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Essentials of the Center

Essentials of the Center Walking Tour

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Why you will love it?

The iconic districts of Saint Germain and the Latin Quarter are not to be missed. This walking tour will take you to the most famous areas in these two districts, from the massive Pantheon to Notre Dame Cathedral, by way of the old Saint-Germain-des-Prés church, while walking through narrow 17th century streets and the royal gardens of the Jardin du Luxembourg. Enjoy! Parisianist.

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About this place

65 Boulevard Saint Michel, 75005 Paris
Line 10 - Cluny la Sorbonne
Line B - Luxembourg

Tuesday : 10:00 am - 17:00 pm
more less
Monday : 10:00 am - 17:00 pm Tuesday : 10:00 am - 17:00 pm Wednesday : 10:00 am - 17:00 pm Thursday : 10:00 am - 17:00 pm Friday : 10:00 am - 17:00 pm Saturday : 10:00 am - 17:00 pm Sunday : 10:00 am - 17:00 pm

Our Insiders' Article


Exit the RER B station “Luxembourg” and walk up Rue Soufflot. You cannot miss the massive structure that lays in the perspective of Rue Soufflot: the Pantheon (7,50€, 10AM to 6PM daily). Originally built in the 18th century by King Louis XV as a church, this impressive building changed from church to pantheon several times during the years. Since 1885 though, it has remained a pantheon, serving as the final resting place to those who have made some of the most important contributions to France such as philosophers Voltaire and Rousseau, scientists Pierre & Marie Curie, or authors Victor Hugo and Emile Zola.

Parisianist Tip: the Pantheon is currently under renovation, but the building is still open to the public and a visit is highly recommended.


Walk back down Rue Soufflot and enter the Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Gardens). This private garden is a fine combination of French and English gardens with a 250 year old history. The 1630 Fontaine de Médicis (50m straight from the entrance, on your left) is one of the park’s highlight. The sight of the Palais du Luxembourg, formerly a royal palace and now home to the Senate, can’t be missed. This building was used as a prison during the French Revolution. The park served as a parking lot for the German Nazis during WWII. Walk alongside the palace and orangery to reach the northern exit (next to the Luxembourg Museum).

Parisianist Tip: Feel free to walk around and discover the Jardin du Luxembourg, dedicated by Napoleon to “the children of Paris.” It comprises numerous statues, kids’ activities and spots to read or play a round of Pétanque (a favourite French game similar to Bocce).


At the exit turn left in Rue de Vaugirard until the first intersection with Rue Bonaparte. Turn Right in Rue Bonaparte, but take the small flight of stairs on the right hand side. You will find yourself in Allée du Séminaire, a green walkway. Look behind you before continuing:  there is a beautiful building at the opposite corner of the Jardin du Luxembourg. When walking down the walkway, you will stumble across a fountain from 1807, one of the 15 fountains built by Napoleon to bring drinkable water to the Parisians at that time.

Saint Sulpice

Allée du Séminaire leads to Saint Sulpice Square and Church, the largest church in Paris (enven larger than Notre Dame Cathedral). Its origins go back to the 10th century, but the main constructions occurred in the 17th century. Take a look at the facade: the left tower was finished in 1781, but the right tower was never finished and remains hollow to this day. One of the highlights inside the church is French artist Delacroix’s painting at the entrance on the right.

Parisianist Fun Fact: this is where famous author Victor Hugo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) got married in 1822. And for the Da Vinci Code fans, this is one of the key churches sited in the book.


When exiting Saint Sulpice, continue walking down Rue Bonaparte on your right. After approximately 200m, you will see Saint-Germain-des-Prés church, one of the oldest religious monuments in Paris. This former abbey was built in 558 by King Childebert I, but invasions, fires, and regime changes led to major transformations. At the entrance, immediately on the right is the Saint Symphorien Chapel, where some wall stones are 1500 years old! There used to be 3 bell towers but, because this holy place served as a saltpeter warehouse during the revolution (severely damaging the walls), 2 towers had to be brought down.

Parisianist Fun Fact: The front south side of the church looks as if it has been cut straight though. It was indeed the case in the 19th century during the remodeling of Paris. Take a close look: the wide opening is now clearly walled in.

Café Les 2 Magots

Cross Rue Bonaparte and opposite the church, you will see the Café Les Deux Magots. Originally a silk fabric shop (little ceramic human statues called “magots” (in French) would evoke the origin of the fabric, 2 of them - Chinese wisemen – still visible today, hence the name), the place turned into a café in 1884. It was the meeting point for many artists in Paris such as Verlaine, Rimbaud, Sartre, Hemingway and Picasso.

Parisianist Fun Fact: Finding the Prix Goncourt, a prestigious literary prize, too academic, surrealists spending time in the Deux Magots created their own prize: the Deux Magots prize. Only a few steps further down Boulevard Saint Germain is the Café Flore, also a café where many intellectuals spent time in. Both cafés are perfect for a stylish coffee break.


Take Rue de l’Abbaye alongside the northern side of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés church, and then the first street on the left: Rue de Furstemberg. Because it is so quiet and so charming, today’s real estate prices have soared, making the square of Rue de Furstemberg one of the most expensive areas in Paris (20,000€ / m²). Enter number 6 and in the central courtyard and you will find the Delacroix museum (5€ / 9:30AM to 5PM, closed on Tuesday). Eugène Delacroix was a 19th century French painter, most famous for his “Liberty guiding the people” exposed at the Louvre. In the Delacroix museum, you will see paintings and objects having belonged to the painter.

Parisianist Fun Fact: If you decide to visit this small museum, you will also be able to access the quiet private garden, perfect for a 15 minute break.

