A Guide for the Things to Do in the 5th Arrondissement of Paris
Wondering what is in District 5 in Paris? One of the most exciting and colourful districts to visit is the 5th arrondissement of Paris. Here is also where a section of the famous Latin Quarter is located.
From the picturesque buildings and medieval streets to the fantastic restaurants and bars to the Roman ruins and gorgeous gardens – this district has much to see and enjoy. As one of our favourite neighbourhoods in Paris, we can provide a comprehensive list of the major sites you should plan on visiting in the 5th.
Check Out the Arenes de Lutece
As one of Paris’ oldest districts, the 5th arrondissement dates to Roman times. In fact, the location where Paris is now was formally the Roman city of Lutetia or in French Lutèce named by Julius Caesar. One of the remnants from this time is an amphitheatre that was built in the 1st century, similar in timing to the Arles amphitheatre.
The original theatre could hold 15,000 people and the structure was 132 metres long and 100 metres wide. It is thought that the amphitheatre was used until the time that Lutece was destroyed by Germanic tribes. It sat completely unknown, under the earth, until 1870 when it was discovered during an excavation project for road work.
Some sections of the seats are still visible even though there have been buildings built up around them. There is a plaque outside the site that shows images of the structure when it was first discovered. It is quite interesting to see how it was excavated.
Now it is a spot where you can come to sit quietly amongst the ruins and imagine what life was like in Roman times.
Discover the Musée de Cluny
The only other location in Paris that has Roman ruins is The Musée de Cluny also known as the Museum of Middle Ages. The location of the museum rests on the site of Roman thermal baths. It is thought that the baths were constructed in the 1st century and were the largest in the city spanning over 6000m2.
Three sections have been partially excavated but only one section has been maintained and preserved for visitors to see. This is the frigidarium with vaulted ceilings rising up 15 metres in height. The walls were restored in 2009 and are thought to be the best preserved in France.
Also on this site is a massive residence that was built around the baths called the Hotel des Abbés de Cluny. It is built in the Gothic style and dates to 1485. The museum has been curated amongst this historical building and houses 1,500 pieces of art from the Middle Ages covering over 1000 years. Everything from paintings to sculptures to tapestries to stained glass windows are available on display.
The museum was recently renovated and re-opened in 2022 with a new reception area, better accessibility, and an improved flow of traffic. Unfortunately, on the day we were there it had a “fermetue exceptionnelle” so we were unable to visit inside. This will be on our list when we are back in Paris.
👉 The best way to experience the 5th arrondissement is with a local guide. Check out this well-rated tour that takes you to the major sights plus hidden gems.
Admire the Eglise Saint Julien le Pauvre
A historical monument in Paris, this church is one of the oldest in the city. The land that it stands on is thought to be a cemetery from the 6th century during Merovingian times. Sections of the existing church were built in 1120 by monks who founded a priory and rebuilt the structure in the Gothic style.
This property changed hands many times and was used as a pilgrim centre, a learning centre and eventually came under the ownership of the charitable hospital in 1651 who ultimately needed to tear down much of the older buildings and rebuild them due to the state of disrepair at that time.
In 1889 it was given to the Melkite Order a Greek Catholic congregation.
The inside has an impressive iconstasis that separates the sanctuary from the nave. It is only open when services are being held so verify the times before visiting.
Promenade at the Jardin des Plantes
This is not your run-of-the-mill garden. There are 11 gardens to wander and depending on what time of year you visit, you can see a massive amount of plant materials. Everything from rock gardens to rose gardens, an ecological garden to an alpine garden, medicinal plants to perennials. They really do have it all here.
The French Garden – Perspective Squares takes up 2.5 hectares and is an extraordinary spot for walking with its large squares and incredible trees around the perimeter. It never ceases to amaze us how many large, green areas are in Paris. They have given amazing priority to providing their residents with beautiful places to spend time and all free of charge.
And if you have more time, there is a lot more to see and do here. They have a zoo onsite where we saw wallabies! There are galleries and exhibitions that are on a rotating basis. You could spend a considerable amount of time exploring this treasure in the city.
Browse at the Shakespeare & Company Bookstore
Located at point zero in Paris (where all the French roads start) is the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore. An English language bookshop, it has been a meeting point for English writers and readers for many years.
This shop has an interesting history – it was opened in 1951 and was initially called Le Mistral. In 1964 the name was changed to its current one in honour of Shakespeare’s 400th birthday.
This was also to show respect for the original Shakespeare and Company bookstore that was first opened in 1919. The original was where many expat literary artists hung out at the time – Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Stein, etc.
The owner George Whitman wanted to create a place that supported creative types and even offered those needing a place to sleep, a bed amongst the bookshelves. He called the guests Tumbleweeds and truly created a real community around his store.
Now George’s daughter Sylvia runs the store, and it has evolved to include a literary festival, a novella contest for unpublished writers and a publishing branch. You can visit to browse the books or attend live events with poetry readings, author’s talks and more.
Located beside it is a small café where you can sit with your new book, enjoy a coffee and gaze at the glorious Notre Dame across the river.
