PARIS — Luxembourg

This is the 6th arrondissement of Paris and it has always been regarded as an intellectual centre with many writers, artists and creative people living here. St-Germain was a centre of bohemianism and existentialism in the glittering cafe society of the post-war years with names such as Sartre and Camus frequenting the area. There are many jazz clubs and cabarets here as well and in the past many famous singers and musicians have performed in them including Georges Brassens, Jacques Brel, Charles Trenet, Guy Beart, Charles Aznavour, Sidney Bechet, Miles Davis and Duke Ellington. It is the home of Parisian publishing and antiquarian book and print dealers. Over the past few years many luxury fashion brands have moved into this area which is one of the richest in terms of the average income of its inhabitants.

The sights found here are:
Pont Saint-Michel
L’Académie Française
Musée d’Anatomie Delmas-Orfila-Rouvière
Café de Flore
L’Église Saint-Germain-des-Prés
Les Deux Magots
Boulevard Saint-Germain
Musée Delacroix
Café Procope
Musée d’Histoire de la Médecine
Musée Dupuytren
Cremerie-Restaurant Polidor
Église Saint-Sulpice
Odéon Théâtre
Hotel Lutetia
Luxembourg Palace
Jardin de Luxembourg
Musée du Luxembourg
Boulevard Saint-Michel
Musée de Minéralogie
Musée Moissan
Musée Zadkine

Pont Saint-Michel

Pont Saint-Michel
This bridge is found on the left bank of the Seine River and it links Place Saint-Michel with the Île de la Cité. The 62 metre long bridge that you see today dates back to 1857 but there has been a bridge here since 1378 which has been rebuilt several times. The present bridge only took seven months to build. This bridge is the site of many of the killings of the 1961 massacre of Algerians demonstrating in Paris during the Algerian War.

L’Académie Française
The French Academy is probably the most important body on matters concerning the French language. It was officially established in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu who was the chief minister of King Louis X111. It was suppressed during the French Revolution but was restored in 1803 by Napoleon Bonaparte. It is the oldest of the academies of the Institut de France. The Academy has 40 members known as ‘immortels’ (immortals) who act as the official authority on the French language and are charged with publishing an official dictionary of the language. The first dictionary was produced in 1694.
For information about the Académie Française visit the website at: http://www.academie-francaise.fr/ (in French only)

Musée d’Anatomie Delmas-Orfila-Rouvière
The Musee d'Anatomie Delmas-Orfila-Rouviere is a museum of anatomy and the largest one in France. Since 1953 it has been housed in the vast exhibition halls and galleries on the eighth floor of the Faculty of Medicine of Paris. It was established by the dean of Medicine in 1847 and the collection has almost 6,000 items. Included in the collection are mouldings of livers, hearts, lungs and trachea as well as embryology, osteology and splanchnology. It is found at 45 Rue des Saints-Pères at the Paris V René Descartres University. It is free to visit on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2pm until 5pm by appointment on 42 86 20 47.

Café de Flore
This cafe is famous for its former patrons during the post-war years such as Sartre, Camus, Picasso, and Apollinaire. The cafe is still going strong, though the famous patrons have moved on and tourists have taken up all the tables. The Prix de Flore, a literary prize inaugurated by Frédéric Beigbeder in 1994, is awarded annually at the Café de Flore. This cafe is more about the atmosphere than the food.
For information about the Café de Flore visit the following website at: http://www.cafedeflore.fr/

L’ÉSaint-Germain-des-Prés

L’Église Saint-Germain-des-Prés
The site of this church was originally a Benedictine Abbey founded by the Merovingian King Childebert I in the 6th century as a place to house a relic of the True Cross brought from Spain in 542. Over time the abbey was destroyed and only the church remains today. It is one of the oldest churches in Paris although parts of it have been rebuilt over time. One of the highlights of the church is the Romanesque nave built in the 9th century and is the only remaining piece of Romanesque architecture left in Paris.
For information about the church visit the website at: http://www.eglise-sgp.org (in French only)

