Last Updated on 31st May 2021 by Sophie Nadeau
The chic and glitzy 6th arrondissement of Paris is a must-see when in the French capital. After all, the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district of the City of Light is best-known for its historic bars, wide boulevards, luxury shops, and for being where many of the locations that iconic writers and artists frequented during the late 19th and early 20th-centuries. Here’s your ultimate guide to the best things to do in Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
- Where is Saint-Germain-des-Prés?
- Things to do in the 6th arrondissement
- Relax in Jardin du Luxembourg
- Dine at Les Deux Magots
- Drink at Café de Flore
- Le Bon Marché
- Saint Sulpice Church
- Chocolate shops
- Discover luxury fashion
- Cour du commerce de Saint-André
- Rue de Buci
- Saint Germain des Prés church
- Square Laurent-Prache
- Visit Musée Delacroix
- Admire the art of Musée d’Orsay
- Fontaine Saint Michel
- Walk across Pont Neuf
- Stroll across Pont des Arts
- Institut de France
- Enjoy brunch at Treize Bakery
- Dine at Le Bistrot d’Henri
- FAQ about Saint-Germain-des-Prés
Where is Saint-Germain-des-Prés?
Situated on the rive gauche (left bank), i.e. in the south of the city, the 6th arrondissement lies parallel to the 5th arrondissement to the east (the Latin Quarter) and the 7th arrondissement to the west (i.e. where you’ll find the Eiffel Tower). The area is famous thanks to the fact that it’s where many a famous literary figure hung out during their stays in the city during the early 20th-century.
Things to do in the 6th arrondissement
Relax in Jardin du Luxembourg
Of all the things to do in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, one of the most beautiful is that of relaxing in Jardin du Luxembourg (which is known as the English Gardens in English). A now public garden that was originally created by Catherine de Medici in the 17th-century to remind her of her childhood in Italy, today the green space is home to beautiful borders, several takeaway stands, and several locations where you can practice sport.
As well as tennis courts, there are ping pong tables (bring your own paddles and balls), and you can rent toy boats to sail across the large central pond during the summer months. One of the more unique hidden gems of the garden is that Fontaine de Medici, which was built in the first half of the 17th-century. On the opposite side of the garden to the fountain, there’s a small replica of the Statue of Liberty.
Dine at Les Deux Magots
There are two iconic Parisian cafés located in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area of the city, both of which have been rivals for well over two-hundred years, and both of which were founded in the latter half of the 19th-century.
Specialities of Les Deux Margots include traditional French cuisine set against the backdrop of a traditional French café. There’s also patio and terrace space if the weather is warm enough during your visit for you to be able to sit outside.
Drink at Café de Flore
Alternatively, another French dining venue which has become something of an establishment in of itself is that of Café de Flore. Located directly next to Les Deux Magots, Café de Flore has been in operation here since around 1887 (the same time as the beginning of the Third Republic).
The name ‘de Flore’ is taken from Flora, the Ancient Roman goddess of flowers and the seasons. Shortly after the café’s opening, Charles Maurras wrote his bestselling novel, Au Signe de Flore, on the coffee shop’s first floor. Today, visitors can soak up the historic ambiance while sipping on a coffee or crisp glass of wine.
Le Bon Marché
There are four main still-in-operation department stores in Paris and the oldest of these is that of Le Bon Marché. The oldest department store in Paris is not to be found on the right-bank of the city (Rive droite) like all the other Grands Magasins of Paris.
Instead, Le Bon Marché can be found on the Rive Gauche (left bank) was founded by a husband wife duo Aristide and Marguerite Boucicaut. Head in store for luxury purchases, several eateries, and the kind of place you can escape the rain from if it happens to be raining during your stay in the city. It’s also worth noting that Le Bon Marché boasts some of the best Christmas decorations in Paris.
Saint Sulpice Church
One of the largest and oldest churches in Paris is that of Église Saint Sulpice, which can be found steps away from Jardin du Luxembourg. Though part of the Da Vinci Code was actually set within Saint-Sulpice, controversy meant that the Tom Hanks film was not actually allowed to be filmed within its walls. The history of the church is equally as fascinating and the building you see today dates back to the 17th-century.
Thanks to the abundance of other high-end luxury destinations in the area (including five star hotels and boutique stores), there are actually a number of chocolate shops which are worth checking out while in the area.
Some even hand out samples of their delicious treats to visitors! Among others, a few of the best chocolate shops in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area of Paris include Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse, Le Comptoir Saint-Benoît and Patrick Roger, whose delicate creations look more like art pieces than edible desserts!
Discover luxury fashion
Along with several avenues and streets surrounding the Champs Élysées, the chic district of Saint-Germain-des-Prés is also known for its abundance of high-end designer shops and boutiques. As such, if you’re looking for shopping opportunities in Paris, then be sure to spend at least a few hours wandering around the Saint-Germain district of the city.
Cour du commerce de Saint-André
Easily one of the most beautiful streets in Paris is that of the Cour du Commerce Saint-André, which has seen its fair share of history over the years… After all, one of the most famous establishments on the street is that of Le Procope, one of the oldest restaurants in Paris.
The eatery was originally established all the way back in 1686 and is often said to be the oldest café in the city in continuous operation. Today, the passage of Cour du Commerce Saint-André is 120 metres in length and links boulevard Saint-Germain with la rue Saint-André-des-arts.
There is an extra entrance around midway along the street, which in turn links the passage to rue de l’Ancienne Comédie and it’s the perfect spot to check out if you’re looking for a chic place to enjoy a crisp glass of rosé on a terrace (a must-have experience in Saint-Germain-des-Prés).
