Neighbourhood guides: Live like a local in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris
27 Apr 2022
Saint-Germain was the original stomping grounds of the great twentieth-century thinkers, artists, and writers, as well as some of Europe’s most-celebrated creatives — Simone de Beauvoir, Hemingway, and Matisse for example. So naturally, many come from far and wide to stroll the same narrow streets and grand boulevards to take in its storied history.
Today the heart and soul of the 6th arrondissement, St-Germain-des-Prés, is still one of Paris’ most charming neighbourhoods. It features fine food shops, restaurants, markets and picturesque streets lined with cafés, a plenty. If wandering around is your favourite way to discover a city, this is the area to start with.
Here are our favourite spots.
Enter the Crayola-coloured shelved space at Arty Dandy, and you’ll discover everything from tribal-inspired earrings to retro-inspired sunglasses, and attention grabbing Bearbricks to contemporary scents. It’s perfect for souvenirs and gifts.
Les Deux Magots
Les Deux Magots is famous for a good reason, and their chocolat chaud a l’ancienne draws in the crowds, while its famous clientele also peaks people’s interest: Ernest Hemingway, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, James Joyce, Pablo Picasso, Julia Child and Bertolt Brecht were all frequent visitors. It’s one of the oldest coffee houses in Paris and you won’t find a better spot for people watching, either.
Shakespeare and Co
This just might be the most famous bookstore in the world. You’ll notice the vibe is more like a cluttered country home than a standard shop – books are piled haphazardly from floor to ceiling. It’s also home to a rich literary history: the space has played host to famous American writers like Allen Ginsberg, Ernest Hemingway, William Burroughs, and William Styron.
Eggs and Co
This cheery, wood-beam lined spot is packed come weekend. So, we recommend going during the week. They offer every conceivable iteration of egg dish, but the Coco Meurette may just be our favourite – it features poached eggs submerged in a dreamy red wine and mushroom sauce.
Prescription Cocktail Club
This is the third venture from the Experimental Cocktail Club team, and like its predecessors, Prescription Cocktail Club is cosy yet chic. The cocktails are both creative and delicious, and the perfect place if you’re feeling a little adventurous – opt for the Mazarine, instead of the classic Mojito, as this house speciality of champagne and red berries is sumptuously delectable.
Kamel Mennour is a fascinating and powerful figure in the contemporary art scene. Back in 1999, he opened this teeny, tiny gallery in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, and hoped he would one day exhibit his favourite works from the likes of Annie Leibovitz, Larry Clark, Araki. Less than five years later, his space is the spot for contemporary photography in all of Paris.
Freddy’s is a vibe: The rustic stone walls, chevron floors, and artfully arranged bundles of wildflowers housed in old glass bottles, set the scene perfectly. The owner, Juan, also runs the wine shop extraordinaire La Dernière Goutte, around the corner, and so this is the spot for those who consider themselves in the know, when it comes to wine, that is.
Love cheese? Then you’ll love this spot – it’s literally packed to the rafters with the stuff. The kind of place you’ll smell before you see. The owner, Nicole Barthélemy, and her team of cheesemongers are always on hand to help with recommendations and samples.
While the St. Germain district's reputation was built on legendary Parisian cafés like Les Deux Magots and Le Café de Flore, these days there’s a whole new variety of cafés percolating throughout the neighbourhood. Judy is one of them.
Speciality spot, Saint Pearl, is another welcomed addition to the ‘hood. It’s perfect for plant-based diets, and those who like matcha in their lattes. The only problem? Everything on the menu looks great, and so making a final decision isn’t easy.