The Latin Quarter is fun, fun, fun, fun. Don't let the hoards of tourists deter you. There are tons of international restaurants and neat things to do and see.
With all-night cabarets, raucous Greek restaurants, kabob stands, night clubs, ex-pat bars, fondue bistros, late night cafés, rotisseries, Mexican establishments, Italian trattorias, and Tunisian pastries – this quarter has got it all.
One would think the 5th arrondissement, was named the Latin Quarter after the many Latin restaurants and late night festivities. But in fact, it was named in the Middle Ages because the Monks and students that inhabited the area spoke and studied Latin, the language of learning.
This makes a lot of sense considering that Notre Dame is just a stone throws away, across the Seine, and that many universities have popped up over time around the area.
Now, however, I don't think anyone gets any studying done in the 5th. The most pious of activities includes raising a pint of beer to your lips while praying that your wallet doesn't get stolen at the same time. There are pickpockets in the area, so it's good to be cautious. Finally that money belt will get some use.
But, I've never had any problems and I've done countless stupid things like leave my purse unattended at my favorite cabaret and my keys in the door upon returning to my apartment.
First on the international eateries to visit is the Tunisian Patisserie on rue de la Harpe. This place is an institution. The desserts are syrupy and often filled with nuts and spices – a welcome unusual break from French pastries.
If you're looking for savory street food to munch on while strolling through the cobblestone streets and Medieval architecture, then a kabob is the perfect accomplice.
Don't just go to any kabob stand, because many slice up this strange phony compressed white meat that I can't quite place (Chicken? Lamb? What?!?!?). There is one stand on Rue de la Huchette, called Souvlaki, that serves up real lamb and piles on fresh hot french fries and lots of sauce. And they are open late night – my dinner after work.
A perfect place to grab a book or hear a reading by an author is the bookstore Shakespeare & Co. This shop is often a meeting place for students and ex-pats.
My favorite place to hang out on weekend nights is the cabaret Aux Trois Mailletz on rue Galande, that offers unpretentious bistro food till early in the morning.
Upstairs they have an old rickety piano and people bring their sheet music and sing various show tunes, French standards, arias, and pop music. Downstairs you can pay for dinner and a show in a large cave and watch professional performers. Very relaxed and always entertaining and not touristy at all. This is a great place to watch the French let their hair down and join in with the chorus.
Right across from the cabaret is Le Guillotine Pub with Le Caveau des Oubliettes (the cave of the forgotten) underneath. This pub is said to have once held prisoners in its cave during the French Revolution before their heads were chopped off. Now, the cave below the bar is used for blues, jazz, and rock n roll. There's no entrance fee and I especially enjoy the eclectic mix of ex-pats, tourists, and French university students.
If drinking and rebel rousing is not your thing, then perhaps church going is? The often over looked Eglise St. Séverin on rue St. Séverin is a gothic beauty with unusual twisting spires and stain glass. It houses an enormous antique organ and hosts concerts in the evening.
No, it wasn't listed in The Da Vinci code, but it is still worth a look. Don't miss the art collection in the small prayer room or the peaceful enclosed courtyard.
Right across from the church St. Séverin is the goat rotisserie. I've never eaten here, but the stuffed goat stands outside every day and welcomes me home. Sometimes they paint the French flag on its forehead for rugby games. I've often thought about kidnapping the goat just for fun, but it's become as much a part of this quarter as I have. And I'm sure it's the most photographed attraction in Paris next to the Eiffel tower and the l'Arc de Triumph.
I've left out quite a number of fun restaurants, clubs, and bars but there are just too many fun places to list in one post. No doubt, if you come to my hood, you will discover them on your own.