Ah, beautiful Paris, the city of inspiring art, magnificent architecture and enticing cuisine. On the southern flanks of the River Seine lies its artistic and literary hub, the Left Bank. Here are seven Rive Gauche gems you don’t want to miss.
This striking Beaux-Arts style building located on the banks of the Seine was originally a railway station built for the 1900 World Fair. Within the airy, high ceilinged interior you’ll find an extensive array of 19th and 20th century artworks including a renowned collection of Impressionist art. Over three million visitors annually flock to admire masterpieces by Renoir, Degas, Monet, Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec along with a rotating schedule of temporary exhibitions. Once you’re culturally sated, head to the top floor Café Campana, for a quick bite and lovely views across the River Seine.
Discover one of Paris’ oldest and most picturesque streets within the Latin Quarter. A road has existed in this 5th arrondissement setting since Roman times. The area managed to dodge Haussmann’s 19th century reconstruction of Paris, and ‘La Mouffe’ as locals call it, retains an authentic mediaeval charm. The street features in Ernest Hemmingway’s novel A Moveable Feast (he rented an apartment in the neighbourhood) and from Tuesday to Saturday you can explore its bustling market stalls and sample an array of fresh Gallic produce. Foodies will enjoy perusing the street’s tempting bakers, delicatessens and cheese shops. Fill up on supplies for a picnic, or drop into one of the affordable bistros for lunch.
Jardin du Luxembourg
Situated in the 6th arrondissement, between Saint Germain des Pres and the Latin Quarter, this leafy sanctuary is much loved and frequented by Parisians. Within the 25 hectare site you’ll find manicured lawns, apple orchards, and an apiary. At its centre stands an Italian style palace, created in 1612 for a homesick Maria de Medici who missed her native Florence. Nowadays locals flock to the park on sunny days and children launch boats with sticks on the central pond. Explore tree lined avenues, tranquil rose gardens and an elegant orangery filled with palms, oleanders and lemon trees.
It’s hard to miss this regal 18th century architectural landmark, as its 272 feet high dome dominates the Latin Quarter skyline. Behind the lavish neoclassical façade lies a similarly impressive interior. Over the centuries the Pantheon alternated as a religious and political venue, a reflection of Paris’ complex history. Inside, beneath the beautifully frescoed central dome hangs Foucault’s Pendulum, which first proved the rotation of the earth. In its crypt you’ll find the tombs of notable French citizens including the writers Voltaire, Emile Zola, and Victor Hugo, and the physicist Marie Curie. Climb the 270 steps to the dome summit where you’ll be rewarded with superb panoramic vistas.
The definitive Parisian landmark, the unmistakeable ‘Iron lady’ is the legacy of Gustave Eiffel who conceived it as a monument for the 1889 International Exposition. The graceful 984 feet high tower on Champ de Mars receives a whopping seven million visitors a year. If you want to avoid the crowds, visit in the morning or at dusk. For those wary of heights, the champagne bar at the top of the tower might help steady your nerves. To bag Instagram friendly distance shots of the tower’s sweeping wrought-iron profile, head to the junction of Avenue de la Bourdennais and Rue de L’Universite (between the 6th and 7th arrondissements) or Avenue de Camoens in the 16th.
Pont Alexandre III
Spanning the River Seine, Paris’ most elegant and opulent bridge links Les Invalides on the Left Bank with the Right Bank’s Champs Elysees. Four pillars topped with gilt bronze figures of the winged horse Pegasus oversee the entrance to the bridge, whilst the ornate crossing is adorned with dramatic and distinctive sculptures of cupids, lions, fish and maidens. Illuminated at night by beautiful art nouveau lamps, the shamelessly romantic setting has featured in scores of movies.
St Germain des Pres
Enjoy a wander around this characterful district in the 6th arrondissement. A long time haunt of intellectuals, artists and writers, the village-like neighbourhood abounds with history and culture. Here you will find the city’s oldest church, the Romanesque Eglise Saint-Germain-des-Pres, which dates back to 543. Besides galleries, boutiques and bookstores, the area brims with cafes and brasseries. Grab an alfresco table at the legendary Café de Flore or Les Deux Magots, whose clientele included Picasso, James Joyce, and Sartre. Order a café or vin rose and contemplate the meaning of life.
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