Artist Route

Discover in one hour 15 minutes Saint-Germain des Prés and the plain of Grenelle.

  • The ARTIST route will take you towards Saint-Germain des Prés and the plain of Grenelle, in other words through the artistic, literary and diplomatic heart of Paris since the 17th century.
  • The ARTIST route ends rue de l'Amiral de Coligny, in front of la Colonnade du Louvre.

To find out more, move your mouse over the numbered points of interest on the map!

Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral

Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral

Here, in 1163, the Bishop of Paris decided to erect a gothic cathedral in to honour the Virgin Mary. Notre Dame de Paris cathedral was eventually finished one hundred years later. This gothic masterpiece has towers 70 metres high, flying buttresses and immense rose windows, beautifully carved doorways and statue galleries.

Street of the cat that fishes

Street of the cat that fishes

The street of the cat that fishes is one of the narrowest in Paris. According to legend, an alchemist canon had a very clever black cat that fished for fish with its paw. Students believed it was the devil so they killed the cat and threw it into the Seine. But the cat reappeared, quietly fishing, much to the students’ terror...

Saint-Michel Square and Fountain

Saint-Michel Square and Fountain

Place Saint-Michel is a site where students hang out. The fountain and buildings of this square are typical of the architecture of the end of 19th century, as well as its art nouveau underground entrances realised by Hector Guimard around 1900.

Pont Neuf Bridge

Pont Neuf Bridge

Henry the Fourth had the Pont-Neuf built, the first house-less bridge, in 1606. The king thus gave his people somewhere to walk with a panoramic view of the Louvre castle as well as an entertaining outing because jugglers and street acrobats livened up the bridge. Today the Pont-Neuf, which means “new bridge”, is Paris's oldest bridge still standing. Henry the Fourth was assassinated in 1610. His widow Marie de Medici inaugurated his triumphant equestrian statue on the bridge, forgetting her resentment towards her unfaithful husband.

The Mint

The Mint

The Mint was built in 1774 to produce coinage. Here medals and limited editions are still struck, but Euros are industrially produced near Bordeaux, in the south west of France. In the Middle Ages stood the Nesle tower, made famous by a sensational scandal dating back to 1314: the discovery of the adultery of King Philip the Fair's three daughters-in-law! Legend had it that one of the princesses took up where she left off, in secret, by throwing her lovers into the Seine from the Nesle tower.

Institut de France

Institut de France

The Nesle tower was demolished in 1665 to leave room for the Collège of Four Nations. In the beginning, it was a school created by Cardinal Mazarin, minister to King Louis the Fourteenth, a school intended for young nobles from four provinces newly conquered by France. The building, finished in 1671, is the work of Le Vau, the architect of the château of Versailles. It houses Mazarin's library and tomb, as well as, since 1806, the Institut de France and its five scholarly academies. The best known is the Académie Française, an official authority on the correct use of the French language.

Former Buci gate

Former Buci gate

Paris was protected by the wall built by King Philip August towards 1200. Near the Seine, this wall ended with the Nesle tower, and the rue Mazarine was merely a path running alongside the rampart. Since the 13th century you crossed over the wall by the Saint-Germain gate, closed by a drawbridge. It ended up being called Buci gate, after its owner who got rich by taxing imported goods. From here, you took the road to the west, through this already very busy Buci crossroads.

Former Comédie Française

Former Comédie Française

The Comédie Française company was created in the hôtel Guénégaud (current site of the Mint), because of Louis the Fourteenth's desire to establish a unique theatre in Paris. He signed the founding act in 1680 by bringing together the King’s Actors and Molière's former company. Rue de l'Ancienne Comédie, street of the former company, was the Comédie Française's second home. The company set up at number 14 in 1689. It stayed there for a century, before moving to the Odéon theatre.

Café Le Procope

Café Le Procope

The Procope is the oldest café in Paris, opening in 1685. At the Procope, intellectuals from Saint-Germain des Prés made a habit of getting together in the cafés, both philosophers of the age of Enlightenment or revolutionaries a little later.

Odéon Theatre

Odéon Theatre

It was created by King Louis the Fifteenth for the Comédie Française company, namely the official company of the King’s Actors, and inaugurated in 1782. After the revolution, the Comédie Française moved to the Palais-Royal, where it is still today. Rechristened the "Odéon-Theatre of Europe", it now performs works by foreign authors.

Luxembourg Palace and Luxembourg Garden

Luxembourg Palace and Luxembourg Garden

This palace was built in 1615 by architect Salomon de Brosse for Queen Marie de Medici, widow of King Henry the Fourth assassinated in 1610. Splendid garden, with terraces, ponds, caves and fountains. The French Senate occupies the Palais du Luxembourg today. The 346 senators who sit in the palace are responsible for examining legislation put forward by the National Assembly.

