Everything You Need to Know about Saint Germain des Pres
Sitting in the heart of the French capital, the neighborhood of Saint Germain des Pres is one of four administrative quarters of the 6th arrondissement of Paris.
Perched on the southern banks of the River Seine and facing the iconic Louvre Museum, Saint Germain des Pres is one of the most famous regions in the city and is known as the birthplace of many literary and philosophical movements, including existentialism.
With a cultural and historical heart, Saint Germain des Pres has become one of the most sought-after locations to live in Paris. Here’s what you need to know before you move.
A Brief Introduction to Saint Germain des Pres
The heart of the Saint Germain des Pres neighborhood is, and was, the church and former abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Founded in the 6th century, the church and neighborhood became an integral part of Paris’s religious and cultural center. This was only boosted by the marketplace and fair that brought merchants and traders from all across Europe.
Through the early modern era, the neighborhood began to grow as the literary and artistic center of the French capital. After the revolution, the national school of architecture, painting, and sculpture was opened in Saint Germain des Pres, turning it into a favorite haunt for some of the most revered architects and artists of that era.
Its popularity continued through the century, with iconic composer Richard Wagner living in the neighborhood for several months. Near the end of the 19th century, Oscar Wilde would spend his last days living in a rundown hotel in Saint Germain des Pres, only adding to the long list of famous and celebrated figures who resided in the neighborhood.
During the 20th century, Saint Germain des Pres became a hub for the working class and its population began to fall. After the Second World War, the neighborhood built up a reputation for its non-conformist air and eclectic mix of cafes, bars, and restaurants.
It is this historic diversity that led Saint Germain des Pres to become a heartland for jazz clubs and bars, and although this slowly died away through the middle of the century, the neighborhood still retains this free and easy cafe culture-style vibe.
1. Things to Do in Saint Germain des Pres
Whether you’re looking for a spot of shopping, a dose of daily culture, or a fantastic bite to eat, there are things to do in Saint Germain des Pres for everyone.
Visit l’Eglise de St-Germain-des-Près
No trip to the Saint Germain des Pres neighborhood would be complete without visiting its center point, the l’Eglise de St-Germain-des-Près or church of St-Germain-des-Près as it is known in English. First built in the 6th century, the church was constructed to hold a piece of wood brought back from Spain, said to be part of the true cross of christ.
Once one of the richest churches in all of Europe, visiting ’Eglise de St-Germain-des-Près will open your eyes to the beautiful architecture of this gothic church. With starry ceilings and beautiful motifs, the church is worth a wander inside and out.
Window shopping at Le Bon Marché
One of the most famous department stores in all of Paris, Le Bon Marché, is a collection of many different floors, all selling a variety of luxury goods and gourmet foods. Still retaining much of its early design, this department store is like stepping back in time to the more refined ways of shopping from days gone by.
Iconic for its crisscrossing escalators, it was described by French writer Émile Zola as “the cathedral of modern commerce”. Similar to Harrods in London, Le Bon Marché is a unique shopping experience that is a world away from the modern era of online shopping. If you’re looking for some great deals on high-end items, head to Le Bon Marche during its January sales.
Get some foodie delights at La Grande Epicerie
For any food lover, a visit to La Grande Epicerie in Saint Germain des Pres should not be missed. With just as many floors as Le Bon Marché, La Grande Epicerie has a multitude of fresh produce and ingredients from across the globe.
With such a plethora of goods on display, you’ll quickly understand why France is considered to be one of the culinary capitals of the world. If all this food shopping builds up an appetite, then why not head to the on-site cafe on the ground floor. Here, you can try a variety of different dishes, from traditional French classics to authentic dishes from Southeast Asia. Any keen cook settling in Saint Germain des Pres will instantly make La Grande Epicerie their go-to store for ingredients.
Stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens
One of the most picturesque regions of Saint Germain des Pres is the Luxembourg Gardens, which were originally built by Queen Marie de Medici in 1612 as a re-creation of her home in Florence. Covering 62 acres of lush greenery and flowers, the gardens are one of the best places to visit and escape the hustle and bustle of inner-city Paris.
Still retaining a royal feel, the elegance and peace of the garden mean that the whole family can take a stroll and enjoy some relaxation. Throughout the gardens, you will spot a range of over 100 statues dating back more than a century. These depict a number of royal family members from the past and even a miniature version of the Statue of Liberty.
If you’re spending more than a few days in Paris, try to go on a Saint-Germain walking tour over and above the usual tourist attractions in the city. It’s a lovely neighborhood and is completely worth exploring.
2. Art scene in Saint Germain des Pres
Like many districts of Paris, Saint Germain des Pres has a long-established link with the world of art and culture. The neighborhood was a keen favorite amongst well-known artists, including Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and Gustave Moreau. To this day, its reputation for art remains strong, with many traveling to the neighborhood for their daily dose of culture.
One of the best places to experience Saint Germain des Pres’ close link with the world of art is the École des Beaux-Arts, the city’s most prestigious fine arts school. While it still functions as an educational institution, it regularly holds open days giving the general public a unique opportunity to peruse through seldom-seen exhibitions from the world of art.
Aside from this world-famous art institution, Saint-Germain-des-Prés is also home to a number of more contemporary and accessible art galleries. These include Laurence Esnol Gallery and the Galerie Zlotowski – both considered to be some of the best art galleries in the neighborhood, if not the whole of Paris itself.
If you have the time, try a Saint Germain Art Gallery Tour. You’ll find options on sites such as Getyourguide, Tripadvisor etc.
