A couple walks along a street on Montmar
Denis Sinyakov  /  AFP/Getty Images
A couple walks along a street on Montmartre hill with Sacre-Coeur Cathedral on the background. Montmartre hill is a one of the tourists' favorite places in Paris. More than 25 million foreign tourists visit Paris every year.
updated 5/24/2006 2:41:14 PM ET 2006-05-24T18:41:14

The best way to discover Paris is on foot. Our favorite walks are along the Seine and down the Champs-Elysées from the Arc de Triomphe to the Louvre. In this section we highlight the attractions of Montmartre, the Latin Quarter, and the Marais.

For more walking tours in the City of Light, see Frommer's Paris Day by Day.

The Latin Quarter

  • Start: Place St-Michel (Métro: St-Michel)
  • Finish: The Panthéon
  • Time: 3 hours, not counting stops
  • Best Time: Any weekday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Worst Time: Sunday morning, when everybody is asleep

This is the precinct of the Université de Paris (known for its most famous branch, the Sorbonne), where students meet and fall in love over café crème and croissants. Rabelais named it the Quartier Latin after the students and the professors who spoke Latin in the classroom and on the streets. The sector teems with belly dancers, restaurants, cafes, bookstalls, caveaux (basement nightclubs), clochards (bums), chiffonniers (ragpickers), and gamins (kids).

A good starting point for your tour is:

1. Place St-Michel

Balzac used to draw water from the fountain (Davioud's 1860 sculpture of St-Michel slaying the dragon) when he was a youth. This was the scene of frequent skirmishes between the Germans and the Resistance in the summer of 1944, and the names of those who died here are engraved on plaques around the square.

Take a Break -- Open 24 hours, Café le Départ St-Michel, 1 place St-Michel (tel. 01-43-54-24-55), lies on the banks of the Seine. The decor is warmly modern, with etched mirrors reflecting the faces of a diversified crowd. If you want to fortify yourself for your walk, opt for one of the warm or cold snacks, including sandwiches.

To the south, you find:

2. Boulevard St-Michel

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Also called by locals Boul' Mich, this is the main street of the Latin Quarter as it heads south. This is a major tourist artery and won't give you a great insight into local life. For that, you can branch off onto any of the streets that feed into the boulevard and find cafes, bars, gyro counters, ice cream stands, crepe stands, and bistros like those pictured in movies set in Paris in the 1950s. The Paris Commune began here in 1871, as did the student uprisings of 1968.

From place St-Michel, with your back to the Seine, turn left down:

3. Rue de la Huchette

This typical street was the setting of Elliot Paul's The Last Time I Saw Paris (1942). Paul first wandered here "on a soft summer evening, and entirely by chance," in 1923 and then moved into no. 28, the Hôtel Mont-Blanc. Though much has changed, some of the buildings are so old, they have to be propped up by timbers. Paul captured the spirit of the street more evocatively than anyone, writing of "the delivery wagons, makeshift vehicles propelled by pedaling boys, pushcarts of itinerant vendors, knife-grinders, umbrella menders, a herd of milk goats, and the neighborhood pedestrians." (The local bordello has closed, however.) Today you see lots of Greek restaurants.

Branching off from this street to your left is:

4. Rue du Chat-qui-Pêche

This is said to be the shortest, narrowest street in the world, containing not one door and only a handful of windows. It's usually filled with garbage or lovers or both. Before the quay was built, the Seine sometimes flooded the cellars of the houses, and legend has it that an enterprising cat took advantage of its good fortune and went fishing in the confines of the cellars -- hence the street's name, which means "Street of the Cat Who Fishes."

Now retrace your steps toward place St-Michel and turn left at the intersection with rue de la Harpe, which leads to rue St-Séverin. At the intersection, take a left to see:

5. St-Séverin

A flamboyant Gothic church named for a 6th-century recluse, St-Séverin was built from 1210 to 1230 and was reconstructed in 1458, over the years adopting many of the features of Notre-Dame, across the river. The tower was completed in 1487 and the chapels from 1498 to 1520; Hardouin-Mansart designed the Chapelle de la Communion in 1673 when he was 27, and it contains some beautiful Roualt etchings from the 1920s. Before entering, walk around the church to examine the gargoyles, birds of prey, and reptilian monsters projecting from its roof. To the right, facing the church, is the 15th-century "garden of ossuaries." The stained glass inside St-Séverin, behind the altar, is a stunning adornment using great swaths of color to depict the seven sacraments.

