You don’t have to be a 20 year-old university student to appreciate the lively Mouffetard/Jussieu neighborhood in Paris. Nestled in a corner of the Latin Quarter that tends to get less tourist footfall than the area closest to Notre Dame, the area is always buzzing with youthful exuberance, but is also a site rich with history and tradition. Some of Paris’s most prestigious educational and cultural institutions are nestled within the neighborhood’s boundaries, and there’s always plenty to do indoors or out, from museum-going to market-roaming to enjoying a drink outside and exploring old Roman ruins.
The area, located in Paris’s 5th arrondissement, is a mix of busy intersections, quiet, isolated alleyways, and twisting cobblestone streets that are easy to get lost in.
Orientation and Transport
The Mouffetard/Jussieu neighborhood can be found on the left bank (Rive Gauche in French), just where the Seine River begins to arc and move south. The Pantheon, Luxembourg Gardens and St-Michel Quarter lie just outside the neighborhood to the west, with the expansive Jardin des Plantes sitting on the eastern end. The Sorbonne Nouvelle University closes in the southern tip.
Main Streets in the Area: Rue Monge, Place Monge, Rue Lacépède, Rue Linné, Rue Censier, Rue des Fossés St-Bernard, Rue Jussieu, Rue du Cardinal-Lemoine
Depending on which part of the neighborhood you want to discover first, you can take Paris metro line 7 to Place Monge, Jussieu or Censier Daubenton. You can also get to it from the back end, by getting off at Cardinal Lemoine on line 10.
Part of the neighborhood’s name comes from the famous Jussieu family, whose contributions to the area are evident in sites like the Museum of Natural History and the Jardin des Plantes. Perhaps most influential was Antoine Laurent de Jussieu, a botany professor at the Jardin des Plantes from 1770 to 1826.
Continuing the work of his botanist uncle Bernard, Antoine created the principles that would one day serve as the basis for the first natural system of plant classification.
The Rue Mouffetard goes all the way back to the Neolithic times and the Roman road extended south all the way to Italy. It has a permanent outdoor market that's always recommended, and is lined with various eateries, bars, and good bakeries.
Places of Interest in the Neighborhood: Things to See and Do
1 Rue des Fosses Saint-Bernard (Metro Jussieu)
Founded in 1980, this museum and cultural center is a wealth of information on the Arab world – its traditions, culture, spiritual values and history. Browse their art gallery and museum, watch a dance performance or simply admire the striking architecture of the building, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel. In addition, the institute usually has an impressive outdoor exhibition, and the two tearooms and restaurants-- one with sublime rooftop views, offer Middle Eastern treats such as baklavah and fresh mint tea. What's more, the Seine River is right outside the doors of the institute-- perfect for an after-exhibit, Parisian-style picnic.
Arènes de Lutèce
49 Rue Monge (Metro: Cardinal Lemoine)
One of Paris’s most well-hidden and little known gems is the Arènes de Lutèce. Built in the 1st century AD, this Gallo-Roman amphitheater could once hold 15,000 people. These days, only parts of the graying amphitheater are intact, but it’s still a great place to stake out for a stroll or a picnic.
Jardin des Plantes
57 Rue Cuvier
+33 (0) 1 40 79 56 01
This labyrinth of teeming gardens expands over nearly 70 acres, right on the edge of the left bank. Choose between the botanical, rose or alpine gardens, or meander through the art deco winter garden. If you get tired of flowers, head inside to the National Museum of Natural History along the southern edge. There's also an old-world style zoo, the Menagerie, that kids will enjoy.
The main gardens at the Jardin des Plantes are open to visitors for free.
Sorbonne Nouvelle University
Rue de la clef, just south of Rue Censier (Metro: Censier-Daubenton)
When the University of Paris broke up into thirteen universities following France’s cultural revolution in May 1968, the Sorbonne Nouvelle was one of the few schools who held onto the “Sorbonne” name. The public university specializes in arts, humanities and language degrees. It's less famous than the original Sorbonne a few kilometers away, but still worth a glance, especially if you want to get a sense of student life in the area.
2bis Place du Puits de l'Ermite
+33 (0) 1 45 35 97 33
This stunning structure, featuring a 33 meter-high minaret, is one of France’s largest mosques. Even if you’re not Muslim, you can still enter parts of the mosque, whose teal mosaics and turquoise pools of water offer a tranquil time-out from busy Paris. Head inside to the restaurant for a mint tea or tajine, and to watch the occasional bird flutter around inside the light, bright, and airy tearoom decorated with Moroccan-style furnishings and details.
Eat, Drink and Be Merry in Mouffetard/Jussieu
Rue Mouffetard Market
116 rue Mouffetard
Open Tuesday to Sunday
If you’re a cheese lover, you can’t miss this market, which claims to offer the softest, melt-in-your-mouth fresh brie in Paris (this writer has tried it and it truly shouldn’t be missed). You’ll also find plenty of other goodies in the name of fruits, vegetables, baked goods, meat and fish, plus organic items. Arguably one of the most enjoyable markets in Paris.
La Clef cinema
34 rue Daubenton
+33 (0)9 53 48 30 54
If you’re a cinema fan, you’ll want to check out this tiny independent cinema near the Sorbonne University. In the last four years, the cinema has devoted itself to showing foreign films, documentaries and other politically charged movies. Even if you don’t speak French, you’ll most likely find a few English language films playing.
Restaurant at the Grand Mosque
39 rue Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire
+33 (0)1 43 31 38 20
If you like North African food, let yourself be transported by the restaurant inside the Grand Mosque. Start off with a mechouia salad, then choose between a chicken couscous, lamb tajine or grilled kebab. Save room for their oriental pastry tray and mint tea.
66 rue Mouffetard
+33 (0) 6 50 24 69 34
If you want one of these giant crepes, you’re going to have to wait in line like everybody else – and trust us, there will probably be a line. But don’t be scared off. Le P’tit Grec is the neighborhood go-to for lunch, dinner or a late-night snack. Choose between some untraditional crepe ingredients, like feta cheese or tarama, and expect heaping doses of everything. Great quality for price ratio.
La Parisienne bakery
28 rue Monge
As you walk by this corner bakery, you might be thinking, “looks like all the rest.” But don’t be so quick to judge La Parisienne. This unassuming bakery has won best baguette of the year several times, and its other items aren’t half bad either. The sandwiches are delicious, as are the croissants, and the staff is extremely nice – worth it just for the service.
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