Paris’ 5th arrondissement, on the left bank, is commonly known as the “Latin Quarter.” But the name is a little deceiving. You won’t find Latin dancers performing the samba in the Latin Quarter. You won’t find restaurants serving Latin food. You won’t even find many Latin people. Instead, you’ll find a young, lively district filled with bistros, nightclubs and bookshops.
The district became known as the Latin Quarter back in the Middle Ages when universities taught students using only the Latin language. Today, the area is still teeming with college students, but they no longer only speak Latin.
Regardless of what language you speak, a walk through the Latin Quarter can be one of the most enjoyable in Paris (as long as you don’t mind small spaces and heavy crowds). Here are the highlights:
This square is a big draw for 2 reasons:
1.) The St. Michel Fountain, depicting the Archangel Saint Michael striking his best superhero pose while the dragons flanking him gargle water.
2.) The names of French citizens who died fighting Nazis in this area are etched on numerous plaques around the square.
Rue du Chat-qui-Peche
Only 6 feet wide and 95 feet long, this is allegedly the narrowest street in the world. But really it just looks like an alley without bums.
Shakespeare And Company Bookstore
Equal parts bookstore and library, this building packed with rooms stacked floor to ceiling with books. The vast majority of the books are in English, and some are so old and rare you can’t even take them off the shelf. Each room can only fit about two people, and usually they’re occupied by aspiring writers who literally live there. The store houses writers, known as “tumbleweeds,” for free as long as they work on their material and help out around the store.
The Saint-Severin church is basically a lesser quality version of the Notre Dame, but it’s just as old and just as Gothic as its more famous counterpart. Our visit to the church was cut dramatically short when we entered and noticed a funeral taking place. The coffin was so small that it likely belonged to a child.
Musée de Cluny
The National Museum of the Middle Ages is known for its collection of medieval arts and crafts. The most famous attractions are The Lady And The Unicorn Tapestries and the 2,000-year old remains of ancient Roman Baths.
I may have gone to class more often if my school looked as cool as the buildings of the Sorbonne University. If you want to experience the life of a Parisian college student cutting class, you can visit the courtyard and galleries when the university is in session.
This neoclassical monument is one of the most famous burial places in France. It’s the final resting place of some of France’s most well-known authors, such as Voltaire, Alexandre Dumas and Victor Hugo.