A local-insider guide to Saint-Michel and surrounds, made particularly for the “non-tourist”.
In Place Saint-Michel and feeling hungry? Need a good coffee? Or just want to discover the area, particularly it’s “non-touristy” side?
Read on …
Here’s a simple guide for discerning travelers who like to go local, even in one of Paris’ most “touristy” areas!
You’ll never be bored, hungry or stuck for something to do in and around Place Saint-Michel.
The closest Metro Station: Saint-Michel, Line 4
The closest RER station: Saint-Michel, Line C (for Orly Airport) and B (for Charles de Gaulle Airport)
Getting there by bus: Lines 21, 24, 27, 38, 85, 96, and Open Tour Buses
Getting there by water: Batobus, Notre Dame, Quai de Montebello
Snapshot of Saint-Michel …
For first-time visitors to Paris, it all starts at Place Saint-Michel.
Place Saint-Michel is within a comfortable walking distance of many of the city’s main tourist attractions like Notre Dame and the Sainte Chapelle.
Place Saint-Michel is in the Latin Quarter on Paris’ Left Bank. It lies between the boulevard Saint-Michel and the Place Saint-André-des-Arts. It’s on the border between the 5th and 6th arrondissements. Both are lovely arrondissements to explore.
You can easily walk to Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Ile-de-la-Cité from Place Saint-Michel. A little further along the river is the Louvre Museum. Even the Musée d’Orsay is a relatively comfortable walk along the riverside.
From Pont Saint-Michel, you’ll love the views across the river to the Ile-de-la-Cité. Cross over the Pont Saint-Michel to take a closer look at the Palais de Justice, Sainte-Chapelle, Notre Dame and a bit further away, the Louvre Museum.
The main “tourist” attraction in Place Saint Michel is the fountain; la fontaine Saint-Michel.
The fountain depicts the archangel Michael vanquishing the Devil, evoking thoughts of the battle between Good and Evil. Two dragons flank it, spouting water into the fountain. There are four figures depicting the classical cardinal virtues.
The fountain was commissioned by Haussmann, under Napoleon III, and constructed by Gabriel Davioud in 1855-60. Nine major sculptors participated in the work.
La Fontaine Saint-Michel is a popular meeting place for Parisians and tourists alike. It’s usually bustling. Buskers often perform there, too. It’s a nice spot to simply pause and people watch.
Flowing with OR without the tourists …
Saint Michel is an epicenter for tourists.
During spring and summer, it can get quite busy. Walking in a straight line without bumping into tour groups and wandering tourists can be a challenge.
But it’s an area you really shouldn’t miss, all the same. Getting beyond the tourist bustle into quieter and more “authentic” areas is simple … and worth it!
The tourists tend to flow in three directions from Place Saint-Michel.
The tourists tend to move along the Quai des Grands Augustins in the direction of the Musée d’Orsay or the Louvre.
Alternatively, they head in the opposite direction along the Quai Saint-Michel and Quai de Montebello towards the Pont au Double where they’ll cross to see Notre Dame Cathedral.
They’ll also cross the Pont Saint-Michel to reach the Ile-de-la-Cité on their way to Notre Dame or the Right Bank of Paris.
Some will wander-off along la rue Saint-André des Arts in the direction of Saint-Germain-des-Prés but not as many as in those other directions.
Rue Saint-André des Arts is actually a lovely street to stroll down. It’ll take you to rue de Buci (also popular) and into rue du Seine and beyond (good for private art galleries).
But there’s an area the tourists tend not to wander into … and it is well worth your visit.
A short walk away (from the tourists) for a more local experience …
If it’s the quieter routes you’re looking for, head off into the smaller streets around Place Saint-Michel. In particular, explore the narrow streets surrounded by the Quai des Augustins, Le Saint-André des Arts, and the rue Dauphine.
This is one of my favorite spots in Paris.
This is an area where you’ll find good restaurants, fascinating shops, art galleries and a quiet residential area with wonderful architecture and much history.
