Left Bank


The Left Bank of the Seine River in Paris, commonly referred to as simply the "Left Bank" is home to artists, students, quirky antique stores, and popular street-side cafes. Unlike the wide, ordered boulevards of the right bank, the Left Bank's streets are narrow and winding, made of picturesque cobblestones, and are often deadends. It is a vibrant area, filled with activity, music, exotic aromas, and throngs on young Parisians.

Left Bank Culture

The left bank has traditionally been home to artists, writers, musicians, and students. It is home to the venerable Sorbonne University and the surrounding "Latin Quarter", named because the students originally were permitted to speak only Latin. Today the Latin Quarter is lined with bookstores, ethnic eateries, and sidewalk cafes. It is also home to the Odeon Theater, which plays host to a regular schedule of dramatic and musical performances.

Le Sorbonne

Le Sorbonne is widely regarded, with Oxford, Cambridge, and Harvard, as one of the best universities in the world. Established in 1257 by Robert de Sorbon, the original Sorbonne was a theological college begun with just 16 students. From these humble beginnings, the college grew to become the center of learning during the Renaissance period and its past rectors include the Cardinal Richelieu. Today, the Sorbonne is the centerpiece of the University of Paris.

Near the university is the Musee de Cluny, the French National Museum about the Middle Ages. This unique collection includes the world-renowned "Lady with a Unicorn" tapestry as well as beautifully hand-written, 15th century "Book of Hours". The area surrounding the university is also home to "Le Procope", a coffee shop, founded in 1686 that claimed to be the world's first such establishment.

The Luxembourg Gardens

Located just off of the Latin Quarter, the Luxembourg Garden is to Paris what Central Park is to New York City. It's a charming green expanse, filled with chestnut trees, ponds, gentlemen playing "boules", and even the occasional "Punch and Judy" puppet show. The Centerpiece of the park is the elegant Palais du Luxembourg, once the home of King Henri IV and now home to the French Senate. Summers in the park feature a number of attractions, including live concerts, street performers, and ice cream vendors. It's where "toute Paris" comes to meet.

St. Germain des Pres

The St. Germain des Pres neighborhood, just across the Seine from the Louvre Museum and down the street from the Orsay Museum, is famous for its interesting and diverse antique shops, street markets, and sidewalk cafes. This is the home of the Deux Maggots cafe and the Cafe Flore, where Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir used to hold court. It has also been home to writers, from Ernest Hemmingway to Victor Hugo to Oscar Wilde. In the center of St. Germain lies the lovely St. Sulpice Church, which figures prominently in the recent novel and movie, "The Da Vinci Code". Nearby is the St. Germain-des-Pres church, the oldest (built in 542) in Paris and the final resting place of the philosopher Descartes and the 19th century exiled King of Poland, among others.

Left Bank Shopping

Shopping in Paris' Left Bank is quirky and unconventional. This is the home of most of the city's bookstores and trendy eclectic clothing and housewares stores. The streets leading off of the Boulevard St. Germain des Pres are lined with antique stores, ranging from flea market style boutiques to fine 19th century decorative items.

The outdoor food markets center around the Rue Buci and its daily open-air produce market and the Rue Mouffetard, one of the oldest streets in Paris and site one of the city's most popular open-air markets. The street is also home to dozens of permanent food-related stores.

Visiting the Left Bank

Staying on the Left Bank is ideal for visitors looking for smaller, often less expensive accommodations with character. Hotels and Inns in this part of Paris are not the large palaces that you find on the Rue de Rivioli. Here, you'll find privately-owned walk-ups with unexpected roof-top patios and often spacious top-floor suites, overlooking the skyline of Paris.

The food on the Left Bank runs to traditional, hearty bistro fare and a wide variety of ethnic restaurants and street vendors. Wine bars, many also with food, are popular in this area.

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