St-Germain-des-Pres Walking Tour, Paris

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

This self-guided walk takes you to explore the 6th arrondissement, covering the quarter of St-Germain-des-Prés, the riverside 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 philosophers and legendary writers, the likes of Hemingway and Camus. The area is likewise renowned for its unique architecture, rich history, and deeply rooted intellectual tradition.

Your itinerary will include a visit to the oldest church in Paris (as well as of the most richly decorated), along with two historic cafés (Café Procope / Les Deux Magots) frequented by famous politicians, artists and writers – but first you might want to stop by the riverside bookstalls (Les Bouquinistes de Paris) looking for a treasured find or just to have a nice stroll along the River Seine.

Also in the area are the Musée National Eugène-Delacroix and the Church of Saint-Sulpice – both delightful alternatives to the more massive and crowded art museums and churches, respectively.

Finally, don’t miss a visit to the Jardin du Luxembourg – the city’s biggest and oldest gardens, where you can always find a bench or chair to read, eat a quick lunch, or simply have a peaceful time. Try ordering something to go from one of the many restaurants nearby!

Surely an interesting part of Paris to wander around, so take this self-guided tour to find our best suggestions for an delightful exploration!
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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: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles
Author: karen
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Pont des Arts
  • Bouquinistes de Paris
  • Café Procope
  • Eugène-Delacroix Museum
  • Les Deux Magots
  • Saint-Germain-des-Prés Abbey (Oldest Church in Paris)
  • Saint-Sulpice
  • Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Gardens)
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, 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 XVI. 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
Les Deux Magots

5) 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
Saint-Germain-des-Prés Abbey (Oldest Church in Paris)

6) Saint-Germain-des-Prés Abbey (Oldest Church in Paris)

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.

7) 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)
Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Gardens)

8) Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Gardens) (must see)

Queen Marie de Medici created the Jardin du Luxembourg in 1612. The gardens were designed along with Luxembourg Palace. Before the French Revolution, only royalty could enjoy these gardens. Today, the gardens are available to the public.

These impressive gardens are separated into French and English gardens.

Visitors will want to spend time exploring all the statues, fountains, and accents in this appealing space. The gorgeous Marie de Medicis Fountain was built around 1630.

There's a large, tranquil pool in the center of the park in front of the Luxembourg Palace. This pool is popular with children who race model sailboats here. There's also a charming théâtre des marionnettes (puppet theater), which is sure to delight children.

The garden features over 100 statues, including the original model of Liberty Enlightening the World statue. Terraces are lined with statues of former French queens.

The Jardin du Luxembourg is a place where tourists and locals meet, enjoy picnics, and enjoy this fabulous green space in the middle of the city.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 7:30am-8:45pm

Walking Tours in Paris, France

Create Your Own Walk in Paris

Create Your Own Walk in Paris

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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: 2.4 Km or 1.5 Miles
Latin Quarter Walking Tour

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Paris’ Latin Quarter is situated on the left bank of the Seine and dates back to the Middle Ages. For years, it was known as a bohemian enclave, attracting students, writers and intellectuals. Centered on the Sorbonne University's main university campus, the area was so named a few centuries ago because the students were speaking and learning in Latin. It remains very lively, with a...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles
Champs-Elysees Walking Tour

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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.7 Km or 2.9 Miles
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Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.3 Km or 4.5 Miles
Souvenirs Shopping Walk

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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 or 3.1 Miles
Eiffel Tower Walking Tour

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The 7th arrondissement of Paris is the most affluent and prestigious residential area in France, home to world-famous Eiffel Tower and the French upper class alongside a number of French national institutions, government offices and diplomatic missions. This historical neighborhood boasts typically Parisian architecture complete with vibrant cafés, restaurants and gourmet shops which draw foodies...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.6 Km or 2.9 Miles

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