Although many of our clients prefer to stay in the more traditional 5-star luxury hotels of the Right Bank (e.g. Four Seasons George V, Hotel Le Bristol, Le Meurice, and The Peninsula Paris), Bev, Zen and I prefer a more thorough immersion of Parisian life on the Left Bank. In fact, the Left Bank (Arrondissements 5, 6, and 7) is among our favorite aesthetically-pleasing locales in all of Europe. Unlike the Right Bank, where there is an abundance of French historical monuments/public buildings, the Left Bank is more residential, made up of homes, apartments, and more intimate, charming restaurants/shopping – this is definitely the more “artsy” part of Paris. We believe the Left Bank embodies the city’s unique aesthetics and the real soul of the French capital.
Jardin Des Plantes
Although Jardin du Luxembourg is perhaps our favorite park in Paris, it can become quite crowded. As an alternative, we like to visit the expansive 69 acre Jardin des Plantes (founded 1626) in the 5th arrondissement (Latin Quarter). Jardin des Plantes is France’s main botanical garden. We particularly enjoy the iris and rose gardens here.
Institute de Monde Arabe
When visiting the architecturally striking Institute de Monde Arabe, take the glass elevator to the 9th floor for panoramic views of the Seine River (including Notre Dame, Ile-de-la-Cite, Ile St. Louis, and top of the Centre Pompidou). The open terrace and Arab restaurant here are quite nice. The institute was inaugurated in 1989 by then French President Mitterrand as a cultural bridge between France and the 22 Arab countries of the world.
Rue de la Huchette
Dating back to 1284, Rue de la Huchette is one of the oldest streets along the River Gauche (southern bank of the River Seine). Although very touristy, we still think this is a fun, café saturated pedestrian street to enjoy. Lots of Greek eateries!
Les Invalides (for history/military buffs)
Inaugurated in 1678, this massive complex of museums/monuments related to the military history of France is certainly worth a visit if a history buff. In addition to galleries on WWI and WWII, you see various Napoleon memorabilia; a bed with mosquito netting, a directors chair, and Napoleon’s overcoat and pistols. Napoleon’s beloved Arabian horse, “Le Vizir” is also here, a “stuffed” reminder of the Napoleons many campaigns. At the other end of the complex is Napoleon’s tomb, resting beneath a doe adorned with 26 pounds of gold leaf.
Chef Christian Constant has brought an anomaly to the 7th arrondissement, virtually across the street from the Eiffel Tower: great food at a great value. Choose the three-course prix fixe menu (about $30) or mix and match soups, salads and namesake cocottes (cast-iron pots) filled with savory ingredients like cod and Thai-style vegetables. The high tables and long counter lined with stools don’t invite lingering, so don’t plan to while away an afternoon or evening here.
Paris Sewer Museum
Travel below the streets of Paris and into the dark, damp, yet surprisingly spacious sewer tunnels. Paris’ unique sewer system, comprised of over 1,300 miles of tunnels, was implemented in 1850 by Baron Haussmann, and the engineer, Eugéne Belgrand, who designed the present Parisian sewer and water supply networks. On this tour, you can learn further about the history and engineering of the tunnels, as well as interesting tidbits, such as how Jean Valjean hid in these tunnels in Les Misérable.
Jardin du Luxembourg
Known by locals as “Luco”, we feel the green, expansive Jardin du Luxembourg offers an idyllic snapshot of the everyday leisure activities of Parisians. Created in 1612 as the backdrop of the Palais du Luxembourg, the park/gardens cover 23 hectares (55 acres) and is considered one of the most popular gardens in the city. You see all ages, social classes, and activities here: jogging, tai chi, romantic couples, sailboat rentals, kids playing areas (including puppet shows) and outstanding people watching! You may notice one part of the gardens is French style while another part is designed in the English style. Other fun areas include dozens of apple orchards and honey bee production (since the 19th century) in nearby Rucker du Luxembourg. An ideal spot for sun-soaking is the southern side of 57 meters (188 ft.) long Orangery – enjoy a nice rest in the garden’s signature sage-green metal chairs!
Our Favorite Latin Quarter Sites/Cafes/ Brasseries/ Restaurants
- Shakespeare’s Book Shop
Located directly across from Norte Dame in the Left Bank, this is among the most famous bookshops in Paris and was a favorite hangout of Ernest Hemingway.
- Place St. Michel
Most Parisians feel this public square is the heart of the Latin Quarter.
- Sorbonne University
Considered the Harvard of France. (Our University of Chicago friends may differ!)
- Les Bouquinistes
This is where many book and poster vendors line the banks of the Seine River.
- Le Deux Magots Café
Famous eatery of Hemmingway, Picasso, and Camus!
- Le Dome Brasserie
Relaxed, upscale café with white linens. They serve oysters and seafood!