Guide to the Latin Quarter

The Latin Quarter is located south of Ile-de-la-Cité around Place St-Michel in the 5th and parts of the 6th arrondissement.

Still the hangout of students today, in 1253 the first University in France, the Sorbonne, was founded here.

It was then that the area earned the name of the Quartier Latin, because Latin was the official educational language of all the students and professors.

Today the Latin Quarter is still beloved of students and budget travelers alike because, in comparison to much of Paris, it is very affordable. A reasonably priced meal can still be found around Boulevard St. Michel amid the honeycomb of restaurants between St. Andre-des-Arts and Odeon.

Latin Quarter

Whilst Paris’s past may be evident here, it has not been revered and exalted so the area maintains its original lively, youthful atmosphere.

Students still huddle in groups, discussing issues of the day, overlooked by the imposing dome of the Sorbonne just as they would have done 600 years ago.

The main street of the Quartier Latin, Boulevard St-Michel, is bustling with life at all hours of the day and night although sadly most of the independent bookstores have given way to fast-food joints and chain stores.

Notice, at the Place St-Michel, how the square is named after the grandiose 1860 fountain at its center that depicts St Michael vanquishing Satan - a loaded political message from Napoleon III's right hand man Haussmann who hoped St Michael would quell the Revolutionary fervor of the neighborhood.

The Latin Quarter was the center of the student-led 'Spring Uprising' of 1968 but truth be told, the area has lost some of its rebellious vigor. While the reasons aren’t easy to pin down — some cite the replacement of the old cobblestones, used by protesting students as projectiles in the old days.

These days the Latin Quarter is well known for more conservative reasons such as its colorful markets and cute medieval streets.

However when the sun goes some of the old revolutionary energry takes hold and the bars are some of the best in Paris.

Sights to See

The Quartier Latin, Paris is one of the most touristy areas of the city but it is a reputation that is well deserved. There is more to see here than there is time to do it in. Saying that, there are a few sights that must not be missed, the Jardin du Luxembourg being one of them.

Below we've listed the best sights the neighborhood has to offer. Don't forget that the best way to see the area is undoubtedly on foot, of course leaving plenty of time for breaks in any one of the charming cafes that line the streets!

Rue Mouffetard

Rue Mouffetard
One of Paris's oldest streets, rue Mouffetard is a Roman road that once led south to Italy. Today le Mouffe is frequented by Parisians and tourists alike. The top half is quite touristy and the bottom half is home to a lively market from Tuesday to Sunday. The real joy is to be found in between: this is the best place in the city to buy assorted delights for a picnic or to find a gift for your favorite foodie.

The crypt houses a who's who of the nation's great men; Voltaire, Rousseau, Hugo and Zola to name a few. The original Foucault's pendulum was first tested here and you can see a replica hanging from the dome if you climb the stairs.

Musée National du Moyen-Age
This museum of medieval art, otherwise known as the Musée de Cluny, is housed in a wonderful 15th century building that itself was built upon the ruins of Paris's Roman Baths. Needless to say, there is a lot to see here. Namely, the breath-taking tapestry series, woven in the 15th or 16th century, but the themed gardens and Roman ruins are well worth a visit too.