How to Plan the Perfect Trip to This Quintessential Paris Neighborhood — Historic Cafes and Luxury Hotels Included

Here's everything you need to know before visiting Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris.

Quiet street in Saint Germain des Pres

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The Seine divides Paris literally and figuratively in two — the ritzy Right Bank with landmarks like the Louvre and the bohemian Left, where artists and intellectuals of the early and mid-20th century held court on café terraces in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Art deco hotspots like Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore are still draws to the neighborhood Ernest Hemingway memorialized in his memoir, "A Moveable Feast," and jazz bands serenade crowds at historic underground clubs, but there’s plenty more to discover along Saint-Germain’s village-like streets. 

The neighborhood is a postcard-perfect vision of Paris: a grand, boutique-filled boulevard; café terraces practically made for people watching; former mansions turned hotels; antique shops and bookstores spilling out on cobblestoned squares. Art is still very much present in the mix of major museums and classic and contemporary galleries. And in addition to grand dame department store Le Bon Marché, streets dominated by designer shops, and eateries bearing celebrity chef names, you’ll find pint-sized cave á vins where locals gather for un verre de vin (glass of wine) after work and no-reservations restaurants with small plates intended for sharing. 

Scroll on for local tips on the best things to do and see in historic Saint-Germain-des-Prés any time of year.

Top 5 Can’t Miss

  • The world’s first department store, Le Bon Marché, is worth a stop for the architecture and art alone, with a collection of more than 80 pieces of contemporary art and furniture.
  • The Belle Époque palace hotel Lutetia is to the Rive Gauche what Ritz Paris is to the Droite — the hotel has been frequented by everyone from Picasso and Matisse to James Joyce and Josephine Baker.
  • The Left Bank’s beautifully manicured Jardin du Luxembourg’s history dates back 400 years (it was built for Queen Marie de Medici, who missed her native Florence’s Boboli Gardens) and is now a favorite picnic spot for Parisians — particularly when tulips and daffodils are blooming in spring.
  • Citypharma feels more like a Sephora than a pharmacy, which is why the two-story shop has become the most popular in the city for its wide selection of discounted French beauty products.
  • Crowning the corner of Boulevard Saint-Germain and Rue Saint-Benoît, Café de Flore — one of Paris’s oldest coffeehouses — has long been the stomping grounds for the fashion and literary set.

Best Hotels

Relais Christine

The former private mansion is tucked on a calm side street behind a cobbled courtyard with ivy climbing up its 17th-century walls. Relais Christine was voted one of the best hotels in Paris by T+L readers — and its hidden locale in the heart of the neighborhood makes this spot a favorite for visitors who want to feel like locals while indulging in luxuries like Spa Guerlain, housed under 13th-century vaults of what was once an abbey. 

Rooftop bar and lounge with Eiffel Tower views at Hotel Dame des Arts in Paris

Ludovic Balay

Hôtel Dame des Arts 

Named one of the best new hotels of 2023 by T+L editors, Hôtel Dame des Arts in “Paris’s most desirable location” is among the crop of design-driven openings reinvigorating the Left Bank. Intended to be “an artist and cultural hub for Paris,” you’ll get a taste of the city’s local music scene on the ninth-floor seasonal rooftop terrace — a contender for best-in-town — which shows off unbeatable views of the Notre-Dame Cathedral on one side and the Eiffel Tower on the other.

Pavillon Faubourg Saint-Germain

The sibling to the Marais’s regal Pavillon de la Reine, this 47-room boutique hotel located between the Seine and Café de Flore beautifully blends its historic past (it’s where James Joyce completed his celebrated novel "Ulysses") with modern touches thanks to Paris-based interior designer Didier Benderli. Pavillon Faubourg Saint-Germain’s apartment-style rooms are lined in elegant herringbone parquet and detailed crown moldings and feel all the more Parisian when you glance out the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the city’s classic mansard rooftops.

