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Visit St. Germain-des-Prés, Paris
Chic and intellectual, the neighborhood of Saint-Germain-des-Prés is home to French literary legends and an abundance of cafés, chic boutiques, and beautiful heritage. St Germain-des-Prés is one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Paris, and it is located in the 6th Arrondissement, Left Bank, delimited by the Latin Quarter, Paris 7, and the Seine River.
A visit to Saint-Germain-des-Prés is a must on any first trip to Paris. There are many beautiful boutique hotels here too, so it is also one of the recommended places to stay in Paris. So, to help you plan your tour in this lovely neighborhood, here is a list of the best things to do in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris.
TIP: Saint-Germain-des-Près and Paris 6 are not the same. Paris 6 is a District or Arrondissement, while Saint-Germain is a neighborhood part of Paris 6. The 6th Arrondissement of Paris is divided into four neighborhoods: Monnaie, Odéon, Notre-Dame-des-Champs and Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
Saint-Germain-des-Prés Practical Information
How to Get to Saint-Germain-des-Prés?
There are two metro stations within St Germain-des-Prés: Mabillon (line 10) and Saint-Germain-des-Prés (line 4).
Where to Eat & Sleep in St Germain-des-Prés?
What to Do in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris
1.Visit Saint-Germain-des-Prés Church
Visiting Saint-Germain-des-Prés Church is one of the best things to do in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. In Medieval times, Saint-Germain-des-Prés developed under the shadow of its magnificent Abbey, which was founded in the 6th century by one of the Merovingian Kings. Under royal patronage, the Abbey was already known for its Scriptorium in the 11th century and it was the center of vibrant intellectual life in Catholic France until the French Revolution, when it was demolished.
Today only the 11th-century church is left, and it is one of the older religious buildings in Paris. Don’t miss its magnificent central nave and pointed arcs, the Vierge au Sourire – with her mysterious smile, and Descartes’ tomb at Saint-Benoit’s chapel – Address: 3 Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris.
2.Coffee at Les Deux Magots
Enjoy a cup of coffee at Les Deux Magots, one of the most famous literary cafés in Paris. French philosophers Simone de Beauvoir and her partner Jean-Paul Sartre, Picasso, Hemingway, and many others, used to drink here.
Authors and editors still meet there to discuss their new works, but with a few more camcorder tourists than the philosophers experienced. Sure, it’s a bit more expensive (and a little crowded) than other Parisian cafés. Still, the atmosphere is worth the additional euros.
Les Deux Magots’ name does not come from maggots (fortunately!). It’s related to two Chinese Wisemen (derived from ‘magi’) and was the name of the former gift shop. The café opened in 1812 in Rue de Buci. It relocated to its present location in 1873, with the construction of Paris’ central boulevards – Address: 6 Place St Germain-des-Prés, Paris.
3. Learn the History of Cour du Commerce Saint-André
Cour du Commerce-Saint-André is one of the hidden gems in Paris. This picturesque passage stepped back in time is famous for its fascinating history related to the French Revolution.
In the 18th century, Cour du Commerce-Saint-André was a common meeting place for the intellectuals and… the revolutionaries. Here, Danton had his house, Marat published L’Ami du Peuple (the most celebrated radical newspaper of the Revolution), Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu, and Diderot frequently met at the Café Procope, and a certain Joseph Ignace Guillotin developed his most famous invention, the guillotine!
Today, you will still find the Café Procope, vintage boutiques, and other lively cafés great for a coffee in the morning or an aperitif in the afternoon.
4. Look for Napoleon’s Hat at Café Le Procope
Le Procope is Paris’ oldest café, and it is located inside the above-mentioned Cour du Commerce-Saint-André. The café, which opened in 1684, has seen its fair share of famous faces over the years. Still, its most famous customer, Napoléon Bonaparte himself, forgot his hat (and to pay his bill) and never returned.
While we wouldn’t encourage doing the same, we do recommend trying Le Procope’s braised beef cheeks, a local specialty. After the meal, take a moment to appreciate the displays and try to look for Napoleon’s hat – Address: 13 Rue de l’Ancienne Comédie, Paris.
