Paris’ Latin Quarter : Top Attractions, Museums and itinerary
The Latin Quarter (Quartier Latin in French) is a neighborhood near the Sorbonne University, which spreads across the 5th and 6th arrondissements (Parisian districts). Discover what to do and see in the Latin Quarter.
Its name comes from the students and teachers who would gather in this area and speak to one another in Latin up until the French Revolution.
The terraces of Place-St-Michel and Place de la Sorbonne attract a lot of tourists and even locals.
In this area, you will be able to taste the French, Mediterranean or Asian cuisine sold on Rue Mouffetard, Rue de la Huchette or at the picturesque Place de la Contrescarpe.
This neighborhood is the nerve center for student life and one of the most cosmopolitan areas in Paris. The rue des Ecoles is an ideal street for those who want to visit famous settings from classic movies.
The area has very characteristic areas such as the small Plaza St-Michel in which you can see the statue of Saint Michel dominating the dragon or the Place de la Contrescarpe, a square full of cafés and Rue Mouffetard, one of the oldest streets along which you can find an outdoor market.
A little further away you will find the Cluny Museum, which hosts an extensive collection of medieval works. You can also admire The Sorbonne University and the Pantheon, a neo-classical monument which houses the remains of some of the most illustrious men in French history. You will also find more peaceful places such as the Jardin des Plantes Garden, the Arab World Institute and the Paris Mosque.
Take a walk through the quintessential neighborhood of Latin Quarter, stretching from the great Notre Dame Cathedral to the peaceful Jardin des Plantes Garden via the Place Monge food market.
- Latin Quarter Paris attractions map
Notre Dame and Saint-Michel Area
- Notre de Dame de Paris Cathedral
The small pedestrian streets of the Latin Quarter make for an infinite number of pleasant routes for romantic strolls.
The ideal starting point is at the front of the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris. Notre Dame is a perfect symbol of Paris’ cultural and architectural heritage and even though it is not geographically part of the Latin Quarter, it is just a few steps from St Michel metro, so missing the visit would be a sacrilege.
The bishop Maurice de Sully decided to build the cathedral in 1160 in the Gothic style. Its construction took several centuries, with the works finally coming to an end 1350.
Notre-Dame de Paris has evolved through the ages undergoing some changes. Under Napoleon III, Viollet-le-Duc saved it from ruin but failed to fully respect its original architecture, which has long been a source of inspiration for poets and authors such as Victor Hugo. A climb of 69 meters will bring you to the top of the towers so that, you, like Quasimodo, may also admire the magnificent views over Paris.
- Place Saint Michel
A short distance away from the cathedral, leaving the “cité” island, stands another one of this neighborhood’s famous landmarks: the Saint-Michel fountain, which shows Saint Michel defeating the dragon. In 1860 Baron Hausmann decided to build this majestic fountain to be the cherry on top of his newly finished Boulevard Saint-Michel. Architect David drew his inspiration from the Trevis fountain and Marie de Medici fountain located at the Luxembourg Gardens.
Attractions in the West of Latin Quarter
At 60 rue des Ecoles, in front of the Cinema Champo, is a café named Le Sorbon. The prices, which are relatively cheap for the area, and plenty of room to sit down for a chat makes this place especially popular with the student population. This type of establishment may seem incredibly Parisian but is, in fact, rare in this district. A perfect pit-stop, Le Sorbon is hard to beat!
- The Sorbonne University
Pay a visit to one of the most famous and prestigious European universities: La Sorbonne.
Founded in 1253, it was originally a small college for poor students who wanted to learn theology. Since then, it has firmly established itself as the heart of the Latin Quarter.
Among the more well-known teachers was Thomas Aquinas, and the poet Dante, John Calvin (founder of Calvinism) and Ignatius of Loyola all studied in this situation. With its status as a bastion of conservatism, this university closed during the French Revolution but was fortunately reopened in 1806 by Napoleon. The Sorbonne was also forced to close during the events of May 1968, at the time of the student riots.
Nowadays it is often the site of student protests.
- The Cluny Museum – Medieval Museum
Visit the Cluny museum to discover the history and treasures of Paris in the middle ages. Examples of medieval life in the city are exhibited here, as well as many artifacts from monuments and churches across Paris such as Sainte-Chapelle and Notre Dame.
Following these highly cultural visits, you may wish to walk to Soufflot street where you will arrive at the Pantheon.
The Café Soufflot is perfectly placed to welcome you in for lunch or dinner. Here the influence of the university district is present everywhere, starting with the customers who are teachers and students. The room to the rear of the café is a perfect place for locals and tourists alike, with its large round tables and charming bookcases.
- The Pantheon
You are now near the Pantheon. Formerly designed by Soufflot and ordered by Louis XV, this monument was built in honor of St. Geneviève.
