Paris Neighborhoods: Rive Gauche – the 5th and 6th

Saint-Médard in the rue Mouffetard market in the 5th

The Experienced Travelers cross the Seine to the Left Bank to continue our exploration of Paris neighborhoods.  (Click to read our post about the Right bank.)

Two arrondissements stand out as Left Bank favourites.  The justly popular 5th and 6th arrondissements between Place Maubert and Place St-Germain are perfect bases for first-time visitors or returning fans.

The RER from Charles de Gaulle airport stops at the Place St-Michel, which is convenient for both the 5th and 6th.  Emerge from the RER into the Paris morning light and settle at one of the cafes along the Seine for your first café -au-lait.

Browse the bouquinistes along the quai, just like Audrey Hepburn!

Oh, dear Readership, my friend Marylynn and I took our first trip to Paris when we were impressionable girls in our 20s.  Our one unforgettable Audrey Hepburn evening unfolded in these quartiers, thanks to a charming (and well-behaved) Irish literature student.  Arms in arms, we three splashed along the foggy Boulevard Saint-Michel in teeming rain. With our spirits soaring (and coiffures stylishly soaked) we wandered into the wee hours until our Gallic poet gallantly led us to a café table across from Notre Dame, floodlit in the mist.  Ah, youth.  Let me collect myself and return to our tour.

Among it’s many delights, the 5th arrondissement has your picture-perfect view of Notre Dame, the Pantheon, the rue Mouffetard market and the Sorbonne.

Notre Dame seen from the 5th. The ETs gaze upon her over their morning coffee for spiritual renewal and to pray for found money.

The ETs like to explore streets near the river,  like the rues Galande and Maître-Albert where medieval Sorbonne students attended open-air classrooms.  Today you can shop the small boutiques and health food stores in the neighborhood and feel justified because you’re learning history.  How easy it is for the ETs to find continuous self-improvement from our mercantile inclinations.

The Pantheon crowns the hill. Contribute 7 euros to the patrimony of France and visit Hugo, Voltaire, Zola and Foucault's Pendulum.

Walk away from the busy quai and make the gentle climb up the rue Saint-Jacques hill, past the church of St-Séverin to the rue Soufflot.  Stop at the Pantheon where you can visit Foucault’s Pendulum and several French immortels including Victor Hugo.

If you stay here, there are many hotels and restaurants and you won’t be disappointed.  It gets quiet at night unless you’re near the Seine or on the Blvd.  Saint-Michel.  The 5th is centrally located with good transportation, especially along the Blvds. Saint-Germain and Saint-Michel.

  • What’s nearby: rue Mouffetard and Maubert markets, 13th century St Julien le Pauvre and it’s lovely square,  Shakespeare and Company bookstore, the Pantheon, college life at the Sorbonne, the Roman arena, Jardin des Plantes and the Paris Mosque and yummy couscous.

The 6th arrondissement - food, sights and plenty of shopping. A great location!

Just across the Blvd. Saint-Michel from the 5th,  the 6th arrondissement has the most expensive real estate in town with an average cost of €11,631 per square meter. (oodles of Found Money needed.)  It runs from the incomparable Jardin du Luxembourg to the Seine and over to Melinda’s  favourite table at the Café de Flore in the Place Saint-Germain.  After all, it’s not  just for existentialists anymore.

This convenient quartier has it all, and it’s busy from morning till night.  Ambiance, gastronomy, antiques and antiquarian books, Sorbonne student hangouts, upscale boutiques and excellent transportation by bus, metro or RER.  It’s no wonder it’s one of the most popular areas for visitors.

You can stay in the 6th and eat all day without leaving the quartier

You’ll find loads of hotels between the Place Saint-Michel and the rue de Bucci market.  No matter where you stay, it’s easy to get a languorous glass of wine on a made-for-watching café terrace, or a quick picnic lunch.  If you have just one trip to Paris in you, stay in the 6th and we can recommend the Hotel du Lys.

Jardin du Luxembourg - Marie de Medici's backyard can be yours too.

What’s nearby: Left-bank quais on the Seine, Luxembourg gardens, Louvre, Orsay and Cluny museums, Sorbonne, Place St-Germain, rue de Bucci market, rue de Seine antiques, many, many restaurants and cafes that teem with busy cutlery, and much more.

Nurse, in dashing earrings, eyes the Velibes bicycles - what *can* she be thinking..

And so, dear Readership, your choices for a Paris base continue to expand. But there’s more – watch for our overview of the 7th and 15th arrondissements in a later post.  Happy travels!


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13 Responses to “Paris Neighborhoods: Rive Gauche – the 5th and 6th”

  1. Terry Says:

    Ah Julie, you took me back to September 1992….when I was beckoned to Paris by my now life-partner….I didn’t even have a passport and yet replied “mais oui” to the invitation. The hair-raising ride in Paris traffic was a contrast with the old-world charm of the rue Maitre-Albert where he lived! When I saw the mention in this post, my next memory was that of the sublime couscous along the same street….what a coincidence you should mention this as well. “Thanks for the memories.”

    • Julie Says:

      Terese! Thanks for sharing your memory with the Readership. I love the old, quiet feel of that part of the 5th. But the couscous potential is new to me and I am adding it to my spreadsheet for further investigation. Unless you get there first and tell us if it’s still in business! Enjoy your sunshine – we have none of it here at home.

  2. orsay54 Says:

    As many times as I have passed the Pantheon, I have never gone inside.. nor the Jardin of Plantes! And to make matters worse i lived near by on Rue De Babylone!

    I will the next time I visit , hopefully this summer!

    I LOVE your series on the arrondissements!

    • Julie Says:

      Hello Orsay54! We’re delighted to hear from you again.

      Now do make your way back to the Pantheon and pay the exorbitant entry fee, but don’t make the mistake I made by asking where Joan of Arc is buried. OK, I was tired and not thinking clearly..

      I’m working on a post featuring the 7th, where our regular apartment rental is located. With your expertise as a former resident your comments will enlighten the Readership. Stay tuned and glad you enjoyed the arrondissements series. More to come!

      • orsay54 Says:

        Julie,

        Can not wait!!!!!!! Wow.. never thought of the cost.. may buy a Paris Museum Pass.. have to calculate to see if my time will justify the cost..
        Don’t take too long with the 7e..:):)!!!

      • Julie Says:

        Hi Orsay – am working on the 7th as we speak. It will be a few weeks until it’s ready, so prepare your thoughts. Your comments are most welcome!

      • orsay54 Says:

        OK.. I’ll be right here!!!!..::)!

  3. Victor Says:

    I love your blog – you know, we’re going to have to pick your brain on Italy soon.

    • Julie Says:

      Hello my dears! Thanks for your continued support, as you are two of the original Readership! I just love Italy and you’ll have so many adventures – we hope you’ll be blogging!!

  4. orsay54 Says:

    BTW.. Yes on Italy!!!!!

  5. thehuntedbk1 Says:

    Hey I’m staying at the Hotel du Lys in March when I come – thanks to your recommendation! Thank you!!! Love your blog 🙂

    • Julie Says:

      You’ll love the location! You’re near both Odeon and Saint-Michel metro stops, plenty of restaurants and within walking distance of everything. The hotel isn’t chi-chi, but an excellent value for the money. Tell us how it went when you return. thanks for reading and we appreciate your comment!

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