Investigate Considerable Scientific Findings at the Musee Curie
The Musee Curie is in the original building called the Radium Institute which was a physics and chemistry lab run by Marie Curie. If you enjoy science this is the spot to be. The museum highlights the history of radioactivity and how it has been applied in medicine.
In fact, this location is where the team was able to produce artificial radioactivity for the first time and you can see the instruments, documents and photographs that show this process. This discovery was instrumental in moving forward x-ray diagnosis and radiation therapy for the treatment of cancer.
The museum has opened Marie Curie’s office and original chemistry lab to visitors.
Shop Along Rue Mouffetard
This is known to be one of the oldest streets in Paris as there was originally a street in this location dating back to Roman times. It is a beautiful pedestrian street with cobblestones and quintessential Parisian buildings.
During the Middle Ages, this area was populated by animal skinners so you can imagine the smells that must have permeated the neighbourhood. It is possible that the name of the existing street was a derivative of the French word for skunk – mouffet.
But not to worry, now it is a quaint shopping street that has both a market where vendors bring in their fruits and vegetables and permanent stores including bakeries, butchers, cheese, and pastry shops. Everyone in the area comes here for their supplies for the week.
The street is located on a hill and only 650 metres long so you can stroll it quite easily to check out all the typical French food items. It is the perfect spot to try a little bit of everything.
Relax at Place de la Contrescarpe
Closer to one end of Rue Mouffetard is the lively Place de la Contrescarpe. While this is a smaller square it is surrounded by cafes, restaurants, and shops. In the centre is a pretty fountain with big trees overhead making it a nice, shaded spot to relax.
Place de la Contrescarpe is a typical French square and you will likely see more locals and students here than tourists. This is what gives it a genuine feel. It was made more popular since it was mentioned in the opening of Hemingway’s book A Moveable Feast.
This is the perfect spot to come for a drink or dinner. Or like us who came earlier in the day, for a crepe from a takeaway stand. We enjoyed sitting in the centre of the square on a concrete pillar, eating and people-watching.
Gaze Up at One of Hemingway’s Apartments
Speaking of Hemingway, just a little way from the Place de la Contrescarpe is the apartment where Ernest Hemingway first lived with his wife Hadley from January 2022 to August 1923. It is located at 74 rue Cardinal Lemoine. You can view the apartment from the outside only.
The location was chosen based purely on price alone as this area at that time was a lower-class, working area. However, it is said that he enjoyed the location even calling into the Bal-Musette (a French dance hall with accordion music) occasionally which was on the ground floor of the building.
There is a plaque outside that identifies the apartment and suggests that not only was the neighbourhood Hemingsway’s favourite, but that it helped inspire his writing. It seems that this would be true given what he had said of his time here – “This is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy.” Quote from A Moveable Feast.
👉 If you are a fan of Hemingway, be sure to pop by and follow in his footsteps with a guided walking tour through his neighbourhood and other popular places he frequented.
See the Emily in Paris Apartment from the TV Series
While in this neighbourhood, you can see another apartment has been made quite popular by Netflix’s TV show “Emily in Paris”. This show is about a young American woman who goes to Paris to work for an advertising agency. It became quite popular when it came out in 2020 and has three seasons with a fourth in the making.
The show is actually filmed in Paris and there are numerous spots around the city that are highlighted in the show episodes. Emily’s apartment is in the 5th arrondissement at 1 place de l’Estrapade.
This street and neighbourhood are featured regularly in the first season of the show as the main character Emily begins to find her bearings after first arriving in the city. Fans of the show will enjoy seeing her apartment and the street where she strolls frequently. Be sure to note the address as there isn’t a plaque as in the case of Hemingway’s apartment. 😊
👉 Are you a fan of Emily in Paris? If so, be sure to check out this 5-star walking tour that takes you to many of the locations from the show.
Learn the Fascinating History of the Pantheon
The history of this interesting building dates to the time of Louis the XV in the 1700s. After becoming ill, the King prayed to the Patron Saint of Paris – Saint Genevieve and was amazingly cured. To show his gratitude he agreed to rebuild the church of the monks that were located on Sainte Genevieve mountain.
Unfortunately, there was very little money available, so they had to organize a royal lottery which took a significant amount of time. After 20 years they finally had enough money, and the Pantheon was started.
The architect created an unusual design – a cross plan and a triple dome. The building is quite impressive to see.
A very interesting fact about this building is how often it changed purposes. It started as a church but then during the Revolution became the Pantheon where important men were buried. It continued to fluctuate back and forth depending on the rulers of the time and eventually became the Pantheon for the last time in 1885.
For over 200 years famous and important people have been buried here including writers, generals, scientists, and politicians. There are now more than 70 people with tombs in the crypt. Some of the more famous are Voltaire (writer), Jean-Jacques Rousseau (philosopher), Pierre and Marie Curie (scientists), Simone Veil (politician), and Josephine Baker (dancer and singer).
Guided or self-directed tours of the nave and crypt are available. They also host lectures on various themes and topics. Another notable thing to do here is to go up for a panoramic view of the city.
