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Paris: A Week in the Latin Quarter

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Latin Quarter hotels, restaurants, sights, markets & more

In March 2009 I got to experience Paris & its Latin Quarter in a new way. With our kids on a trip to California with my parents, my husband and I had a chance to do something special with his parents. We cashed in some frequent flyer miles and headed to the City of Light. Because of knee issues that limited mobility, we couldn't cover as much sightseeing ground as we might have in trips past. The silver lining was that this forced us to do much more cafe-sitting, people watching, and true relaxing. I now see why so many Europeans like to spend their lesiure time that way. It's fun! And you don't return home exhausted, needing a post-vacation vacation.

Dedicated to my parents-in-law, this lens features some of the many treasures of the Latin Quarter neighborhood we adopted that week. All Paris pictures featured here are our own unless otherwise noted.

Settling In -- Find a Latin Quarter Hotel

Hotel Minerve

Hotel Minerve

We stayed at the Hotel Minerve, 13 rue des Ecoles, in Paris's 5th arrondissement, the heart of the Latin Quarter. Judging from the TripAdvisor reviews, not everyone agrees, but the four of us really loved this place. The staff were gracious and the location amazing--within easy walking distance of Notre Dame cathedral, the river Seine, bustling Boulevard St. Germain with its shops and cafes, and three metro stops. The rooms were small but cute, with pretty paintings on the walls, and both our rooms had little balconies. With doubles priced at 107 to159 Euros, Minerve is reasonably priced by Paris standards, especially given its location. Hotel Minerve is on rue des Ecoles, just west of the Cardinal Lemoine metro stop.

(photo: hotel-paris-minerve.com)

More budget-friendly options nearby:

  • Hotel Familia
    This is Minerve's sister property, right next door and owned by the same family. Double rooms 107-137 Euros.
  • Hotel St. Jacques
    Yet another well-regarded option on rue des Ecoles. Doubles 110-189 Euros.
  • Hotel Europe St. Severin
    Near my favorite church (more on that later...). Doubles 110-130 Euros.
  • Hotel des Grandes Ecoles
    Very popular place with a great reputation. Book well in advance! Doubles 115-140 Euros.
  • Hotel de Nesle
    I have great memories of staying here 20+ years ago. Funky, atmospheric spot in the 6th arrondissement, recommended for the young or young-at-heart. Doubles 75-100 Euros.

Exploring -- The River Seine

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Night or day, strolling the banks of the Seine is the thing to do in Paris. Take 20 minutes to gaze at the gorgeous bridges, buildings, and monuments and you'll see why this town has won so many hearts. Above, Notre Dame cathedral was a Seine-river highlight in our neighborhood.

Notre Dame Cathedral

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The city's most famous cathedral, gothic beauty Notre Dame, is not only worth an indoor and outdoor tour (don't miss the gargoyles!), but also a hub for street performers and other diversions. In this shot I'm trying my hand at bird feeding, after getting some coaching (and cake) from a bird lover hanging around the front of the church. This was also the site of one of numerous peaceful protests we saw during our week in Paris.

Shakespeare & Co.

Shakespeare & Co.

Shakespeare & Co.

This funky English-language bookstore has a colorful history and a laid-back vibe. You can browse and read at your leisure in the shop where Beat Generation writers like Ginsberg and Burroughs once chilled. A young, arty staff enhances the vibe: at one point a college-age guy walked in, tapped out an old English folk tune or two on the piano, and walked out.

(photo: fvanrenterghem cc)

Read this on the plane...

Eglise Saint Severin

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Can a lapsed, somewhat angry Catholic like me still have a spiritual experience in a Catholic church? Yes, if the church is Saint Severin. Its earliest components date to the 11th century, but ancient and modern elements commingle beautifully through the presence of a series of 1960s stained-glass windows (above) by Jean Rene Bazaine, inspired by the seven sacraments of the Catholic church. Saint Severin also features the oldest church bells remaining in Paris (cast in 1412) and super-cool pillars in the form of palm-tree trunks.