Old Streets

Take the first street (Rue Cardinale) on your right after the square. This used to be one of the inner passages of Saint-Germain-des-Près Abbey. Prior to the 18th century, the fortified abbey was actually outside of the Parisian walls. With quite a lot of land, the abbey resembled more a small fortified village. Take a left at the first intersection (Rue de l’Abbaye) and immediately turn left in Rue de l’Echaudé. Take a look at the corner of this 14th century street. In the old days, the corners of buildings were carved out to give more turning space to stagecoaches. Walk down among some 17th and 18th century houses and turn right on Rue Jacob and right again on Rue de Seine.

Parisianist Tip: Don’t forget to look up! 57 Rue de Seine is a good example of a beautiful more modern building, where French 19th century poet Charles Baudelaire once lived.   


Walk up Rue de Seine and take the first street to the left (Rue de Buci). Built in the 13th century, it was also known as the Rue du Pilori (Pillory Street) because the punishment and public humiliation devise was placed here in the Middle Ages. Today, this lively street offers many bars and shops, including the delicious Amorino ice-cream store or the popular café “Les Etages.” Continue on Rue de Buci until the end, and proceed straight ahead in Rue Saint André des Arts, another very lively and busy street today. It used to be the road linking the Parisian church Saint André des Arts (demolished in 1807) to the Saint-Germain-des-Prés Abbey.

Parisianist Fun Fact: At 61 Rue Saint André des Arts, enter the Cour du Commerce Saint André, built in 1776 to replace the 13th century protective wall surrounding Paris. It is also an entry point to Paris’ oldest restaurant, Le Procope, opened in 1686 where many famous people have eaten, including French Revolution leader Robespierre and American inventor and politician Benjamin Franklin.

Saint Michel

Walk to the end of the Rue Saint André des Arts. Turn left and you will find yourself one of the most iconic squares in Paris: Place Saint Michel. The square was built in 1855 when Haussmann restructured Paris following Napoleon III’s orders. Its iconic monument is the fountain, a popular meeting place for Parisian students before heading out to the surrounding restaurants and bars. The fountain was created in 1860 by architect Gabriel Davioud.

Parisianist Fun Fact: The fountain was originally meant to have a statue of Napoleon, but plans must have changed as you can see that the statue is of Saint Michel about to slay a dragon.

Sainte Chapelle

Take the bridge directly facing the statue, cross over the Seine River, and enter Rue du Palais on the opposite bank. A few meters ahead on the left side is the entrance to Sainte Chapelle (8,5€ / 9AMto 6PM daily). This prime “Rayonnant”  (French gothic architectural style) church is a tourist-favorite in Paris, re-popularized by Dan Brown’s famous novel “ The Da Vinci Code”.  The church was built in 1248 as part of the Royal Palace to welcome the Holy Relics that Saint Louis (King Louis IX) purchased in Constantinople. The entrance is on the first floor, which used to be reserved to the servants of the King, while the second floor, was reserved for the King and his family. This is where you will see very long stain-glassed windows soaring towards a beautiful vaulted ceiling, giving the structure a sense of weightlessness. 

Parisianist Fun Fact: the Holy Relics where purchased at 3 times the cost of the final construction the chapel.

Marché aux Fleurs

When exiting Sainte Chapelle and the Palais de Justice, walk straight onto Rue de Lutèce . Almost at the end of Rue de Lutèce you will see the flower market on your left, open from 8AM to 7PM every day. Walk up and down this small market, which has existed since 1808. The items for sale are mostly flowers and plants as well as garden equipment and decoration.

Parisianist Tip: If you are here on a Sunday, don’t miss the bird market, where you will be able to see many different kinds of birds, some of them being very exotic! 

Notre Dame

Take a right turn in Rue de la Cité and head for Jean Paul II Square. Jean Paul II Square goes by the name of Parvis de Notre Dame.  At the far end of the Parvis, on Rue de la Cité, you may want to visit the crypt of Notre Dame. Visiting the crypt (5€, 10AM-6PM, closed on Monday) is a great way to understand what the island was like before the 12th century. Walk towards the main façade of Notre Dame Cathedral, the most visited monument in Paris. Built from 1163 to 1345, Notre Dame has 850 years of incredible history. Dazzling architecture, a priceless treasure (the Holy Crown of Thorns), an impressive list of famous visitors, make it an absolute must do in Paris. Planned for destruction in 1830, it was saved by Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre-Dame novel.

Parisianist Tip: Queues to visit the inside of the cathedral can seem long, but the waiting time is short (free, daily from 8AM to 6:45PM). The queue to climb the towers (8,50€, daily from 10AM to 5:45PM, 422 stairs without an elevator / no toilet) is endless so we do not recommend it during this walking tour, but come another day at 9:30AM.

Hôtel de Ville

When exiting Notre Dame, take Rue d’Arcole on your right, all the way to the end of the street. You will find many souvenir shops on the right hand side of the street. Cross the river on Pont d’Arcole. All the way until the beginning of the 20th century, most of the laundry was done in the Seine on huge barges, the biggest one being l’Arche Marion, employing over 250 people docked at the foot of Pont d’Arcole. Continue on Pont d’Arcole to arrive at the foot of Hôtel de Ville, Paris’ impressive city hall. The neo-Renaissance style Hotel de Ville was built in 1882 following the destruction of the former city hall during the French civil war in 1871, but with similar architectural plans. Only the exhibition part can be visited, the rest is not accessible to the public. For the shoppers, the BHV/Marais on the northern side of Hôtel de Ville is a big shopping center for everything from stylish clothing to hardware. The subway entrance is next to the BHV/Marais. 

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