These are the streets frequented by many of the great names of the twentieth-century century in art and literature, like Man Ray, Picasso and Hemingway.
Read on to discover some of those addresses, plus some very practical tips.
I need some cash …
Within a few meters of the fountain there are two bank offices.
BNP Paribas is at 3 Place Saint-André des Arts and the Crédit Industriel at 4 Boulevard Saint-Michel. They both offer ATM machines for cash withdrawals.
For money change offices, there’s Travelex at N°4 Boulevard Saint-Michel. A little further along the boulevard you’ll find two money exchange offices at N°19 (The Change Group) and at N°20 (Bellwood).
I need a coffee …
In Place Saint-Michel there are a number of cafés and bistros to choose from, none of which specialize in coffee. But they do offer nice terraces with great views for the tourists.
Popular is the café / brasserie, Le Départ Saint Michel. It’s on the corner of Boulevard Saint-Michel and the Quai, so you get good panoramic views of Place Saint-Michel and across the river to the Ile-de-la-Cité.
I quite like sitting on the covered terrace of Le Gentilhommeìre in Place Saint-André des Arts.
Walk down rue Saint-André des Arts for Malongo Coffee Shop. It’s a popular coffee chain in Paris (a French alternative to Starbucks) specializing in organic and fair trade coffee and tea.
Malongo has a wide range of coffees served in the most popular styles: flat white, long black, latte or espresso. There’s also plenty of seating, so it is good if you want to relax, read a book or write in your notebook. It has low and bar-style tables and free Wifi.
Another popular coffee stop is the recently opened café at the world famous Shakespeare & Co Bookshop. There’s nothing “Parisian” about this place. But it is where were you’ll get a good flat-white or latte with delicious sweet treats.
I need a nice bite to eat …
For a quick bite, you can’t go past a good French crepe. There are plenty of choices along rue Saint-André des Arts.
One of my favorite quick snacks in the area is a fresh falafel from Chez le Lebanais (35 rue Saint-André des Arts, 75006). This is a popular spot with the local student population.
For a delicious salad, classic French sandwich, or tartines and hot gratins, head to the authentically Parisian Bistro des Augustins (39 Quai des Grands Augustins, 75006).
The food is traditional French cooking with quality ingredients. The atmosphere is good, too. It’s a local crowd and cool ambiance.
The bouquinistes (booksellers along the Seine River), local business owners and residents drop in here throughout the day and evening.
Prices are good. You can eat with a glass of wine and coffee for about 15 to 20 euros.
For upmarket dining offering good French cuisine, try Les Bouquinistes (53 Quai des Grands Augustins, 75006).
At les Bouquinistes you’ll receive a warm and attentive welcome. The bar, main dining room and salon offer very comfortable settings. The decor is sober and refined.
Les Bouquinistes is a good example of Parisian chic dining.
The menu at Les Bouquinistes is designed by Guy Savoy and Stéphane Perraud, the restaurants head chef. The menu changes each day. New entrées, mains and desserts are added so you can discover the “flavors of the moment”.
Ordering off the menu, expect a bill of around 70€ to 80€ for a 2 course meal without drinks. There are set lunch menus ranging between 29€ and 44€.
Personally, I’d avoid the touristy “restaurants” along rue de la Huchette.
I need a book or newspaper to read in English …
Reading is the perfect activity around Place Saint-Michel. After all, it’s the area for French editors and book publishers! As you walk around, snoop through those obscure windows and behind closed doors. You’ll see book lined shelves and desks piled high with manuscripts.
For a fabulous little Parisian bookstore, check out Un Regard Moderne (10 Rue Gît-le-Cœur, 75006).
Go inside, it’s quite an experience. Manoeuvre your way around the leaning towers of books piled high. Its owner is passionate about literature and in his bookshop you’ll discover a fabulous selection of rare books. Even if you read no French, take a look. Flip through a tome. Soak up the atmosphere – the Parisian experience!
For magazines and newspapers in English there’s a newstand just outside Gibert Jeune on the corner of rue de la Huchette and Boulevard Saint-Michel.