Boulevard Saint Germain

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The bustling Boulevard St. Germain cuts through the Latin Quarter and is a cafe-lover's paradise, peppered with spots like the Flore and the Deux Magots, where Hemingway once hung with other famous expat writers and artists.

(photo: Zemzina cc)

The Pantheon

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Originally built in the 1700s as a church, the Pantheon became (stealing from Wikipedia here) "a temple to the great intellectuals of France." Physicist Leon Foucault famously demonstrated the Earth's rotation with an 1851 experiment in the Pantheon. The building holds the remains of Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Marie Curie, Louis Braille, and many other arts-and-sciences luminaries. Mainly, my husband liked photographing it in early-evening light.

Musee du Moyen Age

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I was happy to be staying near the Middle Ages (Moyen Age) Museum--also known, somewhat confusingly, as the Musee Cluny--because it's one of my favorite museums in Paris. It's built on the ruins of Roman baths dating to about 200 A.D.--very cool in and of themselves. But the main draw is a series of medieval tapestries, above, called La Dame et La Licorne (The Lady and the Unicorn), telling an elaborate visual story based on the five senses. Bonus: The museum shop offers some of the classier low-cost souvenirs I've seen, with tapestry-printed pillboxes, nail files, rulers, and more.

(photo: macaron*macaron(Est Bleu2007) cc)

The Sorbonne

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The Sorbonne is the best known of several colleges and universities down the street from our hotel. The advantage of this was that there were tons of art-supply, book, and record shops in the area, along with reasonably priced restaurants, fun (but not obnoxious) student bars, and a great little movie theatre where the hubby and I caught a late-night Woody Allen flick.

(photo: marsupilami92 cc)

Eating -- Boulangerie Eric Kayser

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Strolling on our first full day in Paris, we saw a line of people outside this storefront. Turns out they were waiting for bread, pastries, and sandwiches from one of the city's best bakeries, Eric Kayser, 14 rue Monge. It became a daily--sometimes twice-daily--stop for us. I love a simple baguette and developed the very un-French habit of carrying one around with me to nibble at all times. (Note: I was beyond excited to discover that EK has expanded into NYC -- and couldn't wait to grab a baguette at one of their several Big Apple outposts. But alas, it didn't taste the same! Is there something in the Parisian water?)

If you're watching your Euros, bakeries offer one of the best ways to save in Paris. For breakfast, you can pick up good coffee from a place like Eric Kayser, plus a delicious pastry or two. And bakery sandwiches make a great lunch on the go, leaving more of your food budget for dinner.

Brasserie Balzar

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I don't know which we enjoyed more at this place, the yummy food or the witty waiters. Consistently named one of Paris's best brasseries, Balzar has a colorful history (Camus and Sartre lunched together here), a classic deco interior, and a terrific menu, with specialties like choucroute garni (a platter or sauerkraut, ham, and sausages), sole meuniere, and profiteroles (mini pastries filled with ice cream and covered in hot chocolate sauce). With a narrow, enclosed front patio on rue des Ecoles, it's also a great spot to people-watch with a coffee or glass of wine.

(photo: CohenKenny via photopin cc)

Restaurant Perraudin

We loved this place, on rue St. Jacques in the shadow of the Pantheon, so much we went there twice for dinner. Le Perraudin is a very traditional, 1900-vintage bistro with a prix fixe menu. It's all delish, from beef bourguignon served in a cast-iron skilet to the nougat glace, which is like an infinitely classier cousin to my fave candy bar. The menu includes a full-page list of scholars, writers, artists, and other famous and semi-famous folks who've dined here.


Wine lovers, check the menu for vins en pichet, or house wines by the carafe. The quality-to-price ratio is much better than in the U.S., and the carafes come in a variety of sizes. I especially liked the dry rose, which is hard to find in restaurants back home, has a lovely color, and tastes nothing like the sweet white Zinfandel you might expect based on looks alone.

Breakfast in America

Breakfast in America

Breakfast in America

Two doors from our hotel was a restaurant called Breakfast in America that was always packed. Apparently pancakes, burgers, huevos rancheros, and American bacon taste good to French folks, too :) Alas, we never did get to try the restaurant's tribute to President Obama. Maybe next time!

