Here is your go-to itinerary for a fun day in the 5th arrondissement, also known as the Latin Quarter. This neighborhood earned this name because Latin was the primary language spoken here dating back to the Middle Ages, and particularly at its various universities. The youthful college locals add to the fun, yet intellectual vibe of the Latin Quarter.
1. Jardin des Plantes
(Metro stations: Quai de la Rapée, Jussieu, Place Monge, and Gare d’Austerlitz)
For garden lovers, take a stroll through the Jardin des Plantes, which is the primary botanical garden in France.
For the science buffs out there, there are four primary buildings in the Jardin des Plantes which house the following: the Gallery of Evolution, the Gallery of Mineralogy and Geology, the Gallery of Palentology and Comparative Anatomy, and the Galley of Botany. If you’re into that kind of thing, check them out! For our little group, we stuck to admiring the flowers 😉
The grounds include greenhouses, bee hotels, and promenades lined with rose covered arches.
The garden’s original purpose in the 1600’s was for medicinal plants for the aristocracy, and currently shares its nearly 70 acres with the French National History Museum. There’s also a zoo (menagerie) if you’re traveling with your kiddos, or are just in the mood. 😊
On your way over to the next site, there are some lovely vertical greenscapes to admire, and this lovely fountain just outside the exit at the corner of Rue Cuvier and Rue Linné.
2. Église Saint-Étienne du Mont
(Metro station: Cluny)
Also known as the “Midnight in Paris” church at Montagne Sainte-Geneviève. As a big fan of the movie, you know I just had to find this locale, and I was so excited to come up the narrow street (above) on my way to the iconic steps – just as Gil Pender (played by Owen Wilson) did in the movie that fateful night!
In the movie, Gil sees a 1920s Peugeot at midnight after he’s fallen asleep on the steps of the side entrance of the church. And his adventure begins in the city of his heart!
I may, or may not, have forced my daughter to lay on these very steps, recreating the scene from the movie, but I will spare her any evidence of this occurance! And any evidence of my immense geekiness 😉
Built in the styles of French Gothic and French Renaissance, the intricate details in the spiral staircases (Jube) are just breathtaking.
The double staircase leading to the loft above was originally created to keep the church attendees separate from the high altar, and was referred to as a “rood screen”. The jube inside Église Saint-Étienne du Mont is the only surviving example of the double staircase in all of Paris, as all the others in the city were destroyed during the Counter-Reformation. What a beauty, in spite of its original intent.
This is the chapel dedicated to St. Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris because she saved the city from the Huns during the 5th century. However, her remains are not inside this gorgeous golden lattice tomb, but are actually housed in a glass cylinder as most of her relics were destroyed during the “Temple of Filial Piety”. Visitors may light a candle in honor of St. Geneviève just inside the alcove though.
3. The Panthéon
If your first thought is it looks as though you could find this type of architecture in Rome, you would be correct. The Panthéon is an example of neo-classicism and is literally fashioned to look like the Pantheon in Rome. It was initially built to house the remains of St. Geneviève before the chapel in Église Saint-Étienne du Mont was created, but now it serves as a city mausoleum of the Paris’ most treasured citizens. Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, and Louis Braille are all interred here, as well as many others.
Go inside! I made the mistake of not taking the opportunity to step inside, and I regret it as I’ve since found out how beautiful it is – of course it is! The French have an affinity for making all things beautiful. ❤
(Metro station: Cité)
I’m sure you’re ready for a snack, so how about stopping in Odette for their famed choux, pronounced like “shoe“). The quaint location, with cobblestone lanes directly in front of the pastry shop, also provide an amazing photo opportunity with your travel mates.
5. Shakespeare and Company
(Metro station: Cité)
The beloved English book shop is located ideally right on the Seine river. American Sylvia Beach opened the store back in 1919 in another location, then George Whitman opened the current shop in the 5th arrondissement as a tribute to Sylvia. Since the 1950’s, the shop has hosted tens of thousands of artists, authors, musicians, and other wayward travelers in the beds found on each level.
This generosity to those who need a place to lay their heads, is directly influenced by their motto: “Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise”.
I loved this Voltaire quote printed on the shopping bags.
If you purchase a book here, the staff will stamp the inside with a “Shakespeare & Co” image to commemorate your visit. There is now a cafe next door with English speaking staff to recharge for the rest of your day in the City of Light!
Click here for my map of the Latin Quarter which includes even more coffee, restaurant, and tourist suggestions in addition to all of the above locations!