A walk in Saint-Germain-des-Prés
In my opinion, the absolute best way to explore Paris is by walking! You see so much more this way and can really get a feel for the culture of the city. This article is a little guide to a walk in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, which is probably the chicest and for sure one of the most arsty districts in the city.
One of the most iconic neighborhoods of Paris is known as Saint-Germain-des-Prés, or simply Saint-Germain by the locals. When you picture Paris, a typical cobblestone street or artsy café in this area probably come to mind. Located along the river’s left bank in the 6th arrondissement, Saint-Germain runs along the river from metro Saint-Germain until the Latin Quarter. Saint-Germain is truly a cultural haven. This beautiful neighborhood is surrounded by churches, museums and art galleries. Not to mention, it’s filled with incredible boutiques and the cafés are vertitable Parisian institutions. The neighborhood cafés were once the favorite haunts of 20th-century writers, poets and artists. Greats like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Simon de Beauvoir were just a few of their regulars.
The best place to start your walk in Saint-Germain-des-Prés is to take the metro line 4 to the station with the same name. Once you exit the metro, the Saint-Germain Cathedral will be on your right. This church was constructed in 558 A.D. and used to be a complete convent. All of the other original buildings were destroyed during the French Revolution, but the cathedral itself still stands. The église Saint-Germain features exquisite gothic architecture and stained glass windows, plus it’s free to visit. You will find this cathedral to be much less crowded than many of the other churches in Paris, but it is one of the oldest and most beautiful. Definitely worth seeing!
As an added bonus, the church also hosts symphony concerts on a regular basis. So, if you’re a fan of classical music, the atmosphere and acoustics make this an excellent place to catch a concert. From Beethoven to Vivaldi, there’s a bit of everything. Have a look at this website for more information on tickets and upcoming performances.
Café de Flore/Les Deux Magots
Once you’ve finished visiting the église Saint-Germain, walk across the square to the Les Deux Magots café. This place has been around since 1885 and is truly a Parisian institution. Once a favorite of local writers, celebrities and all-around fashionistas, this café was the place to see and be seen. Nowadays, Les Deux Magots still serves up classic French fare and is frequented by loyal locals and admiring tourists alike. Stop here for a drink or apéritif and take a trip back to the Parisian jazz age.
If you’re in the mood for a place little more hip and upbeat, I suggest the Café de Flore. This swanky café is just a block away up the street. This place is known for its trendy clientèle, as a favorite for celebrities and fashionable Parisians alike. Classic French dishes are on the menu, and the wine selection is fabulous. If you have the time, I definitely suggest refueling with a drink or snack here.
Rue de Seine
One of the most central and classically Parisian streets in the Saint-Germain neighborhood is the Rue de Seine. From the église Saint-Germain, walk up the Rue Bonaparte one block until you reach Rue Jacob. There is the famous Parisian macaron and tea house Ladurée at this intersection, so treat yourself to a true Parisian experience and grab a macaron here on your way.
While enjoying your macaron, take a right on Rue Jacob and continue until you reach the Rue de Seine. Once you get to the intersection, take a left on the Rue de Seine and head towards the river. This street is known worldwide for its art galleries, which line the street on both sides. There’s a little something for everyone, from modern street art to classical pieces and renaissance-era statues. Browse like a local and stroll down the Rue de Seine and simply stop inside any gallery that catches your eye. The boutiques here make a great destination for gifts if you’ve got a heavier budget.
The Rue de Seine ends on the quai or riverbank called the Quai Malaquais. This is the perfect place to do some souvenir shopping, no matter your budget. Situated between the beautiful Beaux Arts school and the Musée d’Orsay, the Quai Malaquais is home to some of Paris’ coolest designer boutiques. But the other side of the street all along the river is lined with bouquinistes or “bookstands” . Of course these stands sell a lot more than just books. At these stands you can find some great and authentic souvenirs, for any budget. Antique books, vintage posters, handmade paintings, and vintage postcards are just some of the treasures that await you at the bouquiniste. Also, don’t be afraid to bargain for a fair price. A lot of the merchants will propose really high prices right off the bat. It’s up to you to agree with them on a fair price. In this case, knowing a bit of French helps a LOT! Check out some necessary French phrases here.
Jardin du Luxembourg
A walk in Saint-Germain-des-Prés just isn’t complete without a trip to the infamous Jardin du Luxemboug. This incredible park is just a ten minute walk from the Quai Malaquais. So to reach the Jardin du Luxembourg simply take a right in between the Pont Neuf and the Pont Saint-Michel. Keep heading inland towards Mabillon metro station. On your walk, don’t be afraid to wander a little and stop to explore the small neighborhood streets, like Rue de Buci. These mostly pedestrian streets are really typical of this area and are lined with all kinds of charming commerce. At some point, you should reach the Marché Saint-Germain, which doubles as a shopping center and a covered marketplace. From cheesemongers to florists to the Apple store and UNIQLO, there’s a bit of everything here.
From the marché Saint-Germain, keep heading inland along the Rue de Seine, which then turns into the Rue de Tournon. The Jardin du Luxembourg is just at the end of this street. Once you’re at the garden, enjoy a walk through the gardens, or perhaps visit the museum. You can even stop for a pastry or enjoy one the best hot chocolates in Paris at Angeinas in the Jardin. Check out these articles for more ideas of what to do in the Jardin du Luxembourg, or the 6th arrondissement.
Well, that’s where we end our little walk in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide and will add some of these places to your itinerary. If you’re interested in a more in-depth guided tour of the neighborhood, you can sign up for one of our free tours of Saint-Germain-des-Prés here.
Again, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us. We love hearing from you!
See you soon in Paris!