The Quartier Latin is one of my favourite places to visit in Paris. It makes for a great area to walk around, soaking up the atmosphere and experiencing life as it could have been for some of the famous writers and philosophers that spent time here in the past.
The best place to start is Place St Michel (line 4 on the metro), which is a grand and ornate fountain on the street corner opposite the Seine. This provides an excellent meeting point for many of the locals, so count yourself lucky if you can get a picture without a horde of people in the way.
From here you can wander along the edge of the Seine towards Shakespeare and Co, which is a famous bookshop run by the American grandson of Walt Whitman. It’s a cosy little place and is very reminiscent of what a true bookshop was like before the interference of Borders, Waterstones and the like. If you buy a book, they’ll stamp it with the logo of the shop to give you a pretty cool souvenir.
Go then through the side street into the restaurant area. Here you’ll find every type of food you can imagine in a very compact area. Many of the restaurants are low-quality ones looking for the tourist pound, however there is the odd gem. Demi-Lune is one of these gems that offers a delicious, tourist set menu (comprising of a starter, main course and dessert from a small choice) for just ten Euros. There is also an abundance of places to get a quick bite from delicious kebabs (nothing like the ones you get in England after a night out!) to freshly baked baguettes with a variety of fillings. This is also one of the few areas of Paris where vegetarians will find a choice of things to eat.
After a quick pit stop, you’ll no doubt want to spend a bit of time browsing the incredible amount of gift shops. Much of it is the usual tat that you’d expect to find in a tourist area – fridge magnets, posters, mugs and so on – but it is as good a place as any other to pick up any souvenirs you might need.
After the hustle and bustle of the shopping area, you should walk up to the Sorbonne, Paris’ world famous university. The imposing and intricate building is surrounded by gardens and parks, all excellent places to enjoy a bit of peace. There is a park just in front of the Sorbonne that has a few statues, including one of Romulus and Remus, which makes an interesting detour. You can actually wander into the courtyard of the university and have a look around, but it is pretty much like any other – students milling around between lessons.
Afterwards you should carry on walking up to the Pantheon, which is located at the top of Rue Soufflot. The Pantheon has the largest of Paris’ many domes and was built as a thank you by Louis XV for St Genevieve after she cured him of illness. It is a very imposing structure and is home to a working model of Foucault’s Pendulum, an experiment that proved the rotation of the earth over a 24 hour period. Also not to be missed here is the impressive crypt, where you’ll find the tombs of many famous people including Voltaire, Alexander Dumas, Marie Curie and Hugo to name a few.
Afterwards, you can take a final well earned break outside in one of the many cafes and restaurants that line the road up to the Pantheon, or head back down to the area around Place Saint Michel. This area really does make a great place to walk and take in the lesser known sights of Paris and should be on any visitor’s list.