St-Germain-des-Pres Walking Tour, Paris (Self Guided)

This self guided walk takes you to explore the 6th arrondissement, covering St-Germain-des-Prés quarter, the River side districts and the areas nearby the Luxembourg Garden. It is one of the most expensive districts of Paris, home to posh boutiques, eateries and iconic cafes once favored by legendary writers, the likes of Hemingway and Camus. The area is particularly renowned for its unique architecture, rich history, and deeply rooted intellectual tradition. On this walk you will visit Saint Germain des Prés - the oldest church in Paris, two historic cafes that frequented by famous politicians, artists and writers, Palais de Luxembourg and other notable sights.
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St-Germain-des-Pres Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: St-Germain-des-Pres Walking Tour
Guide Location: France » Paris (See other walking tours in Paris)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.3 km
Author: karen
Pont des Arts

1) Pont des Arts

Paris's very first iron bridge, the Pont des Arts (or Passerelle des Arts) crosses the River Seine, linking the Institut de France and the central square of the Palais du Louvre. The bridge has sometimes served as a place for art exhibitions and is today an open-air studio for painters, artists and photographers who are drawn to its views. To the right, you are overwhelmed with the beautiful Île de la Cité and Pont-Neuf and to the left you have a view of the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, all while being inundated with the stunning architecture of the city and the beautiful sight of River Seine.

The Pont des Arts is also frequently a spot for picnics during the summer. In recent years, many tourist couples have taken to attaching padlocks (love locks) with their names written or engraved on them to the railing or the grate on the side of the bridge, then throwing the key into the Seine below, as a romantic gesture. This gesture is said to represent a couple's committed love. There was a time when thousands of padlocks were attached to the side of the bridge.

Fearing permeant damage to the bridge because of the accumulated weight (over a million locks weighing 45 tons), the locks were largely removed in 2015. There is still lots of love in the air, and tourists are now encouraged to take “love selfies” on the bridge. The bridge is also a great place to enjoy beautiful sunset views during the summer.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Bouquinistes de Paris

2) Bouquinistes de Paris

The Seine is “the only river in the world that runs between two bookshelves,” they say. If you walk by the Seine, you may find proof to that in the form of large green boxes set along the river banks, hitched tight to the sidewalk walls, largely contributing to the overall romantic image of bohemian Paris since as early as the 16th century. Remarkably though, the bouquinistes, owners of these boxes, obtained official recognition themselves only in the 1970s.

For the most part, the contemporary Paris bouquinistes sell posters, stamps, maps, magnets, and whatever else the tourists might love. Some say the best souvenir bargains in Paris are found at the bouquinistes. Their main specialization, however, is books. Here you can find some really good stuff printed in French (and not only) and, unless you are restrained in terms of luggage, you can get yourself a few books, either used or brand new, at a really reasonable price. In fact, for as little as few euros, you can find all the French literature classics here!

Regulated by the municipal authorities, these stalls are generally open from around 11am until sunset. Subject to weather, though, these hours may vary. If it's snowstorm or pouring rain, they will hardly work at all. But once the sun is out, the bouquinistes eagerly put their merchandise on display and await passers-by to stop by and give them, at least, a little bit of a chit chat...
Café Procope

3) Café Procope

Open in 1686, Café Procope is widely referred to as "the oldest continuously operated restaurant in Paris". Apparently, it was an Italian, one Francesco Procopio, who had the idea of opening an establishment near Saint-Germain-des-Prés where people could try coffee, which had only been introduced twenty years earlier in the Paris court. He decorated it luxuriously with mirrors, chandeliers, and gilded objects in order to attract high society. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Voltaire and Rousseau were a usual coterie, in what was the first literary café. It is said that Denis Diderot wrote his Encyclopedia within its walls; though plenty celebrities of other stripes frequented there too, among the most prominent guests being Napoleon, Benjamin Franklin, John Paul Jones, and Thomas Jefferson.

What continues to makes this café special, in addition to its association with the aforementioned names, is its epic décor that takes you back to the 17th century, as well as the excellent dishes they serve. The café also exhibits some interesting items like Napoleon’s hat (which he allegedly left there to pay a debt) and the last letter from Marie Antoinette to Louis XV. It is believed that this was the place where Marie Antoinette’s death warrant was signed.