Saveur de Savoie

Saveur de Savoie

Saveur de Savoie

For my husband's sake, I knew we'd need to get some fondue or raclette before leaving Paris. We found it in our neighborhood at Saveur de Savoie, 20 rue Saint Severin. Raclette is the name of a cheese and also the name of the dish, popular in the French Alps. A half-round of cheese is melted on a tabletop grill. You scrape the cheese and eat it with a plate of boiled potatoes, sweet pickles, and dried meats like ham, salami & prosciutto. We inhaled this reasonably-priced cheesy goodness amidst fun mountain-chalet décor and a surprisingly cool (if incongruous) soundtrack of classic American music--Hank Williams Sr., Sun Sessions era Elvis, etc.--that made up for the slightly gruff service.

(photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Luxembourg Gardens

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Next door to the Latin Quarter, this is like the Central Park of Paris. And it's a lovely spot for a picnic, weather permitting! Along with ethnic restaurants, pizzerias and creperies, picnics are a great budget dining strategy in Paris. Baguette sandwiches are available everywhere and really tasty -- or just grab a fresh plain baguette and some cheese. Can't beat it!

(photo: simonov cc)

Shopping

Outdoor Market

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I had a tight souvenir budget this time, but many people to buy for. I found myself taking another look at kitschy souvenir stands near the Seine: Digging around a bit, I found cute pocket mirrors decorated with painted scenes from the city, Paris-themed umbrellas, and tie-up cloth bread baskets covered in lively fabrics from the south of France. At an outdoor market in the Latin Quarter, I grabbed soft wool scarves (made in France) and an Indian print wrap skirt, each under $20. Another bonanza was Monoprix, which is sort of like the French version of Target, but with more consistently stylish stuff. I found organic cotton tops for under $20 that look great on several female family members, plus tons of French chocolate bars in Monoprix's well-stocked grocery department.

(photo: LeafLanguages cc)

Money belt, be gone!

Looking for a close-to-the-body touring bag for your valuables that doesn't sacrifice style for functionality? Le Sportsac comes through with its Kasey bag, available in many colors, from lively prints to sleek solids like the shiny black one I choose for my travels. It's become my go-to bag for everyday, too -- not just trips. I eventually got one in a cool Southwestern pattern, too.

Lesser-known diversions in Paris

This clip makes me want to jump a plane right back to Paris. Did not even know about some of these activities, like riverside dancing and group rollerblading (not that I could talk my other half into either one, but you never know).

Comments? Merci! :)

Aquamarine18 on October 22, 2012:

Paris is one of my favorite cities and I try to visit as often as I can. I always stay in the Quartier Latin which I consider to be one of the most lively and amusing arrondissements. Great lens, thanks

squidwid on October 20, 2012:

Very well written, thanks for a nice read!

anonymous on April 10, 2012:

My sister is going to Paris in 2 weeks, I just found your pages and thoroughly enjoyed them, brought back some memories for me and you have some great suggestions for visitors who need pointers. I could not remember the name of that great little San Severin church, I am sure that we will both use some of your pointers! Well written and very enjoyable, thank you!

anonymous on April 10, 2012:

My sister is going to Paris in 2 weeks, I just found your pages and thoroughly enjoyed them, brought back some memories for me and you have some great suggestions for visitors who need pointers. I could not remember the name of that great little San Severin church, I am sure that we will both use some of your pointers! Well written and very enjoyable, thank you!

dellgirl on March 28, 2012:

Thank you for sharing this information, this is a great lens you have here.

Mary (author) from Chicago area on March 08, 2012:

@Rangoon House: it's easier than you think! :)

AJ from Australia on February 29, 2012:

How do you possibly expect us to do all this in just a week?

queenofduvetcover on February 15, 2012:

I hope to one day live in Paris. Thanks for this great lens! =)

jamesjonesy on February 14, 2012:

nice idea for a story. I remember visiting the latin quarter about ten years ago and it being the most interesting part of the whole trip. Good choice :)

Mary (author) from Chicago area on January 17, 2012:

@M Schaut: no visit to Paris is ever long enough!

