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Latin Quarter Guide: Wandering around Medieval Paris!

Last Updated on 13th October 2022 by Sophie Nadeau

Good food, Haussmann architecture and plenty of history: few arrondissements capture the spirit of iconic Paris quite like the Latin Quarter. Oh, and if you’re in search of medieval Paris, then you’re definitely taking a step (back) in the right direction. Here’s your complete guide to the Latin Quarter of Paris, including what to see, visit, and where to stay in the 5th arrondissement.

guide to the latin quarter paris france
Parisian neighbourhood guide: Latin Quarter, 5e & 6e arrondissements, Paris, France. Best cafes and bars in the area, things to see and do and where the Parisians really hang out!

A brief history of the Latin Quarter

Inhabited as early as the Roman era, the Latin Quarter has nearly two millennia worth of history to explore. The district is so called because medieval students of the nearby Sorbonne university spoke exclusively in Latin during the middle ages. Clergymen and students alike would wander the narrow cobbled alleyways conversing in Latin… and the name kind of just stuck!

During the 19th-century, though much of the area was renovated, there are still vestiges of the Latin Quarter’s pre-Haussmann look to be spotted. Sitting squarely by the Seine on the left bank of the city, the Latin Quarter takes up much of the 5th and some of the 6th arrondissements of the city.

The Quartier Latin as it is so-called in French filled with eateries, bookstores, museums, as well as the Sorbonne University and a couple of ancient older gothic churches… Either side of this area, you’ll soon discover that the Saint-Germain-des-Pres and the Ile de la Cité areas of the city also have plenty on offer!

a guide to things to see and do in the latin quarter paris france

Things to know before visiting the Latin Quarter

Today, the arrondissement (Paris is divided into twenty districts known as ‘arrondissements‘) remains home to countless museums, many cobbled streets, and several historic churches that are worth a visit.

The area of the Latin Quarter is the main student part of the city, meaning that it’s common to spy students flitting between lectures or sipping coffee on the terrace-side cafés dotted around the district.

If you want to get to know the area on a local level, then I highly recommend taking this free and self-guided Latin Quarter walking tour. En route, you’ll soon discover many of the main Latin Quarter attractions, as well as all of the hidden gems you may well not have heard of before.

latin quarter paris france

Best things to do in the Paris Latin Quarter

#1 Visit the Paris Panthéon, Place du Panthéon, 75005 Paris, France

The pantheon sits atop a wide boulevard, just as it has done since its construction in the mid 18th Century. Construction ended in 1789; at the very beginning of the French revolution. 

Once built to honour the patron Saint of Paris, Saint Genevieve (whose final resting place can now be found behind the Pantheon), today the former church acts as a mausoleum and final resting place for French citizens of note.

One of the greatest honours a French citizen can be bestowed is to be buried in the Pantheon. It is here where you’ll find the resting place of Voltaire and Marie Curie. In a somewhat ironic twist of fate, the first person to ever been interred in the Pantheon was removed during the French revolution and his body was never recovered.

The Pantheon is also home to the infamous Fouquet Pendulum (built to prove that the earth is round- rather than flat as it was believed to be in the middle ages). If you want to enjoy the impressive pendulum for yourself or admire the fantastic view from the top of the dome, here’s your complete guide to visiting the Paris Panthéon.

paris pantheon france

#2 Admire the Sorbonne Panthéon, 75005 Paris, France

The entire area of the Latin Quarter owes its history and name to students, and so it is perhaps rather fitting that it remains a hub of student life today. You can even visit the interior courtyard of the Sorbonne if you ask nicely at the doorway! As a result of so many students, the entire arrondissement is filled with affordable bistros, bars, and student campuses.

The historic University of Paris was established as early as the 13th Century and was a crucial factor in Paris becoming the capital of modern-day France. Education was once the preserve of the church, but universities changed everything.

Nearby to the Sorbonne Panthéon campus, there are a number of independent cinemas where you can watch vintage and independent films you won’t find elsewhere. Also close by, you’ll find the free-to-visit, College des Bernardins, which was once home to Sorbonne University Students.

sorbonne paris first impressions

#3 Purchase a book at Shakespeare and Company Bookstore, 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris, France

Founded in 1919, Shakespeare and Co. actually comprises of two neighbouring bookstores sat side by side. The café at the end of the street is also now owned and run by the company and well worth a visit if you want to enjoy a coffee (if slightly overpriced) overlooking the nearby cathedral of Notre Dame.

Although the original bookstore from 1919 was closed down during the Nazi occupation of Paris and never reopened, George Whitman revived the concept, opening a new store by the same name in the 1950s.

It soon became a hub for writers, and even has a library on the first floor. If you’re in the area, it’s definitely worth a peek inside… After all, the bookshop is certainly an offbeat Paris location you won’t want to miss!