Opening Hours:
Sun-Wed: 12pm-12am; Thu-Sat: 12pm-1am
Eugène-Delacroix Museum

4) Eugène-Delacroix Museum

Housed in painter Eugène Delacroix’s former apartment, the Musée National Eugène-Delacroix is a unique and fascinating space, exhibiting the artist's original drawings and paintings, including his only three attempts at fresco from Valmont (1834); the "Education of the Virgin" painted in 1842; and "Magdalene in the Desert" exhibited at the 1845 Salon.

The painter had moved to this location on December 28, 1857, and remained until his death on August 13, 1863. About a hundred years later, the site became a national museum, although a rather small one – more of a multi-room exhibit containing Delacroix's memorabilia and works from nearly every phase of his career, but also quite a few paintings by other artists to illustrate his influence.

The rooms tend to have introductory comments in French and English but individual works are, for the most part, only described in French. One can also spend time in the small garden which, though modest, is very peaceful and pleasant – the perfect Parisian hideaway, the opposite of the city's vast collection of elite homes. Delacroix was no doubt easy enough to find, but what he had was a fine place to work.

Museum staff are available at 3pm to give a free, French-only, guided tour – no reservations required.

Opening Hours:
Wed-Mon: 9:30am-5:30pm
Night opening until 9pm on the 1st Thursday of the month
Free admission on the 1st Sunday of the month
Closed: January 1st, May 1st, and December 25th
Sight description based on wikipedia
Carré Rive Gauche

5) Carré Rive Gauche

Situated between St-Germain-des-Prés and the Orsay Museum, Carré Rive Gauche is a Parisian antique shopping district that features more than 120 galleries, antique shops and auction houses. Over here, you can find furniture, sculptures, paintings, tapestries and a multitude of other antiques from various centuries, with almost all styles from cultures throughout the world being represented. Among the top attractions are Le Louvre des Antiquaires, the Drouot auction house, and the St. Paul Village.

Carré Rive Gauche is largely considered as a reference point in the world of art, due to the multitude of antique connoisseurs and passionate collectors concentrated throughout which, in their turn, attract lots of professional art dealers who like to display treasures and relics from around the world. Each year the district organizes a festival during which the galleries open their doors to exhibit their most exciting finds on a common theme.

Operation Hours:
Mon-Sat: 10am-7pm
Les Deux Magots

6) Les Deux Magots

Les Deux Magots is a famous Parisian café Located directly on Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés, thus offering an uninhibited view of one of the city's oldest religious buildings, the Abbaye de Saint-Germain.

In the early 20th century, the café was a favorite hang-out of the intellectual and artistic elites in Paris. Its historical reputation is derived from the patronage of Surrealist artists, intellectuals such as Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, and young writers, such as Ernest Hemingway. Other patrons included Albert Camus, Pablo Picasso, James Joyce, Bertolt Brecht, Facundo Fernandez Llorente, Pedro White, El Marce, Julia Child, and the American writers James Baldwin, Alison Machin, Chester Himes, Charles Sutherland, and Richard Wright.

If you are in the neighborhood, come to grab a chair and order a coffee. It is a surreal feeling to drink coffee in the same place where the brilliant people who used to come and do the same thing. The setting is wonderful and the food and drinks are very good.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 7:30am-1am

7) Saint-Germain-des-Prés (must see)

The oldest church in Paris, Saint-Germain-des-Prés was established by the son of Clovis I, Childebert I (ruled 511–558) on the site of a small marketplace, as the linchpin of an important abbey complex, and was meant to house the True Cross relic, brought from Spain in 542. In the Middle Ages, the church grew very influential as both a religious and cultural institution. Although eventually, the abbey was totally destroyed by the Normans, the church itself has survived with the suffix "des préso" indicating that it was out in the meadows beyond the city limits.

In 1163, it was expanded and re-consecrated by Pope Alexander III. The new building is an excellent example of Romanesque architecture. The square tower, dating back to the early 11th century, is topped by a 19th-century landmark spire. Inside the church are a Romanesque nave and a Gothic choir with gilded capitals. The marble columns are the only survivors of the 6th-century abbey church, which was once a pantheon for Merovingian kings. The pillars are carved with copies of the capitals, the originals of which are kept in the Musée National du Moyen-Age.

