25 April 2022

Guided tour of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district

Hello and welcome to this new guided tour of a district of Paris by New York Habitat.

Today we're going to visit a lively district of Paris and a fashionable place: Saint-Germain-des-Prés. This episode is the first of a trilogy devoted to Saint-Germain-des-Prés, of which the other two parts are as follows:

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Located just south of the Seine and west of the Latin Quarter, Saint-Germain-des-Prés was once occupied by a large monastery and a small town.

The monastery was founded in 532 by Childebert, the second king of France. Although it became prosperous and powerful, the monastery did not survive the Viking raids of the 9th century.

The monks camped in the ruins until 990, when the monastery was rebuilt by King Robert the Pious. The town between the monastery and the city was very lively. Theatres even appeared.

In the 17th century, the city had already become an artistic and literary centre and was able to host Lully's first opera, Molière's first plays and the first Comédie Française.

The construction of the Romanesque church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés began around the year 1000 and it is one of the oldest churches in Paris. The rounded arches, small windows and thick bell tower walls are typical of the Romanesque style.

The Saint-Germain-des-Prés district quickly became a meeting place for artists, intellectuals and writers.

As early as the 17th century the village was home to writers such as Racine and La Rochefoucauld. In the 19th century painters such as Delacroix and Manet and writers such as Balzac also settled here, as did Benjamin Franklin and Oscar Wilde.

In the 1920s, many Americans were attracted by the charm of this neighbourhood. Even Hemingway and his wife lived here and Henry Miller was often here as well.

Later Picasso moved here and it was here that he painted Guernica.

Life here is concentrated in the centre of the square in front of the church and in three famous cafés in the vicinity. The square is a popular meeting place, often with musicians and sculptures on display. Les Deux Magots, 6 place de L'Église Saint-Germain-des-Prés, takes its name from the two Chinese statues that have been on display inside since the café was a silk shop. When it opened, the café was a favourite of poets such as Verlaine and Rimbaud.

In the 1930s, Picasso also liked to come here. In the late 1930s, the café was frequented by the existentialist philosopher Jean Paul Sartre and the writers Camus and Prévert.

Once the café became a favourite of the German occupiers in Paris, Sartre and his colleagues abandoned it for the Café de Flore a block away at 172 Boulevard Saint-Germain. The owner made the first floor available to them for sitting, sipping coffee and writing. It was here that Sartre wrote his famous treatise: Being and Nothingness. The other famous place to stop for a drink is the Brasserie Lipp, across the street at 151 Boulevard St-Germain. It was popular with poets André Gide and Paul Valéry in the 1920s and it was here that Hemingway wrote A Farewell to Arms.

The Institut de France at 23 quai Conti, with its distinctive dome, was built in the 17th century for Louis XIV's first minister, Mazarin. It now houses the 5 French academies of arts and sciences.

Of course, the best way to live like a Parisian is to rent a furnished flat in the heart of this famous district, such as this superb holiday rental located in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Don't forget that New York Habitat offers other furnished rentals in Saint-Germain-des-Prés and everywhere in ParisWhether it's a holiday rental or furnished flats.

We hope you have enjoyed the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area, where culture and history meet.

Thank you for taking this tour with New York Habitat.

We hope to see you soon in the streets of Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

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