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Montparnasse - Denfert Rochereau - Jardin du Luxembourg

See the next district

Montparnasse is historically the artists’ district in Paris. Even though the place has changed with time, it has not lost its soul. Before going there, a stop at the Luxembourg Gardens is a must for anyone who wants to breathe in the Paris of Dutronc as it is waking up.

Map Montparnasse - Denfert Rochereau - Jardin du Luxembourg

The Luxembourg Gardens, the 'Luco’ for those in the know, is an atmosphere. The Luxembourg Palace, now the home of the French Senate, is a place that can be appreciated through a visit, but the gardens emanate a soul that can’t be captured quite so formally. The soul of the Médicis who created the gardens in the 17th century? The soul of the chair ladies, who, until 1974, would rent chairs to people walking in the gardens for a few cents? The soul of the 106 statues who have made the park famous, just like the photo exhibition on the fence outside?

The nearby district of Montparnasse is more mixed. From its tower at a height of 210 metres, you will be struck by the 360° panoramic view of the area’s urban immensity. The building contrasts sharply with the still palpable history of the district, frequented in 1913 by young Fauvists, including Picasso himself.

On the boulevards you can still find the distinctive architecture of the buildings with their large glass roofs, these artists’ studios that nowadays are much sought-after lofts. This was the home of the School of Paris, including figures such as Soutine, Foujita, Gris, Léger, Modigliani and Matisse. And one form of art never exists alone, so there were writers, also, such as Sartre (buried in a nearby cemetery), Joyce, Miller, Faulkner or Hemingway, living in this area.

You can follow in their footsteps at the Closerie des Lilas, at the Dôme, the Rotonde, the Coupole or the Bœuf Sur le Toit. If jazz is your thing, the Petit Journal or Bobino will invite you in. Or maybe you prefer the theatre; you’ll find numerous venues on the Rue de la Gaieté or the Rue de Montparnasse.

After a stop at the splendid Fondation Cartier centre for contemporary art you’ll pass in front of a copy of the Lion of Belfort by Bartholdi (the designer of the Statue of Liberty) at the place Denfert-Rochereau, on your way into the macabre belly of Paris, in the heart of the Catacombs. Brace yourself; this trip underground will paradoxically leave an indelible mark on you. And to help restore your emotional equilibrium, you can then stroll down the Rue Daguerre with its many food shops, and perhaps have a bite to eat at the famous Brasserie Zeyer.

Must-see sites
  • Luxembourg Palace and Gardens
  • The Paris Observatory
  • Bon Marché in Sèvres-Babylone
  • Hôtel Lutécia (Art nouveau facade)
  • Montparnasse Cemetery
  • Montparnasse Tower
  • The Catacombs at the Place Denfert-Rochereau
  • Fondation Cartier
  • Rue Daguerre
  • Rues Montparnasse and de la Gaité