The Latin Quarter is Paris’s student district, home to the city’s major universities. Its lively atmosphere and busy café culture are a draw for tourists and locals alike, as is its arty, bohemian charm. From well-known locations to hidden gems, this neighbourhood offers plenty for the culture seeking visitor. Below we’ve gathered together the best locations to help you make the most of this fascinating quartier.
1. National Museum of Natural History
Initially established in 1635 by King Louis XIII, the current museum dates back to the late 18th century. This museum has a number of sites spread around Paris and the rest of France, but the Latin Quarter is home to the most impressive. Centring around the Jardin des Plantes, the buildings of the Natural History Museum cover thousands of years of history. Head to the Grand Galerie de L’Évolution for its stunning architecture, or the main museum building for ancient specimens. Head out to the museum gardens and its historic menagerie to complete your visit.
2. Passage St. André des Arts
Take a stroll down this ancient pedestrian street to discover historic cafes and galleries. The narrow street is packed with Parisian charm, including a covered arcade and instagrammable facades. It was also once the haunt of many of Paris’s key cultural figures. The nearby Café Procope, one of the oldest eateries in the city, was a favourite spot of Voltaire and Diderot. The entrance is marked by an unassuming archway off the Boulevard Saint-Germain, giving you the feeling of stepping into another world.
3. Jardin du Luxembourg
For architecture-filled vistas and tree-lined promenades head to the Jardin du Luxembourg. Established in 1612 by Marie de’Medici, wife of King Henry IV, the park is known for its statues and manicured lawns. The magnificent Medici Fountain is the centrepiece of the park, and is a miniature architectural gem. The park has also featured in the work of Henry James, William Faulker and, most prominently, in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, making it draw for booklovers.
4. Odéon Théâtre de l’Europe
One of France’s six national theatres, the Odéon is a must-see for culture lovers. The plush red and gold interior harks back to the golden age of fin de siècle Paris. Stop by to take in one of the theatre’s internationally renowned shows, from classic plays to brand new productions. Only have the time for a quick visit? Take a look at one of the Theatre’s cafes or browse the titles and souvenirs in the bookshop.
As one of Paris’s most iconic buildings, a visit to the Panthéon is a must for anyone in the Latin Quarter. Originally intended as a church, the French Revolution saw the building transformed into a mausoleum for distinguished citizens. Head down to the crypt to see the tombs of Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, and Marie Curie. The Panthéon also offers some awe inspiring architecture too, as well as Foucault’s Pendulum which demonstrates the earth’s rotation.
6. Hôtel de Cluny
Within the imposing Hôtel de Cluny is one of Paris’s best kept secrets. Often overshadowed by the city’s big name museums, this gem contains preserved Roman baths and a collection of ancient and medieval art. Star attractions are the Visigoth crowns which sparkle with gold and sapphires, and the intricate Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. The very reasonable entry fee (€9 during special exhibitions) is an added bonus.
7. Musée du Luxembourg
As the Luxembourg Palace itself is rarely open to visitors, head around the corner to the Luxembourg Museum. Housed in the Palace’s orangery, the museum hosts two exhibitions each year. Though small, the museum has exhibited some key works that have gone on to hang in the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay. Take the weight off your feet in the museum’s restaurant, or join in one of their many educational activities.
8. Rue Mazarine
Looking for something a bit more contemporary? Head over to the Rue Mazarine, which is lined with independent galleries. Here you’ll find the work of up-and-coming artists, all of whom want a spot in the windows on this fashionable street. There’s also plenty of bars and restaurants to enjoy too, and it’s only a short walk from here to the Seine. Whether it’s window shopping or some serious art buying, Rue Mazarine is the place to stroll.