Paris 5th District

The fifth district is famous due to it housing the University of Sorbonne. As a result, the neighborhood is a strange mix, with both a large number of students and tourists milling around this beautiful area, with its majestic old buildings and impressive history.


The fifth district is full of hotels, especially on the Rue des Ecoles. In fact, there are so many that it is worthwhile to visit a number of them on the same street and haggle a bit to get the best price, as even during peak season hoteliers are usually willing to lower their prices to beat their competition. Finding a home here is more difficult -it is a small district of students and tourists, and accommodation mainly consists of apartments, of which there are a good range. You can buy a 30-40 m2 studio here for €210,000-280,000, or at the other extreme, an apartment of area 65m2 for €400,000. As for renting, you can easily find an apartment of any kind for prices ranging from €650 to €3,300 per month.


Boulevard Saint Michel runs along the west side of the quarter, and one can find almost anything there: leather bags, used books, laptop, sneakers, the list foes on. In the narrow streets around the Pantheon and the universities, there is an interesting mix of small independent shops that sell handmade jewellery, as well something a little more "haute couture" such as Jeff de Bruges and L'Occitane en Provence. Whilst the Quarter is not as packed with shops as some of the other main areas (with the exception of the tourist streets near Notre Dame, where you can buy as many miniature Eiffel Towers you can carry), the odd hidden pearl may be found here.

Eating Out

Because of its popularity with tourists, the fifth district is full of small shops selling beautiful traditional food. Head to Rue Mouffetard to find a huge selection of butchers, cheese shops, fishmongers, delicatessens, chocolatiers, and a fruits and veg market almost every day of the week. If you prefer to sit to eat in a cafe or restaurant, there are plenty of options. With many students, and many more tourists, the neighbourhood contains numerous budget restaurants alongside those more traditionally priced. Rue Soufflot offers a wide selection of both types, all with beautiful views of the spectacular Pantheon. And for something a little more private, it is worth seeking out Place de l'Abbé Basset for some really nice authentic restaurants.


With its large student population, there are plenty of nightlife options. The problem is often deciding which bar or nightclub to go to, and which ones to miss! Rue Mouffetard is always full of students after 9 o'clock at night - try Mouffe'tôt, Mouffe'tard for drinks at good prices and a fantastic atmosphere, and more puns like the name, or Le Requin Chagrin, where you can sit on the terrace and participate in a game of shuffleboard, or even rent out the basement for the night. At the other side of the Pantheon, there is Curio Parlor on rue des Bernardins, where the decor style is inspired by 19th century London, with stuffed parakeets, deer heads mounted on the wall, tropical insects pinned in glass cases, and velvet sofas… And if you're bored of being French, you can go to La Pomme d'Eve on rue de Laplace - which is believed to be the only South African bar in Paris - or The Bombardier on Place du Pantheon, or The Long Hop on rue Frederic Sauton, two English-Irish-American bars/nightclubs where you can watch the sports games or dance and drink cocktails at reasonable prices.


Probably the most striking feature of the 5th district of Paris is the Pantheon in the middle of the neighbourhood. This splendid, massive building, built of white marble, was originally created by Louis XV to honour St. Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris, after recovering from a long illness. During the following centuries, people began to use the Hall as a vault for "great men" of France. Victor Hugo was the first to be buried there, but today the monument is "home" to people as diverse as Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile Zola, Jean Moulin, Louis Braille, Marie Curie and Alexander Dumas. Even if you're not willing to pay the entrance fee to inspect the graves of these great men (and women), the exterior view of the splendid Pantheon from the end of rue Soufflot is a must for everyone.

Another famous place in the neighborhood is the bookstore Shakespeare and Co in front of Notre Dame. Popular with expats as English-language bookstore, it also has a fascinating story for lovers of literature. It was here that the owner Sylvia Beach agreed to publish the first copy of "Ulysses" by James Joyce, and later it was the temporary home of many Beat Poets, including Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. The bookshop continues to offer accommodation to writers and backpackers in exchange for some work in the store. If Shakespeare and Co. is not enough literary history for you, you can also follow the steps of Ernest Hemingway, who spent much time in Paris, in particular the fifth district. His first apartment was located at 74 rue du Cardinal Lemoine (third floor), he stayed in the Hotel du Mont-Blanc at 28 rue de la Huchette, he rented the top floor of 39 rue Descartes as a private place where he could write, and he also frequently ate at Café Pre Clerics at 30 rue Bonaparte.

James Bell