Why You Should Visit:
On entering this church you are struck by how colorful the walls and ceiling are. Very beautiful interior. Also, the small park space outside is a nice peaceful place to sit and relax for a while.
As with many Parisian churches, concerts and recitals are often held here, many featuring Gregorian chant – and enhanced by the church's fantastic acoustics and medieval ambiance.

Once inside, be sure and let your eyes travel from the base of the columns all the way to the ceiling. Every inch/centimeter is decorated!

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 8am-7:45pm; Sun: 9am-8pm
Sight description based on wikipedia

8) Saint-Sulpice

The Saint-Sulpice church is only slightly smaller than Notre-Dame and thus the 2nd largest church in Paris. Construction started in 1646, lasting 100 years until full completion. Today its grand architecture leaves one in awe. As a plus, the location is splendid with a beautiful square and a fountain outside, as well as the small winding lanes of St-Germain-des-Prés.

During the French Revolution, the church was badly damaged and converted into a “Temple of Victory.” Later, in the 19th century, it was fully restored and redecorated into a fine piece of architecture. During the day, sunlight pours inside the building through the large arched windows, revealing elegant columns that line the hall. A couple of enormous shells, resting on the rock-like bases, are present at either side of the front door. A fountain, displaying sculptures of four bishops of the Louis XIV era, stands in the church square.

The golden line, implanted in grey granite, which runs across the floor and bears graduated markings like a ruler, is a gnomon – a pagan astronomical device used as a sundial. The line was laid in 1727 by a clockmaker and astronomer in a bid to fix the date of Easter. Tourists, scientists, historians and pagans from around the world flock to the place just to see this now famous device.

Notably, in the movie "The Da Vinci Code", this is the church where the dreadful scary man came looking for The Grail and killed the pour wee custodian nun. It is also the church where Victor Hugo got married.

The Saint-Sulpice also houses one of the finest pipe organs in the world, with 6,500 pipes, 102 stops, and five layered keyboards. Even those who are not interested in organ music are amazed by the sheer size of the massive instrument reaching over 20 meters in height. If you have an ear for organ music, you should definitely attend this church on Sunday to hear one of its free weekly organ concerts.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 7:30am-7:30pm
Free guided tours available (see church website)
Sight description based on wikipedia
Luxembourg Palace

9) Luxembourg Palace (must see)

The Palais du Luxembourg in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, north of the Jardin du Luxembourg, is the seat of the French Senate. The palace was built for Queen of France, Marie de Médicis, in a move that was perhaps intended to consolidate her hold on power, building being the time-honored way of expressing the solidity of one's place in society. The queen regent desired to make a palace similar to her native Florence's Palazzo Pitti; what she got instead was a French château dressed up in rustication vaguely inspired by the Pitti, but directly descended from the fortresses of the medieval era. As for the queen, she would not see the work completed: her political machinations eventually have resulted in her being exiled from France by her own son, Louis XIII, in 1631, with her palace still unfinished. Curiously, it is not her name that has stuck to the building, but that of a certain François de Luxembourg, one-time owner of the adjoining "hôtel particulier" that today forms part of the Sénat complex.

All in all, the palace's design makes for a suitably majestic edifice, even in the absence today of the roofline statues, high, decorated chimneys and gilded ridgeline motifs that originally enlivened its attics. It remained in royal hands until the Revolution, at which time it was transformed into a prison to house major figures of the Revolution including Danton and Camille Desmoulins (the instigator of the French revolution) who were detained here in March 1794. After serving as a prison, it became home to the Directoire (1795), and later, in 1799, was occupied by the sénat conservateur, France's then second chamber.