After visiting the church, go back to rue St-Séverin and follow it to rue Galande; then continue on until you reach:

6. St-Julien-le-Pauvre

This church is on the south side of square René-Viviani. First, stand at the gateway and look at the beginning of rue Galande, especially the old houses with the steeples of St-Séverin rising across the way; it's one of the most frequently painted scenes on the Left Bank. Enter the courtyard, and you'll be in medieval Paris. The garden to the left offers the best view of Notre-Dame. Everyone from Rabelais to Thomas Aquinas has passed through the doors of this church. Before the 6th century, a chapel stood on this spot. The present church goes back to the Longpont monks, who began work on it in 1170 (making it the oldest church in Paris). In 1655, it was given to the Hôtel Dieu and in time became a small warehouse for salt. In 1889, it was presented to the followers of the Melchite Greek rite, a branch of the Byzantine church.

Return to rue Galande and turn left at the intersection with rue St-Séverin. Continue until you reach rue St-Jacques, turn left, and turn right when you reach boulevard St-Germain. Follow this boulevard to rue de Cluny, turn left, and head toward the entrance to the:

7. Musée de Cluny

Even if you're rushed, see The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries and the remains of the Roman baths.

After your visit to the Cluny, exit onto boulevard St-Michel, but instead of heading back to place St-Michel, turn left and walk to place de la Sorbonne and the:

8. Sorbonne

One of the most famous academic institutions in the world, the Sorbonne was founded in the 13th century by Robert de Sorbon, St. Louis's confessor, for poor students who wished to pursue theological studies. By the next century it had become the most prestigious university in the West, attracting such professors as Thomas Aquinas and Roger Bacon and such students as Dante, Calvin, and Longfellow. Napoleon reorganized it in 1806. The courtyard and galleries are open to the public when the university is in session. In the Cour d'Honneur are statues of Hugo and Pasteur. At first glance from place de la Sorbonne, the Sorbonne seems architecturally undistinguished. In truth, it was rather indiscriminately reconstructed in the early 1900s. A better fate lay in store for the:

9. Eglise de la Sorbonne

Built in 1635 by Le Mercier, this church contains the marble tomb of Cardinal Richelieu, a work by Girardon based on a design by Le Brun. At his feet is the remarkable statue Learning in Tears.

From the church, go south on rue Victor-Cousin and turn left at rue Soufflot. At the street's end lie place du Panthéon and the:

10. Panthéon

Sitting atop Mont St-Geneviève, this nonreligious temple is the final resting place of such distinguished figures as Hugo, Zola, Rousseau, Voltaire, and Curie.

For more on what to see and do in Paris, visit our complete guide online at www.frommers.com/destinations/paris.

Frommer’s is America’s bestselling travel guide series. Visit Frommers.com to find great deals, get information on over 3,500 destinations, and book your trip. © 2006 Wiley Publishing, Inc. Republication or redistribution of Frommer's content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Wiley.

Photos: Perfectly Paris

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  1. Mood lighting

    The Eiffel Tower and the Hotel des Invalides are illuminated at dusk with in Paris. (Mike Hewitt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Heart of the Louvre

    The intricate ceiling of the Appolo Gallery at Paris' Louvre Museum is reflected in a display case in the foreground. Built in 1661, the gallery was not fully completed until 1851. In all, over twenty artists worked on the decoration. The Appolo Gallery gallery contains more than two centuries of French art, and houses such wonders as the French Crown Jewels, including the famous Régent (140 carats) and Sancy (53 carats) diamonds, as well as the 105-carat Côte de Bretagne ruby. (Joel Robine / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. To the heavens

    The Sacred Heart Catholic church (Basilique Sacré-Coeur) is seen on Paris' highest point, in Montmartre. The view at the top of the dome is excellent -- 271 feet above Montmartre Hill -- and is the second-highest viewpoint after the Eiffel Tower. (Benoit Tessier / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Looking glass

    This elaborate stained-glass cupola (dome) inside Magasins du Printemps department store is located above the main restaurant in the store. Installed in 1923, it is composed of 3,185 individual pieces of stained glass. (David Lefranc / Paris Tourist Office) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Keeping cool

    Tourists soak their feet in a reflecting pool at Place du Trocadero, an area of museums and gardens. (Gabriel Bouys / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Sights from the Seine

    A "Bateau Mouche" tourist boat travels near the Paris Justice court. These boat tours are a popular, but relaxing way to view the sights of Paris along the Seine River. (Benoit Tessier / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Museum of masterpieces

    Originally a royal fortress for kings, and open to all since 1793, the Louvre is one the world's greatest art museums, housing 35,000 works of ancient and Western art, displayed in over 60,000 square meters of exhibition space. More than 6 million visitors see the Louvre per year. (Mike Hewitt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Shopper's haven

