Tues-Sun 10am-Noon, 4-7pm, free.

Dining Suggestions (in order):

  • La Taverne du Cap Vert et du Bresil: #24 Rue Daubenton.  Brazilian cuisine.  Casual, country style room with Brazilian accents, outdoor seating on sidewalk nook. Daily Noon-4pm, 6pm-Midnight.  Lunch prix fixe @€19.50-23.50.
  • Tacos Dore: #22 Rue Daubenton. Tacos, burgers, wraps, sandwiches, soft drinks.  The food is halal.  Order at counter to take away or eat in.  Casual room with a few tables.  Daily 11am-11pm.  Inexpensive.
  • Restaurant de Mosquee de Paris: #39 Rue Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire. Located inside the Grande Mosque complex, but also with a separate street entrance at the above address, which is on the opposite side from the visitor’s entrance.   Moroccan cuisine restaurant offering couscous, tagines and grilled dishes, plus appetizers, and tea service with Moroccan pastries.  The food is halal.  Elaborate Moroccan décor in dining room and at outdoor dining space on interior courtyard garden.  Restaurant service daily 11:30am-Midnight; Tea Salon service daily 9am-Midnight. Restaurant average cost: @€35 2 courses.
  • L’Arbre a Canelle: #14 Rue Linne, at Rue Guy de la Brosse.  Creperie / Restaurant / Tea Salon, with galette mains and sweet crepes desserts, plus French cuisine, salads, wraps, wines and cocktails.  Traditional room, outdoor seating.  Mon-Tues 8:30am-6pm, Wed-Sat 8:30am-11pm.  Prix fixe lunch (galette, crepe, drink) @€13.50.     
  • Brasserie Les Arenes: #16 Rue de Linne, at Rue Guy de la Brosse.  French cuisine, plus salads, boards, kid’s meal, wines.  Traditional room, outdoor seating.  Periodic live music. Mon-Fri 7:30am-2am, Sat 8:30am-10:30pm.  Average cost @€30E 2 courses, kid’s meal @€11E.
  • Les Filles Restaurant Galerie: #138 Rue Mouffetard, at Square Saint Medard.  Italian cuisine, making use of products sold locally at the Rue Mouffetard market.  Modern room, casual outdoor seating under shade trees on the square fronting the church. Changing displays of local photographers.  Tues-Sun 10am-11pm. Appetizers @€8.5-12.5, Mains @€13.5-21.5E, Salad Mains @€14.5-15.5E, Desserts @€6.5-8.5E.  

On the first half of the route, the Jardin des Plantes offers a café in the Grande Galerie de l’Evolution and another near the zoo, plus several food and ice cream kiosks.  On the second half of the route, Place de la Contrescarpe and Rue Mouffetard and its cross streets are filled with casual dining options offering many cuisines and prices.

Ready to stroll?
Open this page vertically on your mobile phone and click VIEW DIRECTIONS.


Stroll Map

Ready to stroll?
Open this page vertically on your mobile phone and click VIEW DIRECTIONS.