Hôtel Le Six

In an area that’s on the pricier side, Haussmann-style Hôtel Le Six near the Luxembourg Gardens is a rare find. Named one of the 11 best affordable hotels in Paris in 2022 by T+L for “offerings far beyond its price tag,” including a hammam and full spa, spacious bathrooms with L’Occitane bath products, and French balconies overlooking quintessentially Parisian streets, this is an ideal base for exploring the Left Bank. 

Best Things to Do

Shop local boutiques.

 “Skip the trendy commercial windows lining the grand boulevards in favor of smaller independent Parisian brands,” recommends Paris-based journalist and handbag designer Kasia Dietz, who leads fashion tours in the city. “Women’s ready-to-wear label Koshka Paris set up her second shop on Rue Saint Sulpice, where timeless looks include signature jeans, limited-edition jumpsuits, blouses inspired by artwork, and cashmere coats.” On a pedestrian side street, Uncouture showcases a selection of avant-garde dresses and tailored jackets with matching pants. “To add to the local appeal, both designers offer made-to-measure,” says Dietz.

Shops along Saint Germaine Des Pres

Taylor McIntyre/Travel + Leisure

Browse antiques.

 As you cross the Seine, Saint-Germain’s narrow streets form an antique quarter — and many of the shops are open to the public. “The neighborhood has been changing a lot, but what I love are the streets where you still find antique dealers, design stores, and art galleries, like Rue Bonaparte, Rue Jacob, and Rue de Seine,” says Victoire de Taillac, co-founder of Officine Universelle Buly.

Stroll through art galleries and museums.

“There is always a special atmosphere next to an art school, and thanks to Beaux-Arts de Paris’s students, this neighborhood is still lively and creative,” says de Taillac. A few standout galleries to add to your list include Galerie Charles-Wesley Hourdé, Galerie Larock-Granoff, and Ketabi Bourdet. “Their curation is breathing new culture and life into a neighborhood that’s historically been a fertile ground for the art world,” add Apollonia Poilâne, third-generation baker and CEO of Poilâne Bakery, and partner Sudeep Rangi.

Listen to live jazz.

If the brass bands serenading crowds along the Seine have sparked your desire for more, you’ve come to the right neighborhood. “You've got to check out Le Gainsbarre at Maison Gainsbourg, a café and piano bar inspired by Serge Gainsbourg's early piano-playing days in the city's bars and cabarets,” says Kevin Grandel de Keating, director of communications, partnerships, and innovation for SO/ Paris and Maison Delano Paris. Considered the city’s original jazz quarter, many of the clubs in the area are still going strong today, like the nearby Caveau de la Huchette. “I feel like I'm in Saint-Germain-des-Prés when I descend into the 16th-century arched basement of Caveau de la Huchette for jazz and swing,” says Marianne Fabre-Lanvin, co-founder of French organic wine Souleil Vin de Bonté. “It is a true French bal populaire: people of all ages and backgrounds, incredible dance moves, and enchanting performances by talented musicians.”

Sip coffee or wine at Marché Saint-Germain.

 “A market that you absolutely shouldn't miss is the Marché Saint-Germain, a quiet covered market with fantastic poissonneries (fishmongers), a wonderful fromagerie (cheese shop), and primeurs (greengrocers) with great quality produce,” says Catherine Down, a Paris-based, James Beard Award-nominated food and travel writer and culinary tour guide. Stop for espresso at coffee shop Le Café du Clown: “David Benichou and his giant Leonberger puppy, Thesée, are congenial hosts with gooey salted chocolate chip cookies, rum raisin ice cream sandwiches, and sweet Breton kouign-amanns,” says Down. “The outdoor terrace of adjacent wine shop Bacchus et Ariane is also one of the most pleasant places in the area to finish off the day with a glass of wine.” 

Exterior of Museum d'Orsay

Taylor McIntyre/Travel + Leisure

Spend the morning at Musée d’Orsay.