Today, the Palace is only open to the public when the Senate does not meet. It is worth a waiting at a queue, having brilliant halls with painted ceilings, large libraries, rare paintings and statues. Also, you have the privilege to see the Senate Hall, where French senators debate important state problems.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Paris, France

Create Your Own Walk in Paris

Create Your Own Walk in Paris

Creating your own self-guided walk in Paris is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Le Marais Walking Tour

Le Marais Walking Tour

The district known to locals as "Le Marais" used to be a bourgeois area in the past and a major center of the Paris Jewish community that still exists today. Here, you will find different bookshops specializing in Jewish books, restaurants with traditional Jewish food and a synagogue. As one of the hippest neighborhoods in the city, it also has no shortage of narrow medieval streets,...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 km
Souvenirs Shopping Walk

Souvenirs Shopping Walk

It would be a pity to leave Paris without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. Being one of the world's premier shopping cities, Paris attracts thousands of shopaholics every year. Even people who hate shopping, enjoy doing it in Paris. In addition to fabulous designer shops and luxury items, it is a great destination if you are into fashion, gourmet...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.0 km
City Orientation Walk II

City Orientation Walk II

From the Louvre to the Notre-Dame Cathedral to Place de la Bastille, the evolution of Paris and its history is literally visible on the banks of the river Seine, the linking thread winding its way through the city, as if keeping a watchful eye on its architectural marvels. This walk is centered around Île de la Cité and Le Marais, which together form the historical core of power in Paris. Along...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.4 km
Champs Elysee Walk

Champs Elysee Walk

On this self guided walk you will witness the grandeur of the 8th arrondissement of the French capital, one of its busiest and chic neighborhoods, thanks to the presence of Avenue des Champs Elysées, Arc de Triomphe and Place de la Concorde. If shine and glamour are up to your liking, we invite you to take this walk in a mixed crowd of fashionistas, tourists and local workers, and see some of...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.1 km
Eiffel Tower Walking Tour

Eiffel Tower Walking Tour

The 7th arrondissement of Paris is the most affluent and prestigious residential area in France, home to the French upper class, plus a number of French national institutions, government offices and diplomatic missions. This neighborhood boasts typically Parisian architecture complete with vibrant cafes, restaurants and gourmet shops which draw foodies in their numbers. Among other attractions on...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.3 km
Royal Paris Walk

Royal Paris Walk

The capital of France is made up of 20 administrative districts, commonly referred to as “arrondissements”. The 1st arrondissement of Paris sits mainly on the right bank of the River Seine and is the home of royal palaces and lush gardens. This self guided walk explores Jardin des Tuileries, Palais-Royal, La Conciergerie and many other prominent sights.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.3 km

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

15 Places for Tasting Best French Desserts in Paris

15 Places for Tasting Best French Desserts in Paris

If you have a sweet tooth and it wishes to "eat your way" through Paris, this guide will show you how! Featured here are some of the most famous and prominent dessert spots in the French capital, where you can grab something sweet to enjoy. With 20 listed recommendations, you should be...
Top 16 Vegetarian Restaurants in Paris

Top 16 Vegetarian Restaurants in Paris

The French have great respect for the fresh, organic produce yet France isn’t famous for its vegetarian cooking. Hence it’s a good idea for vegetarian visitors to Paris to come prepared in advance. This guide shows you places around the city which serve vegetarian food, complete with the...
Paris Souvenirs: 19 Distinctively French Products to Bring Home from Paris

Paris Souvenirs: 19 Distinctively French Products to Bring Home from Paris

You can hardly have enough money and luggage space to get all the takes your fancy in Paris. Luckily, with a little bit of tasteful advice and experience, you can save yourself some time and effort and pick up just about the right amount of things worth taking home. Listed here are some of the hints...
9 Must Try Cafes in Paris

9 Must Try Cafes in Paris

Discovering the best coffee and cafes in Paris can be difficult. The city is filled to the brim with brasseries and cafes, but very few offer the Anglophone standard of a good cup of coffee. This is a guide to inform tourists and Parisians alike of the new and somewhat established cafes in Paris...
8 Best Food Markets in Paris for Authentic French Produce

8 Best Food Markets in Paris for Authentic French Produce

The image of Parisians that you may have in your head as strolling through a colourful market with a basket on their arm, chatting to vendors and picking up fresh produce, is quite accurate. Most Parisians do visit local markets at least once a week to stock up on the freshest fruit, vegetables,...
18 Must-Visit Cafes in Paris, France

18 Must-Visit Cafes in Paris, France

Paris is home to thousands of cafes; there is a café on practically every street corner you turn, in every square you stumble across, on every boulevard you stroll along. The age-old Parisian tradition of sitting around at rickety tables and shooting back espressos is a fundamental part of everyday...

Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in Paris for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best Paris has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Saving Money with City Passes

To save yourself time and money visiting Paris's multiple sights, you may want to resort to the so-called city passes, such as the Paris Pass, Paris Explorer Pass, Paris Museum Pass, or Paris Night Pass.

A city pass combines all or multiple Paris' top highlights, tours and experiences in one prepaid attractions pass, using which you can save incredible amounts on general admission fees as compared to purchasing tickets separately. Often, a city pass also allows you to skip the lines at major attractions, thus saving you precious time.

Staying at Walk-Friendly Hotels

Since you're keen on exploring cities on foot (we assume that you are, and this is why you're here), it is important that you stay at a hotel close to the city's major attractions. It saves you time and energy. Here are a few of Paris hotels that are conveniently located, but at the same time, also not so ridiculously expensive: Novotel Paris Les Halles, Les Rives de Notre-Dame, 9Confidentiel.

Taking Care of Your Feet

To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as Paris, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device

Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.

Exploring City on Guided Tours

We have a strong bias towards exploring a city on foot, at your own pace, because this is how you get to see things up close with a maximum freedom. You decide how much time you wish to spend at each attraction and don't have to worry about following a crowd. That said, however, we also understand that some of you may want to go with a guided tour. If that is your case, here are some guided tours to consider. Be ready to fork out a bit of money, though, as a guided tour of Paris typically costs from around US$20 up to US$200 or more per person:

- Board a hop-on hop-off double-decker to enjoy sightseeing of Paris from the open top of the bus, listening in the headsets to the commentary provided in a variety of languages, and be able get off at any of the stops along the two interconnecting routes (your ticket is valid for both).

- Alternatively, you can cruise along the river Seine on a similar hop-on hop-off sightseeing boat viewing Paris's top attractions from a different angle, able to get on and off as often as you want at any of the eight stops along the Seine riverbanks. The ticket is valid for one day (24 hrs) and may be upgraded to two days (48 hrs).

- Embark on a self-balancing Segway tour – this usually lasts about 3 hours and allows you to get a real sense of the city. Most people (even those aged 70+) find it quite fun and convenient, enabling to cover much more ground than you otherwise would have done by walking.

- Pedal your way around Paris on a bike tour. In the course of 4 hours you will visit the city's most spectacular sights stopping at each of them for a bit of rest, watching the surroundings, and learning much about the city from an informative group leader.

- Take a walk around Paris with a knowledgeable guide for an alternative view of the French capital. Over the course of this 2-hour walking tour you will get insights and hear stories about every major classic sight of this fascinating city. A complete overview of Paris from the ground up!

- Come see the best of the French capital in just one day in a combo of a Seine river cruise and historical walk of Paris. You may start either with the Eiffel Tower or the Notre-Dame Cathedral making your way around the iconic sights of the city: the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Grand Palais, Alexandre III bridge, Invalides, Concorde Square, Orsay Museum, etc.

- Missing out on the French food, whilst in Paris, would be worse than a crime – it would be a mistake! If you don't want to make such a mistake, consider a private 3-hour food tour of Paris complete with a set of 10 unforgettable tastings the memories of which will last you a lifetime. Just make sure to bring along your appetite to make the most of the savory treats awaiting!

- Live a chocoholic’s dream right at the heart of Paris! Follow your sweet tooth sense on this 2-hour guided “chocolate walk” in central Paris visiting some of the best chocolate boutiques of the French capital, learning about peculiar chapters in the history of the city and the place delectable chocolate played in it. Adding to the excitement is a round of free tastings.

Day Trips

If you have a full or half day to spare whilst in Paris, why not use it to explore some of the out-of-town destinations, like Versailles, Fontainebleau, Champagne region, Loire valley, Normandy, or a combo of Honfleur and Giverny. For as little as US$90+ to US$200+ per person you will get a chance to discover highlights of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, see the favorite residence of the French royalty, world-famous vineyards, charming castles, and historic battlefields of World War II. For any of these tours you may be picked up either straight from your hotel or any other place in Paris, and transported by a comfortable air-conditioned minivan or train (whenever applicable) to the destination of your choice and back again.