There’s not a big selection but you’ll more than likely find the latest of “The Economist”, “Time Magazine”, “Newsweek”, and the “New York Times” International edition.
There’s another kiosk in the hallway between Metro line 4 and RER C, underground.
For English language books, you’re in better luck.
The area around Place Saint-Michel has some of the best bookshops in Paris for English readers.
Gibert Jeune is a historic bookshop with several addresses in Paris.
The main ones are in Saint-Michel. Just behind the mentioned kiosk, Gibert Jeane sells travel and guide books in English. For novels and poetry, try the Gibert Jeune at N°4 Place Saint-Michel.
At 29 Rue de la Parcheminerie, 75005, you’ll find the Abbey Bookshop flying its Canadian flag. It’s home to towering and teetering piles of second hand books in English.
It’s a real Alibaba’s cave for books. The eclectic collection of over 35,000 titles in English range from scholarly to popular literature.
The building which houses the bookshop is, alone, well worth the visit. The eighteenth-century Hotel Dubuisson features picturesque facade, sculptured decorations and carved doors.
Getting there from Place Saint-Michel is a 2 minute walk (160 meters / 525 feet).
There’s the historic Shakespeare & Co Bookshop a few hundred meters along the Quai Saint-Michel at 37 Rue de la Bûcherie. You’ll see it across a picturesque little square from the Quai Saint-Michel.
Walking, it takes 4 minutes to Shakespeare & Co from the fountain at Place Saint-Michel (300 meters / 984 feet).
I need to pick up a birthday card or post card …
Your best bet for a post card or birthday card is in Gibert Jeune on the corner of rue de la Huchette and boulevard Saint-Michel (N°5 Place Saint-Michel, 75006).
I need a pharmacy …
Pharmacie Bader at 10-12 Boulevard St Michel, 75006, provides good, friendly service in English. So does Pharmacie Saint-André des Arts at 44 Rue Saint-André des Arts, 75006.
I need to check my emails …
You can’t go past Starbucks in Saint-Michel for reliable free WIFI connections. There are two very close to Place Saint-Michel. The closest to Place Saint-Michel is at at 13 boulevard Saint-Michel. The other is a little further up the boulevard at N°24 boulevard Saint-Michel, just opposite the Cluny Medieval Museum.
Previously mentioned Malongo Coffee also has free wifi.
Paris Note: Many public gardens in Paris have a WIFI spots, too. In the Medieval Gardens of the Cluny Museum, I’ve regularly caught good Wifi connections. The gardens are free to public access (6 Place Paul Painlevé, 75005). The museum is definitely worth visiting.
Where’s best for a quick drink …
Le Bistro des Augustins, again, is a good choice for a quick and simple drink. It’s not really a bar.But you can sit for a drink surrounded largely by locals. They offer a simple but good wine and beer list.
Sometimes when traveling it’s nice to get a taste of home! Around Place Saint-Michel there are a couple of English-style pubs that are quite popular with French students and travelers. Here are three popular addresses around Saint-Michel.
The Great Canadian (25 Quai des Grands Augustins, 75006)
Corcoran’s Irish Pub (28 Rue Saint-André des Arts, 75006)
Galway Irish Pub (13 Quai des Grands Augustins, 75006)
And if you want an address for a night out, go to La Vénus Noire (25 rue de l’Hirondelle, 75006). The street is famous in literary history. During the interwar years it was the haunt of Baudelaire and Rimbaud who came to La Vénus Noire (then named Le Caveau de la Bolée) to drink themselves paralytic on absinthe.
Today, the bar has lost its literary cachet but none of it’s charming intimacy. The local gay crowd mixes with students and affluent twenty-somethings – though the vibe improves once the younger punters have cleared off post-happy hour (6-9pm). Cheese and meat platters (€15) complement a drinks menu of beers and Chartreuse cocktails.
By the way, take a look at the dragon door crest hanging over N°2 rue de l’Hirondelle.