Traveller's Tip

The carved capitals on the pillars inside the church are only copies. The originals are found in the Musée du Moyen-Age.
  • Concerts are often held in the church and if you want information about what is on then visit the following website: http://www.classictic.com

    Les Deux Magots
    This cafe is named after the two wooden statues of Confucian wise men that are found there. It is one of the most famous cafes because of its former patrons such as Sartre and Hemingway. It is a popular spot for the residents of the area as well as for tourists and a favourite pastime is sitting outside in the sun. It is larger and busier than its rival Café de Flore and the food is quite good as well.
    For information about Les Deux Magots visit the website at: http://www.lesdeuxmagots.fr/index.php

    Boulevard Saint-Germain

    Boulevard Saint-Germain
    The name of this street comes from Bishop Germain, who protected the treasures of the abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in the Middle Ages. After the death of the bishop, the district became the richest in France. In the 17th century it was a centre of cultural life and was famous for its grand town houses until the 19th century when it became more bourgeoisie. Artists, poets and bohemians met here including Balzac, Racine, Georges Sand, Ingres, Delacroix and Manet. From the middle of the 20th century it was popular for its nightlife and charming cafes and as a meeting point for Existentialism followers. Musicians also gathered here such as Léo Ferré, Jacques Brel, Georges Brassens, Charles Aznavour, Charles Trénet and Serge Gainsbourg. Today, Boulevard Saint-Germain is a high-end shopping street, with exclusive and well-known brands such as Armani and Ralph Lauren. The Institute d'Études Politiques which is one of the most prestigious political science schools in Europe is also found here.

    Musée Delacroix
    This museum is housed in the artist Eugène Delacroix’s apartment and studio where he lived, worked and died. He moved here in 1857 to work in the Saint-Sulpice Church where he was decorating what is now known as the Chapel of Holy Angels. His works including sketches, lithographs, watercolours and oils are hung throughout the museum. The building is found on a lovely square with a pretty garden.
    For information about the museum visit the website at: http://www.musee-delacroix.fr/en/

    Café Procope
    This cafe was founded in 1686 making it the oldest cafe in Paris and the oldest operating cafe in the world. Many famous people have dined here including Diderot, Voltaire, George Sand, Victor Hugo, and Oscar Wilde. It is situated in a three-storey townhouse with nine salons and dining rooms. The decor has been preserved with deep red painted walls and the ground floor room is just wonderful as it looks just like an antique library. The food is very good here and it is a lovely place to just sit, relax and enjoy a good quality meal as well as soaking up all the history. If you don’t want to eat here you can visit every afternoon from 3pm to 6pm just to look at it.
    For information about Café Procope visit the website at: http://www.procope.com

    Traveller's Tip

    If you want to dine here in the evening it is probably best to make a reservation as it is very popular.

    Musée d’Histoire de la Médecine
    This unusual museum is full of old medical instruments, models, prosthetic limbs as well as pieces covering the different branches of surgery up to the end of the 19th century. The collection also contains paintings, engravings and lithographs. The room that the collection is housed in was built between 1905 and 1907 and it is magnificent but the collection itself wasn’t put on display until 1955. The museum is housed inside the Faculty of Medecine at the Paris Descartes University at 12 rue de l’École de Médecine. It is open from 2pm to 5.30pm every day except Thursdays and Sundays and holidays from October to July 15 and from then until September it is closed Saturdays and open on Thursdays. The cost is €3.50.
    For information about the museum visit the website at: http://www.bium.univ-paris5.fr/musee/ (in French only)

    Traveller's Tip

    This museum is for those people who like unusual things because some of the pieces found here are just bizarre. Make sure you look at the small circular table that is near the fire extinguisher by the staircase to the second floor. It is made of human body parts such as petrified brains, blood, bile, liver, lungs, glands, four ears and sections of vertebrae with a human foot as the centrepiece. Very unusual just like the rest of the museum.