Rue de Buci
One of the best places to grab a coffee or drink on a quintessentially Parisian terrace is along rue de Buci, which is famous across the French capital for its wealth of bars, bistros, and terrace spaces. One of the most iconic cafés on this street is that of La Maison Sauvage, which is characterised by its foliage decor, laid back atmosphere, and tables spilling out onto the street. La Maison Sauvage also offers some of the cheapest drinks on rue de Buci.
Saint Germain des Prés church
One of the oldest churches in Paris is that of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Free to visit and wander around, the church was founded as far back as the 540s by Childebert I. The church was rebuilt several times and by the 11th-century, a church was constructed on site in the Romanesque architectural style, though this has long gone.
Recently restored, highlights of the abbey church includes a fantastic painted, vaulted ceiling and flying buttresses reminiscent of those found on Notre Dame Cathedral. At Christmas time, there is a Saint-Germain-des-Prés Christmas Market held in the square directly in front of the historic building.
Located in the shadow of the historical ecclesiastical building, one of the coolest hidden gems of Saint-Germain-des-Prés is the park of Square Laurent-Prache. The Paris park is named for a French politician and today offers a quiet respite from the hustle and bustle of busy city life.
Visit Musée Delacroix
The National Museum of Musée Delacroix is a small Paris museum which is a little off the beaten path and is often missed in favour of better-known Parisian institutions. The museum is a tiny art museum dedicated to Eugène Delacroix and is open on a daily basis, with the exception of Tuesday.
Admire the art of Musée d’Orsay
Unlike some of the smaller museums in Paris, which are often tucked away and difficult to find, the Musée d’Orsay can be found right alongside the banks of the River Seine, on the Rive Gauche (left bank). Set against the backdrop of a former train station and best-known for its beautiful clock, not to mention some of the most famous art pieces in the world, such as Van Gogh’s Starry Night, the Musée d’Orsay is a must-visit while in the French capital city.
Fontaine Saint Michel
Located on the fringes of the 6th arrondissement, the Fontaine Saint Michel stands at the intersection where boulevard Saint-Michel meets rue Danton. It’s hard to miss the carved and ornate Parisian fountain, which is one of the most beautiful in the entirety of the French capital.
After all, Fontaine Saint-Michel stands at a height of 26 metres and is 15 metres wide and is perhaps one of the ‘poster monuments’ of the grand overhaul of Parisian architecture undertaken by Haussmann during the 19th-century.
Walk across Pont Neuf
Quite literally translated into English as ‘New Bridge,’ in spite of what you might think, Pont Neuf is actually the oldest still standing bridge in Paris. Spanning the River Seine and adjoining the right-bank with both the left-bank and the historic Île de la Cité, it’s hard to believe that Pont Neuf has stood in situ since the early 17th-century.
Stroll across Pont des Arts
The history of Pont des Arts dates all the way back to 1801 when a nine-arch bridge was constructed so as to serve as a pedestrian walkway over the River Seine. Works finished in 1804, making the pedestrian crossing the oldest and first iron bridge in Paris.
In more recent years, the Pont des Arts has been referred to as the ‘love lock bridge’. The fairly modern tradition saw couples affixing locks to the bridge’s metallic structure, often inscribing their initials into the padlocks in the process.
The couple would then throw the key into the River Seine, thus cementing their love ‘forever’. Obviously this practice was not only horrible for the environment, but it also saw tonnes and tonnes of extra metal added to the bridge. There are no longer any love locks on the bridge. Incidentally, Pont des Arts also offers one of the best Eiffel Tower views around sunset!
Institut de France
The Insitut de France lies at the end of Pont des Arts and is housed within a 17th-century building which was originally constructed so as to serve as a school for students from new provinces which had recently been attached to France.
The Insitut de France itself as an organisation was established in 1795 so as to organise various cultural matters and organisations. Comprising of five académies, one of the most famous académies is that of the Académie Française, which is the chief organisation in charge of matters pertaining to the French language (i.e. grammar rules and whether certain new words should be masculine or feminine).
Enjoy brunch at Treize Bakery
Treize Bakery is something of a misnomer on account of the fact that this is not actually a Parisian bakery but instead a dining venue which serves up brunch, lunch and dinner (together with some particularly delicious cocktails). If I’m honest, 13 (Treize) is easily one of the best brunch spots in Paris.
Situated in the shadow of the Luxembourg gardens, this American-owned eatery in the 6th arrondissement is perhaps best-known for its delightful brunch foods. My friends and I also particularly enjoyed the warm artichoke dip which was served together with warm bruschetta slices.
Dine at Le Bistrot d’Henri
Hands down, one of the very best restaurants in the 6th arrondissement is that of Le Bistrot d’Henri. After all, if you’re looking for reasonably priced traditional French fare, then this is the place to visit.
There are only around 30 dinner covers, ensuring for an intimate experience. Cozy and relaxed, on the menu you can expect to find quintessential dishes such as beef bourguignon and various pasta dishes. There’s also a mouthwatering wine list so you can order some local French wine to be paired with your traditional French meal.
FAQ about Saint-Germain-des-Prés
Is St Germain a good area to stay in Paris?
If you’re looking for a luxurious stay in the city, then you certainly want to book yourself a stay in the Saint Germain neighbourhood. After all, this is where you’ll find a whole array of amazing brasseries, museums, and shopping opportunities.
The central location of the St Germain district also makes it a great base from which to explore the wider area. If you’re looking for a particularly wonderful stay during your time in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, then you may well want to consider booking a room at the five-star Hôtel Pont Royal. Check prices and availability here.
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