Put on your Sunday best and head over to St-Germain-des-Prés, one of the swankier neighborhoods on Paris' rive gauche (left bank). Here, you’ll find locals outfitted in Louis Vuitton and Dior whether on their way to a business meeting or out for a stroll. Situated along the Seine River, the area is also an artistic hub, with some of the city’s most prestigious museums, art dealers and small galleries.
Once a spot favored by existentialist thinkers like Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, this is the place to see and be seen, window shop for Swarovski crystal and take home a piece of modern art for your mantel.
St-Germain-des-Prés lines the Left Bank of the Seine and extends southwards towards the sprawling Jardin du Luxembourg. It is hugged by the lively Latin Quarter to the east and the Eiffel Tower district to the west.
Main Streets to explore in the area include Boulevard St-Germain, Rue de Seine, Rue de Rennes, Rue Bonaparte
Getting There and Getting Around:
To check out the area's many art galleries, get off at Metro St-Germain-des-Prés (line 4) and walk north towards the Seine. For power shopping or a bite to eat, cross the Boulevard St-Germain and head south, or walk east from Metro Sèvres-Babylone (line 10). If you get off at Luxembourg (RER B), go northwest through the garden to get to the heart of the neighborhood.
The Benedictine Abbey of St-Germain-des-Prés dates to the 6th century. Only the church remains, but it is considered the oldest in Paris. In one of the side chapels, you can find the tomb of philosopher René Descartes.
Around the 19th century, the area was frequented by painters like Manet and writers Balzac and Georges Sand.
After World War II, St-Germain exploded into a hotspot for existentialist thinking, avant-garde theater, painting and jazz. Pablo Picasso, Sartre, De Beauvoir, the Irish playwright Samuel Beckett, American writer Richard Wright and French chanson crooner Charles Gainsbourg are some of the famous names associated with the area.
Read related feature: Top 10 Literary Haunts in Paris (Spots Coveted by Famous Writers)
Places of Interest:
- Jardin du Luxembourg: The expansive gardens and overlooking Senate belong to the Luxembourg Palace, and are a respite from busy Paris. Stroll along the perfectly manicured lawns and flowers or sail a toy boat across the pond. If you’re lucky, you might catch a weekend jazz concert under the pavilion. Also make sure to check out the Musee du Luxembourg, Paris' oldest public museum and a historical hotbed of the arts in the city.
- Musée d’Orsay: This famous museum houses mostly French art from the mid-1800s to early 1900s, including an extensive collection of impressionist works by artists such as Monet, Renoir and Cézanne.
Eat, Drink and be Merry: Our Recommended Addresses in the Area
43, Rue de Seine
Tel: +33 (0)1 43 29 09 42
Here, modern-day snacking meets old French bistro.
While meals are served before 4 p.m., most people come in after hours for a plate of charcuterie, a glass of Chablis and a chat. Nestled off the main road, the restaurant is less touristy than the famous Les Deux Magots or Café de Flore, but retains that traditional bistro feel.
151, Boulevard St Germain
Tel: +33 (0)1 45 48 53 91
With its wood paneling, wall-to-wall mirrors and 1926 art deco interior, this famous brasserie is not to be missed. Known for its Alsatian cuisine, Lipp serves up copious portions of choucroute, andouillette and cervelles remoulade. Polish off your meal with a glass of Roedener Cristal or a bottle of champagne if you’re feeling prosperous.
13 rue de l'ancienne comédie
Tel: +33 (0)143 54 93 64
Considered the birthplace of Paris café culture, Le Procope is the city's oldest café, dating to 1686, and was a gathering place for thinkers like Voltaire.
76, Rue de Seine
Tel: +33 (0)1 43 26 85 77
For savory or sweet, this bakery is the perfect spot for an afternoon bite. You’ll find everything from foie gras to colorful macaroons, finger-sized eclairs and dark chocolates sold by the kilo. Loose-fitting trousers are highly recommended!
Odéon Théâtre de l’Europe
1 place Paul-Claudel
Tel: +33 (0)1 44 41 36 36
The Odeon is one of France’s five national theaters and prides itself on showing not only original productions, but also theatrical works by well-known foreign theater companies.