Located on the Right River Bank of the Seine, the Latin Quarter is calm and historic during the day; vibrant and almost chaotic during the night. This old and unique neighbourhood in Paris used to be where university students gathered, and since Latin was the language used at the esteemed Sorbonne University, the name of the quarter was born. Many people think that the Latin Quarter only consists of bars, but in fact, it covers much more than that. Let me take you on a walking tour of the Latin Quarter!
Places to see and visit
Jardin des Plantes is the city’s botanical garden and its beautiful! The winter just passed, the city held their first light show in this very garden, and it was magnificent. Don’t think it is simply a garden. It has galleries, a zoo and a library for you to explore. You could easily spend a good half a day there on a good day.
If the weather isn’t great, the Natural History Museum is right next to the botanical garden, and it’s a wonderful place for both children and adults to visit. Across the street from the museum is the Grande Mosquée de Paris, it is one of the most astonishing architecture in the city and offers free entry for visitors. No excuse not to pay it a visit! Make sure you also stop by the café and restaurant in the Mosque. If you try nothing else, have a glass of their mint tea. Trust me, you’ll be ordering more.
For those interested in archaeology, just a few minutes’ walks from the Mosque, you’ll find Arènes de Lutèce, the remains of an ancient Roman amphitheatre that is half destroyed. Few streets further, you’ll find yourself in front of Saint Étienne du Mont, one of the many churches in Paris. Despite being lesser known, it is nonetheless worth paying a visit to. This 16th century gothic and renaissance building is the perfect place to reclaim a bit of calmness after an exciting day or before the night ahead. And almost right opposite the religious building is the Panthéon, one of the most well-known monuments in Paris and a visibly Roman architecture. You’ll find Foucault’s pendulum in the centre of the building, surrounded by paintings and crypts of some influential French personalities. And of course, there is the Université Paris-Sorbonne, arguably the most esteemed university in Paris and in France. There are a few campuses in the Latin Quarter, but the main one is on Rue Saint-Jacque, where you can go in and visit the building.
Before the sun goes down and your night goes wild, I suspect a visit to the famous Shakespeare and Company is a must. The legendary English bookstore that writers like Hemmingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald frequented. It is always packed, and the books are definitely very overpriced compared to what you can get back in England, although you can get any book you buy there stamped – new or second-hand – and that would make quite a unique souvenir. There are no French books sold there, but right next to Saint Michel Notre Dame station, there is a large Gibert Joseph, a very recognisable bookstore in yellow, that sells all kinds of books fairly cheap.
Places to eat
Despite it not being the city’s China Town, there are surprisingly many Asians restaurants around. Phô 5 does reasonably priced and large bowls of Vietnamese noodles. You must also try the cinnamon bun from Circus Bakery, which is on the street behind Shakespeare and Company. You’ll smell it from afar! Check out my review of their cinnamon bun here (http://trippycookie.com/best-cinnamon-buns-in-paris/) Odette is a tiny pastry shop on the corner of the same street and claims to have the best choux à la crème (cream puffs) in the city!
For a more relaxed and “Parisian” experience, head to Rue Descartes and its surrounding areas for restaurants and bars. You’ll find a square surrounded by Parisians enjoying a glass of wine and savouring small dishes aperitifs outdoors on a sunny day.
Just across the road from Shakespeare and Company, you’ll find a street full of bars and restaurants. Whilst we’d recommend staying away from the obvious tourist traps which are restaurants with photo menus wide open and waiters hurrying you in as you walk past, there are many crêperies along the same street, and they are more or less the same. Never pay more than 5-6€, ideally 3-4€, for a crêpe unless you’re seated or at a renowned crêperie like Little Breizh (which is absolutely amazing and a must try!) Most bars do happy hours and some of them last until 10pm so there is definitely no shortage of places to drink around the area. The once quiet streets in the Latin Quarter come alive as the sky turns dark and you hop from bars to clubs until the early hours of the next day.