Margaret Schaut from Detroit on January 15, 2012:

I loved Paris and though I spent some real time there I barely got to see what I wanted to see. Hoping to return, though, and make up for lost opportunities!

Paris365days on January 09, 2012:

Last time we lived 7 days in Opera Arrondissement, every your photo reminds me our Latin Quarter walks. Thanks a lot.

cdevries on October 11, 2011:

Boy! Did this Lens remind me of how much I loved my last vacation in the same part of Paris. So beautiful. You're right, taking time to sit and people watch etc. is the best part.

judithcheng lm on August 19, 2011:

with so much to do & see in Paris, it's clever that you just focus on one neighborhood...always something new to add to my TO-DO list, for my next trip...THANKS

traveller27 on August 13, 2011:

J'adore Paris! Nice lens.

TeacherRenee on July 28, 2011:

Ohh... sounds so fun!

ChrisDay LM on May 02, 2011:

A few of the pictures have gone AWOL - eaten by Squidoo - may be only with some browsers but I lost a lot of mine, too and spent ages y'day restoring them.

ChrisDay LM on May 02, 2011:

Trés agréable - merci

TeacherSerenia on April 17, 2011:

Wonderful lens. I love Paris - Can't wait to get there sometime in my lifetime. Its on my bucket list. Also cannot believe I haven't seen this lens before. Blessed by the Western Europe Angel.

Bella Stella on April 04, 2011:

Great lens! I have been in Paris twice and I love it!!! I used to visit the greek restaurants at Quartier Latine... They serve amazing greek specialties!

I am also trying to complete a project with the museums of Greece. I would appreciate it if you stopped there for a while leaving your opinion comments and it would be very important for me if you liked it. Here is my lens http://www.squidoo.com/benaki-museum .

Heidi Reina from USA on January 29, 2011:

The Left Bank and Latin Quarter are my favorite places in the world. Thanks for taking me back. Blessed by a Squid Angel ~

Mary (author) from Chicago area on October 01, 2010:

@ShamanicShift: wow!! that must have pretty intense. have seen many a "demonstration" during visits to Paris, but never a riot. thx for the comment!

ShamanicShift on September 27, 2010:

I was there in 1967-68 and got to sit in the Cafe Cluny and eat ham and swiss cheese sandwiches and swig tonic water while watching the riots.

Sheilamarie from British Columbia on September 09, 2010:

Beautifully crafted lens! My son lives in France and my husband and I get to go there now and then. I'll definitely check this lens again before the next time we go.

julieannbrady on February 28, 2010:

We spent our wedding anniversary tooling around Paris -- Valentine's Day! What an amazing place to visit ... I could actually live there!

Indigo Janson from UK on January 22, 2010:

This is a wonderful guide to this part of Paris, and beautifully presented. C'est magnifique! :)

Ceeshell on December 16, 2009:

The Latin Quarter is such a lively Paris neighborhood. That's a beautiful photo of Luxembourg Gardens, which is my favorite spot in all of Paris.

Samantha Lynn from Missouri on December 13, 2009:

What a wonderful lens!

poutine on October 28, 2009:

Paris: A Week in the Latin Quarter has been added to the following lenses:

quebec and poutine

Wonderful French Singers And French Songs

from Poutine

Holley Web on October 17, 2009:

And I am back to see you! I had a wonderful time on on this lens the first time and wanted to make sure I came back once I could do the proper thing and ~ Bless this lens! ~

poutine on October 01, 2009:

I enjoyed this short virtual vacation. No jet lag.

Love the pictures.

Poutine

kimmanleyort on September 17, 2009:

This is wonderful! Love your photos and headings. Someday I hope to get to Paris and will definitely come back to this lens.

WindyWintersHubs from Vancouver Island, BC on September 17, 2009:

Wonderful Lens highlighting the Latin Quarter. 5* :)

Mary (author) from Chicago area on September 16, 2009:

[in reply to theraggededge] LOL I just realized F.H. is featured now on 3 of my lenses--this one, squidoo.com/sixties-style & squidoo.com/momwear ... people will think I'm obsessed!