I’ve got an hour or two to kill …
Around Place Saint-Michel there’s no shortage of classic ways to pass one or two hours in Paris.
Remember, this is an epicenter for tourists. You’ve got Notre Dame, the Saint Chapelle, and the Louvre Museum within comfortable walking distance.
But that’s not the only way to pass the time.
Sometimes I find, when traveling, a good movie is what I’m after. Around Place Saint-Michel, you’ve got plenty of choice for cinemas. Here are three options:
Espace Saint-Michel (7 Place Saint-Michel, 75005) for a good selection of art-house films in their original languages with subtitles.
MK2 (7 Rue Hautefeuille, 75006) for a mix of mainstream and art-house films in original language version with subtitles.
Le Saint-André des Arts (30 Rue Saint-André des Arts, 75006)
A bit further away from Place Saint-Michel is Le Champo Espace Jacques Tati (51 Rue des Écoles, 75005), an art-house cinema. Le Champo is famous for being the haunt of important figures in French cinema. You’ll see re-runs of cinema classics, like Nicole Védrès’ Paris 1900, Alexander Mackendrick’s La Merveilleuse Histoire de Mandy or Mario Monicelli’s Mesdames et Messieurs, Bonsoir.
Another top way to pass an hour or two close to Place Saint-Michel is to visit the Musée national du Moyen Âge (6 Place Paul Painlevé, 75005), the National Museum of the Middle-ages.
Personally, this is one of my little favorites in Paris. Go there for a taste of the Middle-Ages, seeing furniture, tapestries, artworks, objects and sculptures. A feature is the fifteenth century tapestry cycle La Dame à la Licorne. The building itself is wonderful, too.
I need to get some fresh air …
Don’t just go to the Medieval Gardens of the Cluny Museum for the free WIFI. Spend some time there relaxing. Check out the medieval herb garden. Read a book or take a nap.
Or simply go for a stroll along the Seine River. Walk down the stairs at the Pont Saint-Michel and walk along the Quai des Augustins in the direction of the Louvre Museum. Climb the stairs at Pont Neuf and cross to the Ile-de-la-Cité.
There’s a lovely little park on the islands end (Square du Vert-Galant) which is wonderful for views and a popular picnic spot. Want to take a river cruise? You can catch one here at the dock, Vedettes du Pont Neuf. http://www.vedettesdupontneuf.com/home/
Walk through Place Dauphine and see the impressive facade of the Palais de Justice de Paris. Or walk along the the Quai de l’Horloge for views of Paris’ Right Bank. Along the opposite Quair des Orfèvres you can drop into the private Gallery Victor Sfez for avant-garde art (47 Quai des Grands Augustins, 75006) or Gallery du Vert Galant (52 Quai des Orfèvres, 75001) for contemporary art .
Also visit the gothic riverside fortress and French Revolution prison housing Marie Antoinette’s former prison cell at the Conciergerie (2 Boulevard du Palais, 75001).
See all of these addresses on Google Maps
And when you want somewhere to where to stay in Paris near Place Saint-Michel …
As a local Parisian, I can’t say I’ve ever stayed in a hotel in Saint-Michel. I have lived in an apartment on the Quai des Augustins. It was simply fantastic. I miss it.
For you, here are a few hotel addresses close to Place Saint-Michel:
Standard International Hotels
The Holiday Inn (4 Rue Danton, 75006)
Smaller Local Hotels
Hôtel Le Clos Notre Dame (22 Rue de l’Hirondelle, 75006)
Hotel Villa d’Estrees (17 Rue Gît-le-Cœur, 75006)
Hôtel Eugenie (31 Rue Saint-André des Arts, 75006)
Hotel Royal Saint Michel (3 Boulevard Saint-Michel, 75005)
Another excellent accommodation option is to go for a luxurious holiday apartment. It gives you a more local and authentically Parisian experience. We’ve written about this option before.
Check out our post, Where to Stay in Paris, for the Discerning Traveler for a top place to stay near Place Saint-Michel.