A Neighbourhood Guide to St-Germain-des-Prés
The narrow streets of St-Germain-des-Prés have long fostered a creative, bohemian spirit. Famously home to many of the 19th century’s greatest writers and artists, there’s a literary and artistic legacy here that still permeates these storied streets.
St Sulpice Church
Built in the 17th century, on the site of a 12th-century abbey, St Sulpice Church sits right at the centre of the 6th arrondissement. One of the largest churches in the city, its two soaring towers are an iconic feature of the Parisian skyline. Inside, you’ll find a grand nave, the beautiful Chapelle de la Vierge with its Jean-Baptiste Pigalle statue, and Eugène Delacroix’s famous frescoes in the Chapelle des Saints-Ange. St Sulpice Church also played a starring role in Dan Brown’s 2003 thriller, ‘The Da Vinci Code’, which has helped make the church a popular tourist attraction today.
2, rue Palatine, Paris 75006
Located just behind St Sulpice Church on charming Place Furstenberg is Musée National Eugène-Delacroix. Set within the apartment the artist once called home, it offers a truly intimate experience of the artist’s life and work. Delacroix moved here in 1857 in order to be closer to St Sulpice and the murals he had been commissioned to paint there, and lived here happily until 1863, designing a studio and landscaping a peaceful garden to enjoy while he worked. Over 1,000 works are on display at the museum today, including paintings, drawings, prints and writing, as well as personal objects belonging to Delacroix and works created by other artists in his honour.
6, rue de Furstenberg, Paris 75006
01 44 41 86 50
Artistic St Germain
The streets of St-Germain-des-Prés have harboured many struggling artists and writers. From Picasso to Prévert, Hemingway to Cocteau, many of the world’s leading intellectuals have flocked here. Two of the best places to visit for a dose of literary history are Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots. Sitting side by side on Boulevard Saint-Germain, these two cafes were the meeting point for the city’s most influential writers, publishers and filmmakers – de Beauvoir and Sartre spending much of the Occupation flitting between the two. Bookworms can continue their literary tour by visiting local book shops like stylish Assouline and L’Ecume des Pages, which crams over 40,000 titles onto its packed shelves.
Wind your way past art galleries and independent boutiques until you reach Place de l’Odéon. Here you’ll find Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe, a Neo-Classical temple to theatre that’s been at the heart of St Germain’s creative circle for decades. Now under the direction of Stéphane Braunschweig, the theatre is dedicated to European works and continues to stage an exciting programme of productions.
Shopping in St-Germain
St-Germain-des-Prés is a neighbourhood where small boutiques sit beside major international fashion brands. Along the length of Boulevard Saint-Germain, you’ll find big names such as Dior, Ralph Lauren and Armani, as well as stylish accessories at Etro and iconic outerwear at Moncler. Shop for French fragrances at Fragonard or wander around the corner to rue Bonaparte to visit perfumier Buly 1803. Food lovers, meanwhile, should head straight to rue des Saints-Pères to shop for fine chocolates at Debauve & Gallais. Selling artisan chocolates for more than 200 years (with Queen Marie-Antoinette listed among its illustrious roll-call of past customers), this chocolatier has been delighting French palates for generations.
Where to eat in St-Germain-des-Prés
Another iconic literary hangout, Le Procope first opened its doors in 1686, and has been serving traditional French cuisine ever since. People come here more for the history than the food though, with former patrons including Rousseau, Diderot and Verlaine. Similarly, at Brasserie Lipp, it’s the restaurant’s illustrious history and thrilling atmosphere that draw customers in over its menu, with everyone from Marcel Proust to Madonna having taken a seat at its white linen tables.
Those looking for more elevated cuisine will find it at Aux Prés, Chef Cyril Lignac’s lauded second restaurant. With its intimate red banquette seating and vintage feel, this is a great place to come for elegant rural French cooking. Helmed by Chef Massimo Tringali, Emporio Armani Ristorante serves Michelin star Italian cuisine in chic surroundings. Located on lively Rive Gauche, the menu features refined dishes created with style and flair.
Looking for something a little sweeter? La Tarte Tropézienne, on rue de Montfaucon, is named for its signature dish: a soft brioche topped with sugar and filled with an indulgent, silky cream. Technically you can’t eat in here, but we’d wager you won’t make it far out of the door before devouring your purchase. Make another stop at Ladurée, to pick up one of its famous pale green boxes filled with jewel-bright macarons, or take a seat in Ladurée Bonaparte’s elegant dining room to experience a real Parisian treat. From ice cream to macarons to viennoiseries and signature pastries, this is a rather special way to spend an afternoon in St-Germain-des-Prés.
St Germain’s best bars
This neighbourhood has always come alive after dark, with bistros and bars alike serving customers well into the early hours. Gin aficionados will find an impressive selection of gins and a menu of expertly crafted cocktails at Tiger, while Prescription Cocktail Club serves Prohibition-inspired cocktails across two low-lit, speakeasy-style floors. Wine lovers, meanwhile, will find plenty of small producers and unusual wines at La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, located just across the road from buzzing Marché Saint-Germain.
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