LATIN QUARTER - SAINT GERMAIN DES PRES - Paris
LEFT BANK PARIS
Since the Middle Age the left bank quarter in Paris has been dominated by the Sorbonne, and acquired its name from the early latin-speaking students. It dates back to the Roman town across the Ile de la Cité. In 1215 the Pope approved the establishment of a university on the left bank of the Seine in Paris. Students and teachers alike settled in the area and since Latin was the official language of education at that time, the area came to be called the Latin Quarter.
The area is generally associated with artists, intellectual and a bohemian way of life; this is mainly due to the thousands of students living around.
But the left bank also has a history of political unrest : In 1871, the Place Saint Michel became the center of the Paris Commune, and in may 1968, it was a site of student uprising.
Today the eastern half has become sufficiently chic, however, to house members of the French Establishment.
The left bank contains many of the Paris monuments, museums and gardens, ranging from the brand-new Institut du Monde Arabe to the Middle Age Musée de Cluny, or the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in the Jardin des Plantes.
The Pantheon was built as a church at the end of the XVIIIth century. The Pantheon stands in the heart of the Quartier Latin, the lively and intellectual traditional Paris' student district.
After the french revolution, the Pantheon was turned into a memorial to illustrous frenchmen. It now houses among others the remains of Pierre and Marie Curie, the physicists who discovered the radioactivity, of Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Victor Hugo, famous French writers.
Walking the the Latin Quarter (3/4 hours):
Begin at Place St-Michel with your back to the Seine. Look at the street du Chat-qui-Peche, which is said to be the narrowest and shortest street in the world.
Walk back towards St-Michel and turn in the street de la Harpe that takes to rue St-Severin. Walk to your left to view St-Severin, a Gothic church built from 1210 to 1230 and reconstructed in 1458.
Take rue St-Severin to rue Galande until you reach St-Julien-le-Pauvre on the south side of square Rene-Viviani.
Turn rue St-Severin, turn to the street St-Jacques, and turn right to boulevard St-Germain. Turn onto rue de Cluny and aapears the entrance to the Musee de Cluny. This museum houses the remains of the Roman baths and The Lady and the Unicorn Tapestry.
Exit to boulevard St-Michel, and turn towards place de la Sorbonne. It is here that you will find the Sorbonne, one of the most famous academic institutions in the world. Discover here the Eglise de la Sorbonne, a church built in 1635 by Le Mercier.
Walk south on street Victor-Cousin upon leaving the church and turn onto rue Soufflot. The Pantheon is located at the end of the street and is the final resting place of Curie, Hugo, Rousseau, Voltaire, and Zola.
How to get there
Metro line 1 or 10 : Saint Germain des Prés, Mabillon
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