The Latin Quarter, otherwise known as the Quartier Latin in French, is a lively district with roots dating back to a time when Paris was known as Lutetia. Here’s a free and self-guided Latin Quarter walking tour. Along the way, you’ll discover some of the best bookstores in the city, get the chance to glimpse some history, and discover why the patron saint of Paris is no longer in her final resting place.
Latin Quarter Walking Tour: Practical Advice, Tricks & Tips
If I were to give just one tip for this walking tour of the Latin Quarter (i.e. 5th arrondissement of Paris), it would be to ensure that you wear comfortable walking shoes. Although the route is predominantly flat, you’ll likely end up wanting to stop off at several of the sites and wander around.
For those who think that they’ll be seeing many cultural attractions and museums when in the French capital, I would also advise that you consider the Paris Pass. Though it’s a little pricey in its initial investment, this pass allows you to skip-the-line at many attractions and allows for entry into over sixty monuments and museums! Check here for Paris Pass prices and further information.
For further information on the Latin Quarter, be sure to read my guide to the 5th arrondissement. If you’re looking to stay in this area of the city (after all, basing yourself in this area means that you’re in a great spot from which to explore the rest of Paris), then I highly recommend booking your accommodation in advance.
Walking time: 21 minutes
Distance covered: 1.6 km
For the very best cinnamon bun in the city, you simply must head to Circus Bakery. Newly opened and located along a pretty street close to the Notre Dame Cathedral, it’s also here where you’ll find some of the best coffee the city has to offer.
Square René Viviani
The oldest tree in Paris can be found in the heart of Square René-Viviani, a pretty green space where many Parisians and tourists choose to picnic during the summer months. Often said to date all the way back to the 1600s, this small piece of history is now propped up by concrete and wooden pillars. Nevertheless, be sure not to miss this quirk of history while in the area!
Shakespeare & Co.
Of all the anglophone bookshops in Paris, Shakespeare & Co. is likely the most known of. Named for a bookshop which was opened by the American, Sylvia Beach, in 1919 and hosted some of the biggest names in writing during the era. During the 1920s, Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, all frequented the store.
Today, a new bookstore is open as an ode to the original. Should you wish to visit for yourself, be sure to be prepared to queue. After all, the bookstore is tiny and space is limited. If you’re visiting Paris in the cherry blossom season, you can also expect to see plenty of pretty cherry flowers outside the store.
If you’ve ever searched for the most instagrammable spots in Paris, then no doubt you’ll have come across Odette Paris. Situated in the Latin Quarter, steps away from the Church of Saint-
Catholic Church of Saint Severin
Truth be told, my favourite church in Paris is not Notre Dame, nor is it the Sacré-Coeur Basilica. Instead, the beauty of the St Severin ecclesiastical building makes it well worth a wander inside if you’re ever passing through the Latin Quarter.
Home to a rather unusual formation of arches designed so as to look like trees, once inside you’ll find a quiet place to sit and contemplate, away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the arrondissement. When visiting, be sure to stay as quiet as possible. It is a place of worship, after all!
The Abbey Bookshop
Books spill out onto the street and the smell of freshly brewed coffee is ever-wafting down Rue Parchemenerie, the pretty Latin Quarter street where the Abbey Bookshop can be found. Established several decades ago by Canadian, Brian Spence, the store now counts some 35,000 titles among its offerings. At other times of the year, the Abbey Bookshop also offers book signings and talks, meaning that it’s always an exciting place to stop by if you’re in the area.
Of all the museums in Paris, none is so enthralling for a Classical History buff as that of the Musée de Cluny. Located between the intersection of what were once the two main streets in Roman Paris, the Cluny Museum offers both the chance to see what life may have been like during the Middle Ages, and also a glimpse of the former Roman bath houses. Nearby, several important Roman locations can be found. For more information, check out my guide to Roman Paris.
Place de la Sorbonne
Paris is home to some of the most prestigious universities in the world. With this being said, no architecture of any university in France is perhaps as famous or as iconic as that of the Sorbonne University. Once known as the Sorbonne IV, the college takes its name from the Collège de Sorbonne which was founded as early as the 13th-century.
If you’re thirsty en-route to the other locations on this Latin Quarter tour or simply want to purchase a coffee or glass of wine, then I recommend sitting in one of the cafés at Place de la Sorbonne and simply watching the world go by. Want to know more about café culture in Paris? Here’s my guide to the art of ordering coffee in Paris.
Thought that Rome was the only place to have its own Pantheon? Think again. Sitting in pride of place and overlooking the rest of the city, as well as the ever-so-pretty Jardin du Luxembourg, the Paris Pantheon was originally constructed to serve as a place in which to house the relics of Saint Genevieve.
However, over time that purpose changed and now one of the greatest honours that a French citizen can be bestowed is to be interred in the Pantheon. Now, you can not only visit the final resting place of the likes of Voltaire and Marie Curie, but you can also pay to go up the Pantheon’s dome and enjoy one of the best panoramic views of Paris.
In a kind of returning to the source of sorts, this Latin Quarter walking tour ends where the Patron Saint of Paris now finds her final resting place. Lying in the shadows of the iconic Paris Pantheon, this beautiful church contains the shrine of Saint Genevieve, patron saint of Paris, as well as several architectural features of note.
Free to visit, once inside the Paroisse Saint-Étienne-du-Mont, be sure not to miss the rood screen. Intricately carved, it dates all the way back to the 16th-century and is the last of its kind in Paris. Wait for one of the guided tours, and you can peek behind the scenes at some truly astonishing stained glass windows.