Paris at its best – Saint-Germain-des-Pres

This is a place where century-old buildings house high-end fashion brands, casually dressed students stroll beside business-types in haute couture and the bustle of modern commerce chugs merrily alongside warm cafes where time seems to go into slow motion. Welcome to Saint-Germain-des-Pres, a chic neighborhood in Paris, that impeccably captures the city’s innate charm.

Built around an abbey

Saint-Germain-des-Pres means ‘Saint-Germain in the meadows’ because it was a quiet town built around a Benedictine Abbey on the outskirts of then Paris. The abbey developed into a hub of learning and eventually, a religious and cultural center. The abbey was destroyed during the Revolution; however, the church of Saint-Germain-des-Pres continues to be the official center of this lively neighborhood.

Literary and artistic center

Thanks to the establishment of the prestigious institute of fine arts in the 19th century, Ecole des Beaux Arts, St. Germain became the literary and artistic center of Paris.

Today, the neighborhood still reflects its high-brow past in the cafes where intellectuals, artists, poets and writers gathered to exchange ideas, notably Le Deux Magots, Café de Flore (where Jean-Paul Sartre wrote “Being and Nothingness”) and Brasserie Lipp where Hemingway wrote “A Farewell to Arms”.

Historic attractions and high-end boutiques

Despite its strong association with literati, Saint-Germain-des-Pres is also the favored street for luxury boutiques like Ralph Lauren, Cartier and Swarovski, gourmet restaurants and high-end patisseries including Laduree and Pierre Herme, kings of French macaroons.

Straddling the border between Saint-Germain-des-Pres and its quaint neighbor, the Latin Quarter, is the famed 25-hectare Luxembourg Gardens. This tourist destination is home to the historic Medici Fountain, a forest, an orchard, apiary, a rose garden and many more attractions.

So take a stroll down Saint-Germain-des-Pres. If you’ve seen it, it’s like you’ve seen Paris in a nutshell. Well, almost. 🙂