#4 Visit The Abbey Bookshop, 29 Rue de la Parcheminerie, 75005 Paris, France

There is always a large assortment of discount books residing in the Abbey Bookshop. The inside of the store is completely piled high with books; from floor to ceiling all available space is occupied. Rare finds sit next to barely used second-hand books.

Coffee is available at the back of the shop to all those perusing the shelves in search of a rare find or vintage treasure. Owner Brian is always willing to talk about all things Paris and book-related, while the store holds several book-related events over the year. All in all, the Abbey Bookshop is easily one of the best secret spots in Paris you should know about.


#5 Visit the oldest tree in Paris at Square René-Viviani, 25 Quai de Montebello, 75005 Paris, France

A couple of meters from the Shakespeare and Co. bookstore sits what may well be the most interesting square in Paris. Square René-Viviani is also home to what is purportedly the oldest tree in Paris and is situated on a former 6th-Century graveyard.

Apparently dating back to around 1650, and pretty damaged, you can tell that the tree has lived through a lot in its lifetime! Elsewhere in the area, there are plenty of cobbled lanes to explore, as well as several bookshops to peruse through. If you’re looking for a quick garden to stop and rest for a little while, then Square René Viviani is easily one of the best picnic spots in Paris!

Square René-Viviani latin quarter paris france

#6 Admire the Jardin des Plantes, 57 Rue Cuvier, 75005 Paris, France

While some may argue that Paris is lacking in green space, I would say that this is definitely not the case if you know where to look… One of the largest gardens in the centre of the city sits on the fringes of the Latin Quarter next to the Museum of Natural History (which you have probably heard of if you’ve read ‘All the Light We Cannot See’).

Once a 17th Century herb and medicinal garden, the green space is now a welcome refuge from the narrow streets of the district. The garden is also home to Paris’ Natural History Museum and a particularly unique carousel, the Dodo Manège, which exclusively features characters of endangered and extinct species.

dodo manège paris extinct animal carousel

#7 Marvel at the Église Saint-Éphrem-le-Syriaque, 17 Rue des Carmes, 75005 Paris, France

Situated somewhere between the Paris Pantheon and the River Seine, with views onto Notre Dame, the church dedicated to Saint Ephrem is the third place of worship on site. Beautiful and built in the 18th Century on 14th-century foundations, the church is said to have the best acoustics in Paris.

As a result, classical music concerts are often held here and so check the ecclesiastical building’s website for further details. Services are held on a weekly basis and the church is open daily. For more information, here’s how to visit Église Saint-Éphrem-le-Syriaque, an Obscure Church in Paris.

Église Saint-Éphrem-le-Syriaque façade

#8 Explore Paris’ Roman past, various locations throughout the Latin Quarter

During the Gallo-Roman period, Paris was, for the most part, known as Lutetia. Though not one of the most important cities during the era, the city was still home to all of the amenities you’d expect from a Roman city; a forum, arena, main street, and baths were all present.

Today, the former Roman amphitheatre now operates as a football ground, while the old Roman baths (Thermes de Cluny) can now be viewed when visiting the Cluny Museum, close to the Sorbonne University. Other highlights of Paris of old include Rue Saint Jacques and Place de la Sorbonne.

In Search of Roman Paris: Ancient & Historic Roman sites in Paris, France

#9 Eat a cinnamon bun at Circus Bakery, 63 Rue Galande, 75005 Paris, France

If you’re looking for a quick snack while in the Latin Quarter, be sure to head to Circus Bakery. Located close to the River Seine, the newly opened Circus Bakery offers freshly baked Parisian style treats.

Top of the list is cinnamon buns, though jams, comté, and speciality coffee can also be purchased on site. Please note that as of late 2021, Circus bakery is permanently closed. Luckily, many of the same products that were for sale in Circus can now be found for sale in the Café in the Merci concept store in Le Marais.

Circus Bakery Paris is the newest offering from the team at Fragments, a popular café in the 3rd arrondissement of the city.

#10 Wander around the Jardin du Luxembourg

Home to architectural delights such as the Medici Fountain, the Luxembourg gardens were commissioned during the 17th-century by Marie de’ Medici. Styled to look like the garden of the Pitti Palace, Medici’s childhood home, in Florence, today this public green space is filled with plenty of hidden gems and secret spaces to explore. During the summer months, you can rent miniature sailboats and sail them across the garden’s central fountain feature.

Seeking History at the Medici Fountain (La Fontaine Médicis), Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris, France. Where to find the prettiest water feature in the French capital!

#11 Visit Saint-Etienne du Mont, final resting place of Saint Genevieve

Relegated to the shadows behind the ever-so-famous Paris Pantheon, you’ll find an equally impressive building. The Gothic-Renaissance-Romanesque Church of Saint-Etienne-du-Mont finds its roots dating all the way back to the 6th-century when it was connected to a now demolished abbey.