Since the death of Victor Hugo, it has come to be the final resting place of many other famous Frenchmen.
Central Latin Quarter (Rue Mouffetard and Place Monge)
- Place de la Contrescarpe (Contrescarpe Square) & Mouffetard Street
Head over to the Place de la Contrescarpe, a famous square in rue Mouffetard on the corner where rue Lacepede meets rue Cardinal Lemoine.
Interestingly, Jacques Brel mentioned the name of this square in one of his songs. This lively area has retained its traditional atmosphere with obvious markers being its cabarets, cafés, and restaurants.
Above the butcher at No. 1, a plaque recalls how the building was formerly the site of the Cabaret de la Pomme, where great writers of the seventeenth century like Rabelais would meet.
Rue Mouffetard is one of the oldest streets in Paris. Extremely picturesque, this is one of the most popular areas of the Latin Quarter thanks to its countless restaurants.
650 meters long, rue Mouffetard gently slopes from the Sainte-Geneviève hill to the church of Saint-Médard. The top of Sainte-Geneviève has been covered by monasteries since the Middle Ages, until the founding of the colleges and universities.
Mouffetard street is famous for its entertainment and density of small shops. At the end of the street, on the corner with Jean Calvin, there is a daily farmers’ market as well as traditional shops for local residents such as butchers, bakers, and caterers.
This area which used to be run-down and miserable now attracts walkers and ‘bobos’ with its lined cobbled streets and old buildings that look down on the Seine.
- Place Monge (Monge Square) & Monge Market
Carry on to the Place Monge via Lacépède street. This site, in addition to being gorgeous , is also known for its market: Monge market. Forty stalls are pop up on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays around the beautiful fountain in the square.
Eastern Latin Quarter
- Jardin des Plantes
From here, you can access the oldest garden in Paris: Le Jardin des Plantes. Regarded as the most peaceful garden in the French capital, from 1626 this former royal garden of medicinal plants had retained a rural atmosphere until the urbanization of the nineteenth century.
Created by Louis XII, it opened its doors to the public in 1640, an entire 14 years after its inauguration! This unique paradise in the heart of Paris has been a meeting point over many centuries for scientists, artists, and students.
- Arab World Institute and the Great Mosque of Paris
To complete your tour, the Arab World Institute is the perfect place to relax your mind. To get there, follow the Quai Saint-Bernard to the North of the Jardin des Plantes. The façade, designed by Jean Nouvel is covered in 240 moucharabiehs which open and close like diaphragms depending on the brightness outside.
The institute was established in 1980 with the intention of promoting awareness of Arab and Muslim civilization. Inside, the white marble patio demonstrates the Arab tradition. 7 floors are devoted to Islamic art, from the ninth century to the present day. The Arab World Institute is a major cultural center which includes, of course, the Great Mosque of Paris.
The Great Mosque of Paris was built in with a Moorish style and opened in 1926. It is known to have been a place of high resistance during WWII.
It is also a pleasant and peaceful place in Paris during the warm days of Summer – don’t miss out on its famous restaurant which serves some of the best tea in the city.
Jazz in the Latin Quarter
The Latin Quarter area is also known for its jazz evenings that bring life to many small bars and other atypical venues. If you would like to experience the Parisian jazz scene, visit Le Petit Journal Saint -Michel jazz club at 71 Saint-Michel Boulevard.
This venue was quickly recognized as a landmark of the ‘New Orleans Jazz’ through its very well-liked schedule. We can repeatedly listen to musicians like Claude Bolling, Maxim Saury, Claude Luter or Marcel Zanini.
Jazz has always been a great success in Paris since the 1920s. Fleeing segregation, many black American musicians settled in the French capital and adopted it as their second home.
Restaurants and Bars in Paris’ Latin Quarter
The quarter offers a great variety of food. From Asian spices to Mediterranean flavors, discover the incredible richness of the Latin quarter’s gastronomy while enjoying its unique atmosphere.
- Tango à Buenos Aires :
This property is one of the oldest Argentine restaurants in Paris.
- Le Mouffetard
This café-brasserie neighborhood has the typical déco of old Parisian bistros (with zinc, moldings, and slate).
Close to rue Mouffetard, Chez Lena et Mimile is one of these typical Parisian bistros, with a large garden terrace.
Savor traditional French cuisine by the trickling of the fountain.
- La Contrescarpe
Found on the Place de la Contrescarpe, this attractive and cozy café boasts a large library and armchairs for a British style.
In summer, you can sit in the pretty garden in the typically French rattan chairs.
- Le Requin Chagrin
A legendary neighborhood bar in the “Mouffe”, Le Requin Chagrin is one of the few to remaining businesses still in its traditional design, despite the invasion of other restaurants and lounges around the Contrescarpe bars. This small, cozy bar also has plenty of quiet areas.