3. Nightlife and Music Scene in Saint Germain des Pres
With its historical link to the world of jazz and a series of bars and nightclubs to explore, the music scene in Saint Germain des Pres is worth exploring. Here are some of the best venues in the neighborhood.
Caveau des Legendes
Harking back to the days when Saint Germain des Pres was the heart of France’s booming Jazz scene, Caveau des Legendes brings back the heyday with fun and vigor. Once the haunt of famous jazz artists such as René Urtreger and Peter King, it is no wonder that this jazz bar is known as the Caveau des Legendes or ‘Cave of Legends’.
Walking into Caveau des Legendes, you can be forgiven for thinking you have stepped back in time. With heavy oak doors, suits of armor, and old-fashioned stairs, Caveau des Legendes really sets the scene for an enjoyable evening. This bar is an old-school establishment, and events are forever changing, so keep an eye out for the numerous blues and jazz nights held at Caveau des Legendes.
Le Rive Gauche
If you’re looking for a real night out in Saint Germain des Pres, then Le Rive Gauche may be the place for you. Famous for being one of the premier nightclubs in Paris throughout the 70s and 80, Le Rive Gauche has lost none of its potency for offering up a fantastic night of cocktails, dancing, and some of the best disco tunes in all of Paris.
Open into the early hours, Le Rive Gauche is one of the best places to go if you still feel the night is young and your dancing shoes are still ready to go!
La Peña Saint-Germain
For a more laid-back and, perhaps more interesting night out, La Peña Saint-Germain is the place to go. La Peña Saint-Germain is an unusual but perfect mix of a basement Parisian club and salsa bar.
Checking your coat at the door, La Peña Saint-Germain allows you to dance the night away within charming surroundings while sipping some of the best-crafted drinks Saint Germain des Pres and the wider city has to offer.
4. Food Scene in Saint Germain des Pres
Paris is known throughout the world for its fantastic gourmet cuisine, and Saint Germain des Pres does not let the side down with its selection of cafes, restaurants and markets.
L’Avant-Comptoir is one the best examples of unpretentious and fantastic Parisian food. With a Parisian tapas-like approach to food, L’Avant-Comptoir is a fantastic place to go at any time of the day. During lunch serving L’Avant-Comptoir is a standing only establishment, with all customers gathered next to a communal bread bucket and a huge slab of butter.
Order yourself a glass of good French wine and indulge in a range of great Parisian tapas such as fried ham croquettes or a plate of mixed charcuterie. This no-nonsense approach to great food means all the unnecessary frills are stripped away at L’Avant-Comptoir, and you are left with good produce and a thriving atmosphere.
Aside from the range of restaurants and bars, Saint Germain des Pres is also home to some of the city’s favorite bakeries, with Boulangerie Poilâne amongst the best. Another establishment that approaches its baked goods with no unnecessary frills and thrills, one of Boulangerie Poilâne’s bestsellers is sourdough bread with only four ingredients; stone-ground flour, sourdough, water, and Guérande sea salt.
For those with more of a sweet tooth, Boulangerie Poilâne offers customers a choice between sugary delights such as butter cookies and apple tarts, with roughly chopped apple sitting in a swirled-edged pastry case. Simply grab your goods from the fast-moving line and head next door to the Boulangerie Poilâne cafe, where you can relax and indulge in your bakery catch.
No gastronomic visit to Saint Germain des Pres would be complete without a trip to Patrick Roger. This artisan chocolate outlet is a chocolate lover’s dream come true, elevating the humble chocolate to a whole new level.
Mixing interesting and mind-blowing flavors such as Sichuan peppercorn, lime, and lemongrass, and a range of different caramels, a visit to Patrick Roger is one you will not soon forget. The level of craftsmanship and dedication to the art of chocolate making is proven by Patrick Roger’s title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France—literally, “Best Worker of France” – something that can only be achieved by submitting fine and tested work.
Alternatively, you can use Google Maps to find restaurants in the area and sort them by reviews.
5. Living in Saint Germain des Pres
Despite being one of the most expensive and premier neighborhoods to live in Paris, Saint Germain des Pres continues to be the most sought-after for apartments and houses.
What is the average rent in Saint Germain des Pres?
Located in the center of the French capital, competition for securing rental properties in Saint Germain des Pres is unsurprisingly high. The neighborhood can be divided into those properties closest to the river and those deeper into the neighborhood. As you might have guessed, properties closer to the River Seine tend to be far more costly than those that are further away.
Though many Parisians sought to move out of the neighborhood due to its often touristy nature, rent prices in the Saint Germain des Pres neighborhood are still some of the highest and most in-demand in Paris due to international and ex-pat interest.
A one-bedroom apartment in Saint Germain des Pres is likely to set you back around €1,970 a month. A furnished studio apartment, on the other hand, will cost you closer to the €1,000 mark. Looking at two-bedroom rented apartments in Saint Germain des Pres, the average rent price is between €2,500 and €3,000 per month.
These are the average rent prices for the Saint Germain des Pres neighborhood and can fluctuate dramatically depending on the housing market in Paris, the French economy, and the constant competition for properties in this popular neighborhood.
How to find an apartment in Saint Germain des Pres?
Attempting to find a rented apartment in Saint Germain des Pres was once a drawn-out process requiring visits to multiple properties and liaising with numerous landlords. Now, with the advent of the internet and easy-to-use websites like Homelike, the whole process has been made a lot easier.
Homelike allows you to search for properties in Saint Germain des Pres with a simple click of a button. Its practical layout and search options mean you can narrow down your property search and find apartments that have exactly what you’re looking for. These include choosing a moving-in date, whether you want it furnished or something as simple as how many rooms you need.