    Musée Dupuytren
    This is another unusual museum with collections of anatomical items illustrating diseases and malformations. It is located at 15, rue de l’Ecole de Médecine, Les Cordeliers and is open weekdays except holidays and university vacations. It was established in 1835 in the old refectory of the Cordeliers Convent and its collections were gathered from throughout the faculty of medicine in the University of Paris and by the 1870s it had over six thousand pieces. It was shut in 1937 due to a lack of interest and many of the specimens were lost but in 1967 there was a refurbishment. Today there are still some very fine exhibits some dating back to the 17th century. Other items include wax anatomical models some of which are quite bizzare as well as books and photographs.
    To find out more about the museum visit the following website at: http://www.upmc.fr/fr/culture/patrimoine/patrimoine_scientifique/musee_dupuytren.html (in French only)

    Cremerie-Restaurant Polidor
    Another restaurant that has a place in history because of the famous people that have dined here including André Gide, Valéry and Kerouac. The traditional bistro has been around since around 1845 and the food is reasonable.
    To find out more about the restaurant visit the website at: http://www.polidor.com

    Église Saint-Sulpice

    Église Saint-Sulpice
    This church is only slightly smaller than the Notre Dame Cathedral and the inside is beautiful but the real attraction of this church is the organ which is one of the largest in the world with its 6,500 pipes, 102 stops and 5 keyboards. You can hear it being played on Sundays following the 10.30 service where the organist presents a 30 minute recital. After this you can climb to the organ loft to see the organ to see how it works. Just be aware that it is 66 steps via a spiral staircase. The church building dates from 1646 to 1745 and it was the place where Victor Hugo was married and the Marquis de Sade was christened. This is also the church where the artist Eugène Delacroix painted frescoes. One of the most unusual features of the church is the ‘gnomon’, built in 1743 for astrological calculations. Split down the middle by the meridian, whose brass marker line runs down the obelisk onto the floor, its shadow was used to calculate the position of the sun in the sky.
    To find out more about the church visit the website at: http://www.paroisse-saint-sulpice-paris.org/default.aspx (in French only)

    Traveller's Tip

    There is a free guided tour of the church every Sunday at 3pm but tours can be organised for other times on request. Go to the back of the church under the organ loft.
  • This church was used in the Dan Brown novel the Da Vinci Code where it refers to the ‘Rose-Line&rsquo' and the letters found in the small round windows as ‘Priory of Sion’. The church has disputed the claims made in the novel and to that effect you will find a note near the gnomon obelisk explaining this.

    Odéon Théâtre
    The Odéon Théâtre was inaugurated by Marie-Antoinette in 1782. It was built to house the Comédie Française. Over the years this theatre has staged plays directed by important stage directors from around the world. In 1827 it became the first theatre in France to present Shakespeare in English and put together by a British company. Today it is one of France’s six national theatres. In 1990, the theatre was renamed Théâtre de l’Europe and became a member of the Union of the Theatres of Europe.
    To find out more about the theatre visit the website at: http://www.theatre-odeon.fr/?prehome=1

    Hotel Lutetia
    This historic hotel was built in 1910 by the department store Bon Marche which is now owned by the hotel corporation. It was the first Art Deco hotel in Paris. Many famous people have stayed here over the years including Picasso, Matisse, Andre Gidé, Josephine Baker and Charles de Gaulle on his honeymoon and even today it is a favourite with international celebrities. The hotel was used extensively during WW2 as a place for refugees fleeing the conflict especially musicians and artists. Eventually it was taken over by the German military intelligence for officers during the German occupation of Paris. When Paris was liberated in 1944 the hotel was used as a repatriation centre by the American and French forces for prisoners of war and other displaced people. After the war it returned to its original position as a luxury hotel.
    To find out more about the hotel visit the website at: http://www.lutetia-paris.com

    Luxembourg Palace

    Luxembourg Palace
    The Luxembourg Palace was built for Marie de Médicis, regent of France in 1615. It was the first great example of French classical architecture during the 17th century and was the culmination of the long tradition of the chateau as a building type. The palace was remodelled in the 19th century and the garden was added. The building has been used for many different purposes over the years including as a prison during the French Revolution, the residence of Napoleon Bonaparte, the headquarters of Herman Göring, the setting of the peace conference of 1946 and it now houses the French Senate.
    For information about the Luxembourg Palace visit the following website at: http://www.senat.fr/index.html

