Paris’ Latin Quarter is a popular, historical area of the Left Bank. Home to the main Sorbonne campus, this dynamic, student-filled neighborhood was once frequented by Ernest Hemingway, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and other revolutionaries. Today it’s distinguished for its buzzing cafés, lively restaurants, and must-see landmarks.
One of the oldest districts in Paris and home to ancient Roman ruins, the Latin Quarter has long fostered a reputation for creativity, intellectual daring, and radical politics. Its name comes from the fact that students here once spoke in Latin; founded in the 13th century, the storied Sorbonne University is still the beating heart of the neighborhood.
The area, which stretches across parts of the fifth and sixth arrondissements, is also home to a heavy concentration of destination-worthy attractions. Visitors frequent the Musée de Cluny (which is dedicated to medieval art and holds the world-famous Lady and the Unicorn tapestries), snap photos of the Panthéon, and stroll the Jardin du Luxembourg. As for culture, no Latin Quarter visit is complete without browsing the shelves at the storied Shakespeare & Company bookstore, strolling past the bouquinistes (booksellers) along the banks of the Seine, or taking in a live jazz performance. Numerous walking tours, bike tours, hop-on hop-off bus itineraries, and Seine river cruises provide other ways to soak up the area’s one-of-a-kind ambiance.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Latin Quarter is a must for all first-time visitors to Paris, especially literary buffs.
- The area is known for its beautiful churches; Saint-Séverin and Saint-Étienne-du-Mont are both worth a visit.
- See another side of Latin Quarter life when you venture to the Grand Mosquée de Paris. Its café serves delicious fresh mint tea.
- Numerous cafés, restaurants, bars, and clubs abound for all your dining and nightlife needs.
How to Get There
There is some debate over the exact boundaries of the neighborhood. Roughly, the Latin Quarter is bounded by Boulevard Saint-Michel to the west, Boulevard du Port-Royal and Boulevard Saint-Marcel to the south and east, and the Seine to the north. The area is served by numerous Métro lines and buses; Saint-Michel station is a good starting point.
When to Get There
No matter the time of year, the Latin Quarter is teeming with a buzzing mix of students, locals, and visitors. As with the rest of Paris, it is at its quietest in August. The area is still host to impassioned demonstrations and protests; keep up-to-date with the news if you wish to avoid large crowds. May Day (May 1st) is a particularly popular time for such events.
Best Neighborhood Eats
Ignore the quarter’s chain eateries and tourist traps. For a delicious, casual meal and an authentically Parisian experience, head to Rue Mouffetard. Its open-air street market is home to cheese vendors, bakers, fruit sellers, and other purveyors of marvelously tempting treats.