Originally established with loans from the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay now claims the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art in the world. Taking over a former Beaux-Arts railway station along the Seine, you’ll find masterpieces like Vincent van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” and Edouard Manet’s “The Luncheon on the Grass.”

Best Restaurants and Bars

L’Avant Comptoir de la Terre

“One of the best ways to spend your day in the neighborhood is at L’Avant Comptoir de la Terre, Yves Camdeborde’s standing-room-only tapas-style restaurant,” says Alexandre Seilliere, owner of recently opened Greek Restaurant Spiti Sou in Saint-Germain. “Order four or five small plates and a glass of natural wine — and don't forget to try the poêlée de champignons.

The terrace of "Les deux Magots"

BERTRAND GUAY/AFP via Getty Images


“Franck Audoux’s CRAVAN, with a Rizzoli bookstore within it, is an ambitious project with his signature delicious and delightful cocktails that’s a perfect and welcome addition to the Café de Flore, Les Deux Magots, and Brasserie Lipp corner,” say Poîlane and Rangi. The four-story cocktail bar takes over one of the last historic buildings on the Boulevard Saint-Germain that dates back to the 17th century — and each floor is a different experience. At the first-floor bar, order an elevated spin on a champagne-topped royale or a twist on classics like an amaretto sour or margarita alongside bar “snacks” like focaccia and bottarga or crab tarama.

Augustin Marchand d’Vins

The cave à manger doubles as a wine shop, so if you didn’t reserve in advance (the hallway-sized space fills fast), you can snag a bottle to-go from the expansive collection of French (particularly Jura) and Italian bottles lining the wall. The Right Bank is known more for its buzzy natural wine bars, so Augustin Marchand d’Vins is a rare exception on this side of the Seine. Animated Augustin will happily guide you through the chalkboard menu of small shareable plates like Italian charcuterie and the plat du jour.


“Having grown up around my family's bakery in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, I like to keep one eye on institutions like our own and also love to see the dynamic changes in the neighborhood,” says Poîlane. “Azabu is my favorite Japanese teppanyaki restaurant in Paris since it combines Japanese savoir-faire with the flair of a French bistro.”


“Italian food is often a cut-and-paste, checklist affair in Paris — pizza, pasta, burrata — but Localino is the real deal: meticulously sourced ingredients, a concise menu, and a fantastic wine list,” says Joshua Fontaine, founder of the Parisian aperitif Lutèce and co-owner of Candelaria and Le Mary Celeste. “It’s a great option for a solo lunch at the bar or dinner with friends in an area that can be tough to find a local spot.”

Best Time to Visit 

Paris is a year-round city — there’s really no off-season. That said, crowds dip along with the temperature, so apart from the holiday season in December, Paris is less busy during the cooler winter months and into early spring. July is the busiest month and summer can be sweltering, so if you want to avoid large crowds, the best time to visit is shoulder season, from April to May or September to November. Tulips may be a draw in springtime, but fall is a better bet since showers are less likely — plus, leaves changing in Paris’s iconic parks make for scenic strolling when it’s sweater weather. From late November until New Year’s Day, shop gourmet goods and gifts at the Christmas Village’s wooden chalets lining the Boulevard Saint-Germain. 

How to Get There 

Given its central location in Paris, Saint-Germain-des-Prés is easy to reach by foot from the Louvre, Tuileries Garden, and Place Vendôme. Take metro line 4 or 10 to the Odéon stop or line 4 to the heart of the neighborhood, hopping off at the Saint-Germain-des-Prés stop. Citymapper is a great app to download to help navigate Paris’s public transport (its up-to-the-minute itinerary suggestions take line closures and strikes into account). If you’re cruising the Seine by boat via Batobus, there’s a stop that drops you right in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. The neighborhood’s streets are super walkable, but if you’re planning to visit other parts of Paris, you can order an Uber or Bolt or take a taxi from a designated stand.

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