    Luxembourg Gardens

    Jardin du Luxembourg
    These gardens are huge — about 55 acres and they were originally owned by the Duke of Luxembourg. They were then bought by Marie de Médicis, mother of Louis XIII who had them laid out in the Italian style. They were modelled on the Boboli gardens at the Pitti Palace in Florence where Marie had spent her youth. In the 19th century the gardens were opened to the public and redesigned in the more popular French style but the original layout has been preserved. At the centre of the park is an octagonal pond — the Grand Bassin where you can rent small boats. There are lots of attractions for children in the gardens including puppet shows, pony rides and a children’s playground. Also in the gardens are many statues including one of St Geneviève, the Saint who saved Paris from attack by Atilla the Hun. There are fountains here as well including the Fontaine de Médicis at the north-eastern end of the park. At the southern end is the Fontaine de l’Observatoire which has a statue of a globe supported by four women, each representing a continent.

    Traveller's Tip

    These gardens are a great place to sit and relax and watch the world go by. There are bakeries and delicatessens near by where you can buy bread, cheese, wine and anything else you need to provide yourself with the perfect lunch which you can enjoy in these delightful gardens.

    Musée du Luxembourg
    This museum was originally in the Luxembourg Palace and was opened to the public in 1750 and was the first one to do so. Originally it housed permanent 19th century painting and sculpture but these were transferred to the Louvre and the Musée du Luxembourg became a museum of contemporary art in 1818. The building that you visit now was built between 1884 and 1886 next to the palace. It was the first national museum to hold an Impressionist exhibition but this collection is now in the Musée d’Orsay. Today the museum has become one of the leading exhibition spaces in Paris and holds temporary exhibitions throughout the year.
    To find out more about the museum visit the following website at: http://www.museeduluxembourg.fr

    Boulevard Saint-Michel

    Boulevard Saint-Michel
    The Boulevard Saint-Michel runs south from the Seine, crosses the Boulevard Saint-Germain and continues past Place de la Sorbonne on the left and the Jardin du Luxembourg on the right to the Port-Royal RER, where it meets the Boulevard du Montparnasse and the Boulevard de Port-Royal. A walk up the boulevard will take you past shops offering a wide choice in the latest styles. Also along here are street traders with their varied displays of Indian shawls, leather goods, Far Eastern perfumes and jewellery. From October to June you will find the boulevard crowded with school and university students from all over the world but in the summer months the crowds consist mainly of tourists as this is one of the most visited areas of Paris. It is more interesting to explore the little side streets off the boulevard with their numerous restaurants and cafes.

    Musée de Minéralogie
    This museum has one of the top ten largest collections of minerals and rocks in the world. It is run by the School of Mines and is open every day except Sunday and Monday from 1.30pm until 6pm except Saturday when it is open from 10am until 12.30pm. There is a charge for admission of around €5 and you can take a guided tour but you must reserve these so phone at least a month before you visit. There are 100,000 samples listed including 80,000 minerals, 15,000 rocks, 4,000 ores, 400 meteorites, 700 gems and 300 artificial minerals
    To find out more about the museum visit the website at: http://www.musee.ensmp.fr/ (in French only)

    Musée Moissan
    This museum is dedicated to Henri Moissan (1852-1907), winner of the 1906 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. It is maintained by the Université René Descartes-Paris 5 faculty of pharmaceutical and biological sciences and is located at 4, Avenue de l’Observatoire. It is open by appointment only but admission is free.

    Musée Zadkine
    This museum was once the home of sculptor Ossip Zadkine. When he died his wife left the house and his collection to the City of Paris. Included are some 300 pieces of sculpture which are displayed in the museum and the garden as well as some drawings and tapestries. The garden can be visited for free if you dont’t want to go into the museum and it is well worth it because it is lovely.
    To find out more about the museum visit the following website at: http://www.paris.fr/portail/loisirs/Portal.lut?page_id=6471