Best Latin Quarter Paris Tours
The guided tours will make you fall in love with this corner of Paris. There are several options for all tastes and budgets.
The Latin Quarter is one of the few survivors of the Paris of yesteryear. During the 19th century, Baron Haussmann carried out major urban renovations that changed the face of Paris. This area was left out and still retains a special charm.
If you are planning what to see and do in Paris, you should include a stop here. The Latin Quarter is one of the most precious jewels of the "City of Light".
1. Stroll through the Latin Quarter
In case you are staying two days in Paris, it might be a good option to book a guided tour of the Latin Quarter. It is an economical and complete option, perfect to start your visit to the City of Light. Here are the most common main stops:
- Luxembourg Gardens, a green area of Italian baroque style. They were built in 1612 by the will of Princess Marie de Medici who was originally from Florence. If you visit Paris with children, you can take them to the artificial lake Grand Bassin and rent a boat.
- Sorbonne University was founded in 1257, when Paris was the cultural capital of Europe and was the destination of thousands of foreign students. In addition to the faculties, it houses the white marble sarcophagus of Cardinal Richelieu, the great mausoleum of Cardinal Richelieu.
- Panthéon, the great mausoleum dedicated to the most important Frenchmen. Before becoming a secular monument, it was a church dedicated to St. Genevieve, the patron saint of the city. It houses the remains of Marie Curie, Louis Braille, Emile Zola and other prominent figures.
- Hemingway's house. In the 1920s, the writer lived eight years in Rue du Cardinal Lemoine, a few meters from the suggestive Place de la Contrescarpe. The author of "A Farewell to Arms" used to have drinks at La Closerie des Lilas, near Boulevard Montparnasse. It is not in the Latin Quarter but it is worth a visit; it is said that here he finished writing the novel "Fête".
The tours include a few stops at the locations where Woody Allen's movie "Midnight in Paris" was filmed and other attractions in the Latin Quarter. Normally, the meeting point is the monumental Place Saint Michel.
- Duration: between 2 and 3 hours
- Price: less than 20 €.
- Recommended for those who want to explore a historic district without spending too much.
2. Bike tour of the Latin Quarter and Le Marais
Are you planning to travel to Paris in spring? Good thinking! Along with autumn, it's the best time to visit the City of Light and if you want to get the most out of your vacation, you can take an urban bike tour. There are guided tours that go through two iconic neighborhoods of the city: Latin Quarter and Marais.
The usual meeting point is usually at the Place Saint-Michel, in the heart of the Latin Quarter. Here are the main stops in this district:
- Shakespeare and Company, an independent bookstore known worldwide. It is the ideal place to buy second-hand and English books.
- Le Procope, the oldest café in the French capital. During the Revolution it was frequented by Robespierre and the Jacobins.
- Church of Saint-Sulpice, a jewel of the eighteenth century. Inside are paintings by Eugène Delacroix, François Lemoyne and Victor Mottez.
- Panthéon, the eternal resting place of Pierre and Marie Curie, Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and other famous Frenchmen. For more information I recommend you to read the post about visiting the cemeteries of Paris.
- Rue Mouffetard, a picturesque and full of life street.
- Arènes de Lutèce, the remains of a Gallo-Roman amphitheater.
The agencies provide you with both the bike and the helmet. The price does not include breakfast, lunch or other meals.
- Duration: about 4 hours
- Price: about 40 €.
- Recommended for those who want to shorten distances. By bike you will move faster. The route is easy to follow and there are no steep slopes.
3. Vintage car tour
In the 1960s, Paris was the city of ready-to-wear fashion, youth movements and jazz music. If you took a stroll through the Porte de Clignancourt flea market, you may have noticed the postcards depicting the city's monuments surrounded by cars such as the Citroën DS 19, the 2 CV and other mythical models.
To relive this era, you can hire a tour in a vintage car. Normally, these tours take place aboard a Peugeot 404, an iconic car designed by Pininfarina.
A chauffeur will take you through the streets of the center, including the Latin Quarter. The vehicle usually stops at Les Arènes de Lutèce (the remains of a Roman amphitheater) and passes in front of the Church of Saint-Sulpice and other neighborhood landmarks.
Tours usually start near the Île de la Cité, the island in the Seine where Notre-Dame Cathedral stands.
- Duration: about 2 hours and a half
- Price: about 100 €.
- Recommended for those who want to take a trip back in time in an iconic car. The Peugeot 404 is synonymous with the sixties. It was a sales success both in France and abroad.
4. Gastronomic experience in the Latin Quarter of Paris
The option that combines history and culinary art. Booking this route you will taste French specialties after learning the history of the neighborhood. Most often they include macarons, croissants, an assortment of local cured meats accompanied by freshly baked bread and other delicacies.