Cynthia Sylvestermouse from United States on September 16, 2009:

Paris was indeed wonderful! You have featured some of my favorite places in Paris including my favorite place in France, the Musee Cluny! Ah, I need to go back!

myraggededge on September 16, 2009:

Lovely lens, very detailed. Foxy Franny sings beautifully too - never heard of her.

Sue Dixon from Grasmere, Cumbria, UK on September 16, 2009:

Lovely lens- I love the Latin Quarter- stayed at Henri IV just up the road from you, but its now got quite expensive, so I'll try one of your recommendations next time!

Nathalie Roy from France (Canadian expat) on September 03, 2009:

This is a great lens!! Quartier Latin is my favorite Paris area. Every time I go there, I eat crepes at Creperie de Cluny...yummy

anonymous on July 07, 2009:

Nice blurb! I'm leaving for three weeks in Paris on Saturday. Your trip sounds wonderful. Your Hardy video has been "removed" might want to check that... Thanks for your ideas and pictures.

squid-janices7 on June 30, 2009:

Gorgeous photos! Paris is my favorite city in the world....honestly I'd love to live there someday. Lensrolled you to my Top 10 Things to do in Paris lens.

JanieceTobey on June 17, 2009:

Thanks for that virtual trip to Paris!

anonymous on June 09, 2009:

I only had 8 hours in Paris - Quelle Horreur! I did manage to visit Notre Dame & wander around a bit in the Latin Quarter :) Definitely want to go back for a longer visit!

Treasures By Brenda from Canada on June 02, 2009:

Congratulations on a successful travel lens -- you made me want to go back!

Your lens is blessed by another Squid Angel.

Brenda

Annette Geiger on June 02, 2009:

I love this lens too! I am making it a favorite as a reminder that I need to get back to Paris sooner! Thanks!

Mihaela Vrban from Croatia on June 02, 2009:

Wow! Wanna go! :) You did excellent presentation here! Blessed by an Angel!

papawu on May 28, 2009:

I have only been once with my parents when I was only 10 years old. I didn't really get a chance to experience Paris at that age, so I have put a trip back as an adult on my bucket list. I'll get there eventually, and in the meantime, I have to simply stew in envy of people like you. Thanks for sharing your vacation with us.

Tuula Olin on May 27, 2009:

Oh, I love this lens! I reminds me of my time in Paris. I used to go to the Shakespeare co. bookshop as well:) I'm featuring this lens on my travel lens Flooded in Fiji! 5*

AlisonMeacham on May 22, 2009:

This is such an excellent lens. I recently visited Paris and just loved it. Squid Angel Blessings to you!

hlkljgk from Western Mass on May 20, 2009:

it looks like you had a great trip

enslavedbyfaeries on May 18, 2009:

What a marvelous place to visit! I loved the photo of you hand feeding the birds Notre Dame Cathedral. :)

TwinsMama LM on May 17, 2009:

Your photos are beautiful!! I've been to Paris 3x and I felt on my last visit that the city was changing into something that I didn't recognize (like it had almost lost its charm). Through your photos it made it feel like the Paris I knew. Great job!! 5*

Lee Hansen from Vermont on May 16, 2009:

My sister and her hubbie used to visit his grandparents in France every year. They loved it so much, and their daughter who was a toddler is now studying international hospitality - so she can be a hotel manager in, yup, you guessed it ... France. I'd love to visit Paris one day. Perhaps as a retirement adventure! Lovely lens, the photos and descriptions are fabulous.

GrowWear on May 15, 2009:

Aww. Would love to have a trip just like this!

bdkz on May 15, 2009:

Beautiful lens!

MuddyLaBoue on May 15, 2009:

Very nice lens! Looks like you made the most of your visit!

Heather Burns from Wexford, Ireland on May 13, 2009:

Wow! Beautiful lens!!! 5* for sure! lensroll to my San Antonio lens.

EpicFarms on May 13, 2009:

OOO-La-La what a beautiful lens! Your photographs were wonderful ~ thanks for a lovely virtual vacation :o)

Holley Web on May 13, 2009:

Oh I was truly entertained with this lens! The Pantheon is beautiful. The map is great!

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