Paris – The Latin Quarter


Quartier latin, or the Latin Quarter, is one of the oldest parts of Paris and is probably the area with the most physical reminders of its rich and illustrious past. Located on the left bank of the Seine and occupying most of the Fifth Arrondissement around the renowned University of Paris,  the Latin Quarter can trace its origins back to the earliest days of the city of Paris.

The region draws its name from the latin language, due to its history as the home of the most famous and legendary universities and colleges in France. Latin was once widely spoken in the area, as it was once considered to be the international language of learning and formal education. While the language has mostly disappeared from the schools, the name has fortunately stuck as a romantic reminder of days gone by.


Map of the Latin Quarter, Paris

La Sorbonne, as the University is often known, technically no longer exists, having been devolved into thirteen autonomous universities in 1970. Nevertheless, after more than 850 years as one of the earliest and most distinguished universities in Europe, the name has been difficult to dispel completely and is even included in the names of four of the new universities.

While the university may be the reason for the region’s name, and while students and education still dominate a large part of the area, the Latin Quarter (outlined in red on the map) has much to offer. Well known for the many bookshops, cafes, bistros and excellent restaurants, it also boasts a large number of quality hotels and apartments. As a small and relatively flat area, it is also an ideal region of the city to explore on foot.


Parish of Mount Saint Etiene (Paroisse Saint Etiene du Mont), Paris

In addition to the many historic buildings associated with the universities, there are also many earlier structures in the area, some dating back to roman times. One of the most dramatic structures, the Pantheon (see main photo), while remarkably similar to the roman building of the same name in Rome, is not actually Roman in origin.

Commissioned by Louis XV to replace the damaged church dedicated to St Genevieve and to thank God for his return to health, the building was not completed until shortly before the French Revolution, at which time the new revolutionary government turned it from a church to a mausoleum. It is now best known as the final resting place of such French luminaries as Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Marie Curie and Louis Braille.

Just beyond the west edge of the Latin Quarter is the Luxembourg Gardens, while the eastern end of the region is dominated by the Jardin des Plantes, creating green bookends for the quarter. At the northern end, between the Rue du Petit Pont and the Square Rene Viviani is the very popular Shakespeare and Company Bookshop, one of the best english-language bookshops among the scores of excellent bookshops in the Quarter.

Good places to eat:

There is no argument that Paris is full of absolutely top shelf restaurants, cafes, patisseries and boulangeries, so picking favourites is a tough call. Nevertheless …

  • Le Coupe Chou on Rue de Lanneau is easily the best restaurant in the area. Fantastic atmosphere and great food, but quality comes at a cost. The facade and location are a little deceptive, but this one is very highly recommended by Teddy.
  • Across the laneway is Le Petit Prince de Paris. While not at the high-end like its neighbour, this cute restaurant still puts on a great meal.
  • Like Italian? While it may seem odd to recommend an Italian restaurant in Paris, it’s surprising just how many there are. Il Pescatore, on the corner of Rue des Ecoles and Rue des Carmes is excellent.

Faculty of Law, Sorbonne, Paris

Bad places to eat:

Avoid Le Petite Perigourdine at 39 Rue des Écoles. If you ever get served (and Teddy waited for ages) your food will be thin and tasteless.

Good places to stay:

There are so many excellent hotels in the quarter, and regular visitors will all have their favourites. Teddy loved the Hotel St Jacques at 35 Rue des Ecoles – a small, boutique hotel that reminded Teddy of the sort of “Grand Tour” hotels of yore. The hotel likes to say that it was featured in the Audrey Hepburn movie “Charade”, but while the name is used, many buildings in many locations stood in for the hotel. Other hotels of note include:

  • California St Germain on Rue des Ecoles
  • Hotel de Grands Hommes on Rue Soufflot near the Pantheon
  • Grand Hotel St Michel on Rue le Goff

Also look for one of the many comfortable apartments, though also be aware that because of the nature of the area, there are a lot of “student” apartments in the quarter as well.

The Latin Quarter is an excellent and affordable base for anyone visiting Paris. Close to many of the Parisian old city landmarks, like Notre Dame and the Jardin du Luxembourge, and not far from the Louvre, the Latin Quarter is central and accessible. If you enjoy exploring an area on foot and can’t afford St Germain, the Latin Quarter is an excellent alternative.


Institute de Paris, Sorbonne, Paris


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