Throughout the tasting you can also enjoy a glass of red and white wine, a flûte de Champagne and a liqueur. Generally, the last one is an extra cost and entitles you to a glass of Génepi (a typical alcoholic beverage of the Alps) or Cognac.
Before you sit down at the table, the guide will explain the history of the Sorbonne University, the Pantheon and other landmarks of the Latin Quarter. If you have a good appetite, I recommend reading the article on the best gastronomic tours in Paris.
- Duration: between 3 and 4 hours
- Price: more than 100 €, although there are gastronomic tours in the neighborhood for less than 50 €.
- Recommended for those who want to deepen their knowledge of French gastronomy.
5. Night tour of secrets and ghosts
The City of Light hides countless mysteries and legends. In its entrails are hidden the famous catacombs of Paris and yet, the secrets are also on the surface. Different agencies organize guided tours that include a few stops in the Latin Quarter.
I don't want to make spoilers, I will only say that in this area, a gypsy cursed a house, causing the death of its owner. The rest you will discover when you are there!
The walking tour includes a few stops at the Place Vert-Galant (linked to the grim fate of the last Knights Templar), the Palais de Justice and the Church of St-Germain, among others.
- Duration: about 2 hours
- Price: 20 euros or a little more
- Recommended for those who want to take an evening stroll. After sunset, the French capital brings out its best side. You can discover more in the post about the essential visits and tips to see Paris at night.
What are the advantages of taking a guided tour vs visiting the Latin Quarter on my own?
The Latin Quarter is not very large and is located in the center of the capital. It is easy to get to and walk around; however, it is worthwhile to be guided by a local expert. The routes are designed to enliven the walk with historical facts and curious anecdotes.
Are there any special events at Christmas?
Of course there is. In the last month of the year it is worth a stroll through the Latin Quarter to see the splendid Christmas illuminations. Along the Boulevard Saint-Germain, at the foot of the Cluny Museum, you will find a Christmas market specializing in regional food: pâtés, jams, wine and other products.
A short walk from the neighborhood, in the Place Viviani, you will see other stalls with jewelry, ceramics, gastronomic products and much more. Being a few meters from the Notre-Dame Cathedral, it is one of the best Christmas markets in Paris.
In both cases, they open in early December and dismantle the stalls before the end of the year. If you are cold, you can comfort yourself with a glass of mulled wine. For more on this topic I recommend you read the post on the 10 things to do in Paris at Christmas.
What are the best restaurants in the Latin Quarter?
Because of its colonial past and economic importance, Paris is home to hundreds of different ethnicities and this melting pot is reflected in the culinary offerings of the neighborhood. Before booking a table, take a look at the list below:
- Le Mechoui du Prince, a Moroccan restaurant a stone's throw from the Sorbonne. Its specialty is baked lamb shoulder (Rue Monsieur le Prince 34/36).
- Café de Flore, a historic restaurant in the capital. Figures such as Apollinaire, Picasso and Jean-Paul Sartre have lunched in its beautiful Art Deco room. It's not the cheapest option, but it's worth sitting down for the iconic hot chocolate (Boulevard Saint-Germain 172).
- Ya Bayté, Lebanese cuisine overlooking Notre-Dame. Tabbouleh, mezze and falafels are prepared daily with fresh ingredients (Rue des Grands Degrés 1).
- La Truffière, famous for its truffle recipes and great wine list. It has three rooms and the most beautiful is the one under a 17th century vaulted cellar (Rue Blainville 4).
- Bistro des Augustins, a simple restaurant with very good reviews. It offers the classics of French comfort food; if you don't know what to choose, I recommend ordering one of the gratin dishes (Quai des Grands Augustins 39).
- La Nouvelle Seine, in case you feel like a romantic dinner. It is located on a barge moored on the river, right in front of the Notre-Dame Cathedral. If you feel like it, it is also worth trying their Sunday brunch (Péniche sur Berges, quai de Montebello 3).
What else is there to do?
Despite its small size, the Latin Quarter concentrates a good number of attractions. Being located on the riverbank, it is easy to embark on a cruise on the Seine to see the city from a different perspective.
Personally, I always recommend doing it at night. You will discover why they call Paris the "City of Light".
If you are passionate about the Middle Ages, you should visit the Cluny Museum. The collection will make you discover the culture and daily life of the time through common objects and works of art. Its main attraction is The Lady and the Unicorn, six tapestries woven in Flanders in the early 16th century.
In case you visit Paris in autumn (or spring), I recommend booking a ticket for the Jardin des Plantes, the Botanical Garden of Paris. It is open from 7:30 am to 8:00 pm in summer and from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm in winter.