Appreciate the Sorbonne University Campus
The Sorbonne is known the world over for being a prestigious facility. One of the oldest universities in Europe, the school dates back to the 13th century. The central campus (which was originally the Pierre and Marie Curie University before a merger with the University of Paris) is located in a lovely setting with a large square out front.
This beautiful structure is worth having a look around – be sure to check out the inner square that is very impressive.
Explore Luxembourg Gardens
What is the 5th arrondissement in Paris known for? Well, of course, yet another huge garden area – Luxembourg Garden. This one measuring 25 hectares, dates to 1612 when it was commissioned by Queen Marie of Medici.
This garden is immense and incorporates both English and French gardens and is modelled after the Boboli Gardens in Florence.
There is so much to see here you need to dedicate a day just to enjoying your surroundings. A forest, a pond, 106 statues, an apiary and greenhouses with orchids and roses. And that is just the botanical side of things – you can also play chess, tennis, cards or try remote control boats.
All this is complemented by exhibitions of photography, painting and sculpture and visitors can enjoy concerts during the season. It is essentially an outdoor art and cultural centre.
This is one place you cannot miss when visiting the 5th arrondissement of Paris.
Wander the Charming Streets of the 5th
Everywhere you turn you will see such lovely streets, buildings, and wide-open squares. When we are asked what is the prettiest arrondissement in Paris? – We feel confident in recommending the 5th.
The streets are smaller, and the buildings are more quaint here in this district. Maybe it is because it is an older area, so it has more charm, but the bottom line is that the beauty of the streets coupled with the incredible green spaces makes for a really special place.
There is history here and you can feel it. Just take a walk on Rue Saint Jacques – Paris’ oldest street and you can imagine yourself here at the time when serious scholars and intellectuals were hurriedly making their way to university.
Or sit down and enjoy a coffee at one of the cafes at Boulevard Saint Michel where artists and writers used to meet and discuss the day’s events.
This district oozes charm and by taking it in you can feel a little less like a tourist.
What is the 5th Arrondissement Known For?
With a history of being the literary and artistic area of the city, the 5th arrondissement has a more relaxed and open feeling. And being the home of many students, it is certainly a lively location with many bars, clubs, and cafes.
The district has history, charm, huge green spaces and so many places to see – it is the perfect base from which to explore Paris.
Where to Stay in the 5th Arrondissement?
🏨 We stayed at the Hotel Claude Saint Germain on rue des ecoles. This is not a fancy hotel but provides an excellent base in the 5th arrondissement for exploring the district and is well connected by the metro and bus station to the rest of the city.
We found the rooms to be clean, a reasonable size, with nice large windows to let in light and they provided shampoo, soap, etc.
In the lobby was complimentary water, coffee and tea. Ice was available upon request. The receptionist was helpful and provided information for around the area and helped with organizing a taxi upon departure. A good value for the money.
If you are looking for a property with more services there are many including:
🏨 Les Jardins Du Luxembourg – a recently remodelled hotel close to the Luxembourg Gardens and many other sights in the district. They even offer a Parisian breakfast served in your room.
🏨 Select Hotel – located in the heart of the 5th arrondissement, this property offers spacious and modern rooms with air conditioning and beautiful views of the courtyard of the Sarbonne.
🏨 Hotel Monge – this property is in a great location and offers a wellness centre with a hamman and massages for relaxation after your busy day. Close to many restaurants and bars as well.
5th Arrondissement Restaurants
There is certainly no lack of restaurants in this area! You have the choice to eat at so many traditional or contemporary French-style restaurants, but you can also enjoy Spanish, Mediterranean, Italian and Middle Eastern options to name just a few.
✅ We chose to eat at Le Loubnane a restaurant serving Lebanese dishes. They were fantastic with small plates for sharing so you could taste a little bit of everything.
✅ For homemade, fresh French dishes be sure to try Le Petit Prince de Paris. Originally a tavern it has been a well-known restaurant since 1976.
✅ For an intimate evening try Le Coupe-Chou where they delight you with traditional French dishes in a beautiful environment of French décor, silk furniture in four converted homes form the 13th-15th centuries.
✅ Or enjoy a relaxed meal of fondue at Heureux Comme Alexandre – Saint Michel. This is a spot with friendly servers and a great atmosphere. And you will be greeted warmly by the owner Alex!
5th Arrondissement Bars
As mentioned this is an area with many students so there are numerous bars and clubs. But we would like to share a fantastic experience we had at the Caveau de la Huchette.
This is an underground jazz bar. It is literally a carved out cave where they host two shows per night with awesome Jazz bands. It is a tiny stage with some passionate performers and people come to dance their hearts out. This is a place that should not be missed.
👉 Looking for something a little different? Plan an evening at a Parisian entertainment at the oldest Cabaret Theatre in Paris. You can enjoy a show and a glass of champagne.
The Final Word on the 5th Arrondissement of Paris
We hope we have inspired you to visit the 5th district in Paris. If you are looking for a more authentic stay in the City of Lights this is the neighbourhood to explore. You can still visit all the major sights of the city, but this district gives you a very good variety of things to see, more reasonable hotels to stay in and a fantastic food and bar scene to enjoy in the evenings. Be sure to check it out the next time you are planning a trip to Paris.