5. Admire the National School of Fine Arts
The School of Fine Arts in Paris, or École des Beaux-Arts in French, is a well-known institution in the city. Countless artists attended the school, and I’m betting that several of your favorites were among them!
Do the names Eugène Delacroix or Edgar Degas sound familiar? These are only a few of the school’s well-known alumni.
The École des Beaux-Arts is also known as the world’s oldest school of Fine Arts, with a history that dates back to 1648. The building itself is charming, and it is located not far from the Seine River – Address: 14 Rue Bonaparte, Paris.
6. Visit the Musée Delacroix
Visit the Musée Delacroix and learn about the legendary French painter’s life and work in his last home workshop. Most of Delacroix’s early works are on exhibit, including miniature oil paintings, pastels, and sketches.
Eugène Delacroix (1798 – 1863) is recognized as the head of the French Romantic movement in art. He was influenced by Rubens and Venetian Renaissance artists, who emphasized vivid colors, sensuality, and a feeling of movement in their paintings. You’re undoubtedly familiar with his most famous work, Liberty Leading the People, located at the Louvre Museum in Paris.
Musée Delacroix is set in the last apartment he lived in. The building is located on the beautiful Rue de Furstenberg in St Germain, and it has a lovely backyard – Address: 6 Rue de Furstemberg, Paris
TIP: The Louvre Museum ticket gives you access to the Musée Délacroix during the next two days.
7. Follow Hemingway’s steps in Saint Germain
Paris was a fascinating and significant place of history, beauty, and art for Ernest Hemingway. Ernest Hemingway stayed in Paris from 1921 until 1928 and returned multiple times. He liked to hang around the cafés and brasserie of Saint-Germain alone or with friends, and he described most of these places in the book A Moveable Feast.
To discover more about what Saint-Germain has to offer with Hemingway’s history, try this self-guided Hemingway walking tour to learn more about Ernest Hemingway’s time in Paris. For Hemingway, who was then just starting as a writer at the time, Paris was simply the most fantastic place to work in the world, and it remained his favorite city – Address: 151 Boulevard Saint-Germain, Paris.
8. Time for an Apéritif at the Rhumerie
Enjoy the famous French apéritif at La Rhumerie, at 166 Boulevard de Saint-Germain.
Joseph Louville founded the ‘Rhumerie Martiniquaise’ in 1932 and later renamed it La Rhumerie to avoid attributing rhum rights to a single island. With a joyful, cultural, and artistic atmosphere, La Rhumerie gradually established itself as one of the places to go in Saint Germain-des-Prés. La Rhumerie is currently managed by Joseph Louville’s granddaughter and great-granddaughter with the same spirit as his founder. La Rhumerie continues to share its fate today with new rum lovers and tourists from different places – Address: 166 Boulevard Saint-Germain, Paris.
9. Eat your Weight in Delicious Cakes
Saint-Germain-des-Prés is the setting of Paris’ finest pastry shops selling delicious cakes, chocolates, and hand-made sweets. Here, the greatest chocolatiers and pastry chefs compete for creativity to create the latest wonder, each in his own field and specialty: macarons, classic Parisian cakes like the Opéra or the Paris-Brest, or reinvented Éclairs with blends of flavors.
To get the most out of this paradise of sweets and cakes, we recommend joining this Saint-Germain-des-Prés pastry and chocolate walking tour, covering all of the greatest pastry shops in this elegant neighborhood.
10. Don’t miss Saint Germain’s Jazz Festival
The Jazz Festival of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris, mixes elegance and exclusivity in the heart of the famous neighborhood. Each spring, from the end of May to the beginning of June, the festival breathes fresh life into Saint Germain with the live jazz culture that was once of its own.
The festival provides spectacular performances in prominent locations like the Saint Germain-des-Prés Church, the Saint Sulpice Church, and also outdoors. This is a chance to listen to good jazz in Paris from consolidated musicians and also discover young talents.