Today, the ecclesiastical building’s exterior belies little of the sheer beauty to be found within the church. For example, aside from several stunning stained glass windows, be sure to check out the impressive glass tomb which houses all that remains of the relics of Saint Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris (many of her relics were burned during the French Revolution).

Saint-Étienne-du-Mont: Final Resting Place of Saint Genevieve in Paris, france

#12 Visit San Francisco Books

Tucked down a narrow side street in one of the most illustrious districts of the city, the San Francisco Book Company is a must-visit for those who are looking to purchase second-hand English language books. There is even a whole section of the store dedicated to books all about Paris!

San Francisco Book Company, 17 Rue Monsieur le Prince, 75006 Paris

#13 Shop at Librairie Le Pont du Jour

Located in the Latin Quarter of Paris, on a street filled with, independent boutiques and plenty of spots to caffeinate, you’ll find the treasure of a bookstore that is Librairie le Point du Jour. Inside, you’ll find thousands of books covering all sorts of topics on sociology, history, economics, philosophy, politics, among other things.

Librairie le Point du Jour Paris, France

#14 College des Bernardins

Of all the secret spots you might stumble upon in Paris, Collège des Bernardins remains truly unexpected. After all, it’s not often that you stumble upon such a large structure that’s hidden in plain sight, even in a quirky city like Paris.

The Collège des Bernardins was founded by the abbot of Clairvaux, Stephen of Lexington (an English Cistercian Monk) in 1248 in the 5e arrondissement of the city.

What had once been a swampy piece of land was now home to a building which served as the residence for the Cistercian monks who studied at the University of Paris. Today, you can still wander in and see the medieval vaulted arches of the historic church.

My Secret Paris locations: Collège des Bernardins: an ancient cistercian school in the heart of Paris, France!

#15 Go shopping on rue Mouffetard

As well as being one of the oldest streets in Paris, rue Mouffetard (or la Mouffe as some locals like to call it), rue Mouffetard is located in the 5th arrondissement and is particularly well-known for its many shops.

This market street has all sorts of shops that you need to be able to purchase ingredients to cook up a French feast and also boasts several quirky stores including clothing shops and independent booksellers.

Where to stay in the Latin Quarter

If you’re looking to stay in the heart of all the action, then the 5th and 6th arrondissements contain plenty of Paris’ major attractions and are home to countless transport links to the rest of the city. Here are the best places to stay in the Latin Quarter (based on web reviews and location)- otherwise, check out our complete Latin Quarter hotels guide:

Hotel Villa d’Estrées

Situated close to the Fontaine Saint-Michel and not far from Notre Dame, this four-star hotel is incredibly well-reviewed online. This boutique hotel is also close to all of the Major attractions found in the Latin Quarter. Check prices and availability here.

Hôtel D’Aubusson Paris

For those searching for a little bit of luxury during their time in the Latin Quarter, this five-star accommodation offers stunning rooms, while the communal area is complete with a jazz bar. Check prices and availability here.

Le Sénat

Close to the Luxembourg Gardens, Le Sénat Hotel offers all of the amenities you would expect from a four-stay place to stay. There’s a self-service bar on offer, a fireplace, and breakfast is available for an extra fee. Check prices and availability here.

Enjoyed reading this Latin Quarter Guide? Pin it now, read it again later!

Latin Quarter travel guidde: Here are the best things to do in the Latin Quarter (5th and 6th arrondissements), of Paris, France. Attractions to visit, where to stay, what you must eat and more!
Your ultimate Parisian guide and Itinerary- Paris guide to the Latin Quarter (5e arrondissement), things to do in Paris, France! Pantheon, Sorbonne University, Shakespeare and Co.
latin quarter paris guide france things to do in the latin quarter
Latin quarter Paris guide: things to do and where to do in the 5e and 6e arrondissements of Paris, France.

Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, travel, pizza, and history. A fan of all things France related, she runs when she’s not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming something sweet. She currently splits her time between Paris and London. Subscribe to Sophie’s YouTube Channel.

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Wednesday 25th of March 2020

Great article, but just one thing: No one thought the earth was flat in the middle ages, in fact it was well established in ancient Greece that the earth was round and academics from then on accepted that. This was a myth made up just to attack the church.


Thursday 13th of August 2020

Precisely, I was just going to say that. The pendulum was made to prove the earth’s rotation, not that it is round. And it’s Foucault’s Pendulum, not Fouquet’s. I also wonder what’s‘infamous’ about it.


Tuesday 17th of October 2017

It’s Jardin des Plantes, not planets.

Tanja (the Red phone box travels)

Wednesday 12th of April 2017

I miss Paris...:) I need to visit it again:)


Wednesday 12th of April 2017

Thank you for sharing this! I'm coming back to Paris in 2 weeks and I think I need to explore each arrondissement more and this post is what I really needed it x

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