Although the Latin Quarter remains the heart of the Left Bank,
it has lost some of its ambiance and is now an area in transition. It
still retains the charm of the academic community and is home to the
University of Paris (including the Sorbonne), which dates from the early
13th century. If you need to cross the Seine to reach the Latin
Quarter, be sure to take some time to explore the Île de la Cité and
This quaint island offers great views of the
Seine as it wanders through Paris. In addition you will find some of
the most historic attractions Paris has to offer in this compact section of
- Dating from the 3rd century BC, the Île de la Cité is
one of the oldest, continuously inhabited areas of Paris. Within its boundaries you will find
the awe inspiring Notre Dame Cathedral, the ornate Ste. Chapelle
darkly famous Conciergerie and the Palais De Justice. Each of these
attractions is rewarding, so be prepared to spend an afternoon in this
section of the City.
- The Pont Neuf (New Bridge) is the oldest bridge in Paris and dates
from the early 17th century. It is one of the most photographed
bridges in the City and one that has appeared in many movies, most recently
in the Bourne Supremacy with Matt Damon.
(4 ém) - map symbol 14
- The Île Saint-Louis, comprised of tightly packed 17th
century townhouses, is a delight to walk and a great place for a meal.
(4 ém) (IC)
- map symbol 13
The grand Cathedral of
Paris was commissioned by Bishop Maurice de Sully in 1160. It is still in use as
Roman Catholic Cathedral of Paris.
The Cathedral's unique look was heavily influenced by a restoration in the 1860's. Notre Dame is an impressive building and one of the “must see”
attractions of Paris. The exterior and the interior of Notre Dame are
endowed with numerous spectacular features, so do not make this a quick
The exterior has many interesting features (particularly the stone
carvings representing events from the Bible), but it is important to note
that Notre Dame was one of first great cathedrals to employ flying
buttresses (visible along the east end of the cathedral). The
wing-like elevated arches transferred the load from the vault of the
cathedral to a buttress (or pier) outside the building proper. This
innovation allowed the building of taller structures, including openings in
exterior walls for large windows (which would, without the presence of the
flying buttresses, make the wall too weak to support the load).
The Cathedral's stained glass is a treasure, especially
the famous West Rose Window (above the entrance) and North
Rose Window. Some of the glass in these frames and most of the designs are
original and date from the early 13th century.
If you have the stamina and interest, you can climb to the top
of Notre Dame for a grand view of Paris that you will share with fearsome gargoyles.
(Although we have never seen Victor Hugo's Hunchback there, were are sure he
must be skulking around somewhere close by.)
Opposite of Notre
Dame you will find the Prefecture de Police and behind it, the Palais de Justice
which contains the Conciergerie and Sainte Chapelle.
is a portion of the palace that was converted to a torture chamber and
prison for those eventually tried in the courts at the Palais De Justice.
Among the famous once imprisoned here during the French Revolution was Marie Antoinette.
former cell is now an understated, informal memorial that merits a glance.
- Inside the Palais de Justice you will also
find Ste. Chapelle, a church that which was built for Saint Louis (King Louis IX
of France -13th Century) to house the Crown of Thorns, pieces of the True
Cross and other holy relics from the Crusades. This small church is a
treasure and visiting it is a memorable experience The stained glass, is the oldest in Paris and still possesses strong colors.
Be sure to explore the Upper Chapel which has the best glass and beautiful
The Pantheon started
life as a church commissioned by King Louis XV and completed in the late
18th century while the French Revolution was in progress. Loosely
modeled after the Pantheon in Rome, the massive, attractive church was
built along the plan of a Greek cross and included an extremely large crypt.
After the Revolution, the building was put into service as a burial place
for the distinguished citizens of France. It is the final resting
place for Voltaire, Emile Zola, Victor Hugo, Pierre and Marie Curie and
Alexander Dumas among other notable persons.
- In addition to its role
as a mausoleum, the scientists among you will know that the dome of
the Pantheon is where Leon Foucault tested the Foucault pendulum to
demonstrate the rotation of the Earth.
- The structure is also
known for the impressive frescos that were part its original design as a
church in honor of St. Genevieve.
Occupying the sites of the Franco-Roman baths and the Hôtel de Cluny
(where the abbots of Cluny order lived in 15th century Paris) the National
Museum of the Middle Ages provides a historical overview of medieval life
through the arts, manuscripts, tapestries and everyday objects of the
time. The collection is broader than the Middle Ages, but that era is
its focus. We found the Middle Ages Museum to be fascinating and
recommend it to those interested in the historical progression from the Dark
Ages through the Middle Ages. See the Museum's
official website for details on the collection and on
The gardens have changed very little since
they were created by Marie De Medicis in
the early 17th century. The Medicis also built the adjoining, gorgeous, Luxembourg Palace
that today houses the French Senate.
- The gardens are popular on sunny days and a fine
place for an afternoon walk. The area is crowded around noon, as many Parisians
lunch in the gardens. See our note at the right about "boating" in the
Saint-German-des-Pres is the oldest church in
Paris. It was destroyed by the Normans and only the Tower remains of the
original church. The areas around the Church and along the Boulevard
Saint-Germain offer numerous shops, antiques stores and several restaurants
featuring fantastic food. Saint-Germain is becoming one of the trendiest areas in Paris
and is also gaining notoriety as one of the top shopping districts for