Founded in the Middle Ages this riverside quarter has always been dominated by the Sorbonne (University). The district acquired its name from the university's early Latin speaking students.
The Latin Quarter is generally associated with artists, intellectuals, and a bohemian way of life; this is mainly due to the thousands of students that live here year round.
But, the Latin Quarter also has a history of political unrest : In 1871, the Place Saint Michel became the center of the Paris Commune, and in may 1968, it was the site of a student uprising. The 1968 uprising still plays a major role in Parisian politics.
Today, the eastern half of the district has become sufficiently chic and houses members of the French establishment.
The Latin Quarter is home to many of Paris's famous monuments, museums and gardens, ranging from the brand-new Institut du Monde Arabe to the Musee de Cluny, and the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle (Museum of Natural History) in the Jardin des Plantes.
The domed landmark now known as the Pantheon was commissioned around 1750 as an abbey church. Due to financial problems the massive structure wasn't completed until 1789.
Two years later, the Constituent Assembly converted it into a secular mausoleum for the great men of the era of French liberty. Later after a brief stint once again as a church, the Pantheon became a secular necropolis.
Permanent guests of the Pantheon include Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Louis Braille, Emile Zola, Jean Moulin, René Cassin and Pierre et Marie Curie.
The Pantheon's ornate marble interior is gloomy in the extreme, but you get a great view of the city from around the colonnaded dome, which is visible from all over Paris.
Address: Place du Panthéon, 5th. Phone: 43 54 34 51. From October to March, open daily 10 am-5.30 pm. the rest of the year, 10 am-6 pm.
Paris's most famous university, the Sorbonne, was founded in 1253 by Robert de Sorbon, confessor of Louis IX (Saint Louis), as a college for 16 poor theology students.
After centuries as France's major theological center, it was closed in 1792 by the Revolutionary government but was reopened under Napoleon.
Today, the Sorbonne's main complex (bounded by Rue de la Sorbonne, Rue des Ecoles, Rue Saint Jacques and rue Cujas) and other buildings in the vicinity house several of the 13 autonomous universities created when the Université de Paris was reorganized following the violent student protests in 1968.
Place de la Sorbonne links Blvd Saint Michel with Chapelle de la Sorbonne, the University's domed church, which was built between 1635 and 1642. It is closed except for special exhibitions.
Musée de Cluny (musée du Moyen Age):
This crenelated building was the Paris home of the medieval abbots of Cluny. It was built on the ruins of a Gallo-Roman baths complex, which is now partly restored.
The museum houses an exceptional collection of artifacts, including the celebrated "Lady and the Unicorn" tapestries, medieval statuary, enamels, ivory, fabrics, illuminated manuscripts and precious metalwork.
Address: 6 place Paul Painlevé, 5th. Phone 43 25 62 00. Open Mon, Wed-Sun 9:15am - 5.45pm.
Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle (Museum of Natural History):
Within the Jardin des Plantes botanical garden, the reopened Grande Galerie de l'Evolution has taken Paris's Natural History Museum out of the dinosaur age.
Exhibits have been restored and the latest lighting and audiovisual techniques are used to present a rich array of species in their ecological and evolutionary contexts.
Collections of geology, fossils, skeletons and insects are housed in separate buildings over the park.
Address: 57 rue Cuvier, 5th. Phone : 40 79 30 00. open Mon, Wed, Fri-Sun 10am-6pm; Thur 10am-10pm.
See also: Latin Quarter Restaurant Guide
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