    Local art, food and other goods are sold in passage Jouffroy, across Boulevard Montmartre. Originally designed to protect pedestrians from mud and horse-drawn vehicles, the passages (shopping arcades), arre located between the Grands Boulevards and the Louvre. (Amélie Dupont / Paris Tourist Office) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Modern art

    A view of the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Its 1977 factory style architecture contrasts with the surrounding buildings of Paris' oldest district near Notre-Dame cathedral. It has a public library, and the French National Museum of Modern Art. (Loic Venance / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Holy architecture

    One of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture is the Notre Dame Cathedral, attracting 13 million visitors each year. The name Notre Dame means "Our Lady" in French. (Stéphane Querbes / Paris Tourist Office) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Practical protectors

    The famous stone statues of Notre Dame. (Amélie Dupont / Paris Tourist Office) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Tranquil gardens

    The Jardin des Tuileries is Paris's most central garden. Its fountains, sculptures, cafes, formal gardens, and central location, make it a popular destination for visitors and locals. (Amélie Dupont / Paris Tourist Offi) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Tuileries Palace

    Tuileries Palace encloses the western end of the Louvre and the formal gardens that make up Jardin des Tuileries park, stretching from the Louvre to the Place de Concorde, and bordered by the Seine. (Bruce Bennett / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Moulin Rouge

    The cabaret Moulin Rouge was built in 1889, in Paris' red-light district of Pigalle on Boulevard de Clichy. The Moulin Rouge is best known as the birthplace of the can-can dance. (David Lefranc / Paris Tourist Office) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Flowing with history

    The Fontaine des Mers at one of the main public square, Place de la Concorde. At 20 acres, it is the largest square in Paris. (Henri Garat / Paris Tourist Office) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Honoring warriors

    The Arc de Triomphe stands in the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle, at the western end of the Champs-Elysees. The arch honors soldiers who fought for France. The names of generals and wars fought can be found on the inside and top of the arc. Underneath, is the tomb of the unknown soldier from World War I . (Bruce Bennett / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Coffee break

    People walk past a boulangerie (bakery) in the Montmartre district in Paris. (Michel Euler / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Paris blues

    A piece of renowned French Roquefort blue cheese is displayed in a shop in Paris. (Philippe Wojazer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Pricey real estate

    The Place Vendome is an octagonal square located to the north of the Tuileries Gardens and east of the Eglise de la Madeleine. The bronze spiral column at the center of the square was constructed in 1810 by Napoleon to celebrate the French army’s victory at Austerlitz. Within the square are apartments, and posh hotels and high-end retailers, including Cartier, Chanel, and Bulgari. (Benoit Tessier / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. French connection

    The high-speed rail network in France goes to several Parisian train stations, including Gare Du Nord shown here. The name was derived by the idea that travelers would be able to travel to Belgium, Netherlands, Northern Germany and the Scandinavian countries. It is the busiest railway station in Europe, and the third -busiest in the world. (Cate Gillon / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. The grandest address in Paris

    The Pere Lachaise cemetary (Father Lachaise Cemetery) on the eastern edge of the city, is named after the Jesuit Father Lachaise, King Louis XIV's confessor. Many famous people are buried here, including Musset, Chopin, Moliere, Oscar Wilde, Delacroix, Balzac, Jim Morrison. (Amélie Dupont / Paris Tourist Office) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Impressive collection

    The Musée d'Orsay is one of Paris' most popular museums, housed in the former railway station, the Gare d'Orsay. The museum houses an extensive collection of sculptures and impressionist masterpieces by Monet, Degas, Renoir, and Cezanne. (David Lefranc / Paris Tourist Office) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Grand design

    The Grand Palais (Big Palace) was built for the World Fair of 1900. The building is best known for its enormous glass-domed roof, making it one of Paris’ most recognizable landmarks. The Grand Palais was the work of three different architects, and is currently the largest existing ironwork and glass structure in the world. (Marc Bertrand / Paris Tourist Office) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Prestigious avenue

    The Louis Vuitton department store is located on the stunning Champs-Elysees, one of the world's most famous and beautiful streets. (Mike Hewitt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Le Pantheon

    Le Pantheon was originally intended to be a church dedicated to Saint Genevieve to fulfil a vow made by Louis XV while he'd fallen ill. It was used for religious and civil purposes until 1885 and now functions as a famous burial place. (David Lefranc / Paris Tourist Office) Back to slideshow navigation
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