Luxembourg Museum

Luxembourg Museum

Direct heir to the tradition of art sponsorship introduced by Marie de Medici. Indeed she developed a remarkable collection of paintings, commissioning Rubens for 24 paintings depicting her life, which you can admire in the Louvre Museum. The Luxembourg Museum schedules exhibitions of international renown, often devoted to the Renaissance in honour of Marie de Medici.

Férou Street

Férou Street

The construction of the Luxembourg Palace in 1615 led to the urbanisation of the Saint-Sulpice district. So its discrete alleyways preserve elegant town houses of the 17th and 18th centuries. The house adorned with sphinxes was built for an actress from the Comédie Française. It accomodated Ernest Hemingway. Number 2 bis housed Man Ray's workshop from the 1950's to his death in 1976. This avant-garde painter and photographer from Philadelphia was one of the main leaders of the great interwar artistic Montparnasse period.

Saint-Sulpice Church and Fountain of the Sacred Orators

Saint-Sulpice Church and Fountain of the Sacred Orators

A classic 18th century work of art (1642-1780). Thanks to its size, it's Paris's second biggest church after Notre Dame cathedral. Its façade was designed by Servandoni in 1726, but the south tower was never completed. Inside the church are a special scientific feature, an astronomic gnomon installed in 1743, and exceptional organs. In the centre of the square, the fountain is a work by sculptor Visconti around about 1845. It represents four bishops from the reign of Louis the Fourteenth, known for being great orators.

Saint-Germain market

Saint-Germain market

Rebuilt in the 19th century, this indoor market perpetuates the memory of the Saint-Germain fair, which has been held here since the 12th century, first of all outdoors then in a covered market three times as big as the current market. Everything was sold here, food and clothes, and a number of road shows were also performed here. Well before Molière, puppets and animal trainers had established the tradition of going on the stage in Saint-Germain des Prés.

Théâtre du Vieux Colombier and Centaure by César

Théâtre du Vieux Colombier and Centaure by César

This theatre, owned by the Comédie Française, is a Mecca of contemporary theatre. In this mythical auditorium stage director Jacques Copeau launched in 1913 the modern theatre of the bare stage, with no sets or props. This district has always had a fondness for avant-garde, as proves, on the square, the bronze Centaur, a self portrait of sculptor César in 1985.

Dragon Street

Dragon Street

This street has welcomed artists since always. During the Renaissance Bernard Palissy, a clever potter, uncovered the secret of enamel. At number 31, the Julian Academy opened at the end of the 19th century. This private school of painting and sculpture rivalled the official Fine Arts School. Some of its students, Sérusier, Bonnard, Denis, Vuillard and Valloton founded the Nabis movement in 1888. In the 1920's, the school trained Dubuffet, Compard, Bazaine.

Saint-Germain des Prés - Cafés and brasseries

Saint-Germain des Prés - Cafés and brasseries

Around 1880, the brand new boulevard housed three cafés: the Brasserie of Lipp, the Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots. These cafés became the haunts for intellectuals from the left bank. Poet Apollinaire was one of the first regulars, and Breton and Aragon founded the surrealist movement there in 1924. Saint-Germain des Prés became internationally renowned after the war. In the day time, the cafés held existentialist meetings of writers Sartre and Beauvoir. At night, in the district's basements, the youth discovered jazz and the left bank style with singer Juliette Gréco.

Saint-Germain des Prés - Church and abbey palace

Saint-Germain des Prés - Church and abbey palace

Saint-Germain-des-Prés's history goes back 1500 years. One of the first kings of the Francs built a church here in 558. This church took the name of the bishop who had consecrated it, Germain. Then it became a big abbey. The bell tower of this abbey, Roman in style and dating back to the year 1000 is still standing. In the 14th century, the abbey was fortified to be able to withstand the English during the Hundred Years war. At the end of the rue de l'Abbaye, the abbey palace of the end of the 16th century is one of the last remaining vestiges of the splendour of Saint-Germain des Prés abbey.

Fürstenberg Square - Delacroix Museum

Fürstenberg Square - Delacroix Museum

The Place Fürstenberg is one of the most charming squares in Paris. There the Delacroix Museum is set up in the studio of painter Eugène Delacroix, head of the 19th century’s romantic school, and whose many works of art are displayed in the Louvre Museum.

Rue de Seine - Galleries of contemporary art

Rue de Seine - Galleries of contemporary art

Art is everywhere in Saint-Germain des Prés, on the façades as well as in the galleries of contemporary art. The rue de Seine is situated on the land of Queen Margot's former palace. Margot, in other words Margaret of Valois, was Henry the Fourth's first wife. After being repudiated by her husband, she had a magnificent palace built here in 1605. She played a big political, social and cultural role and had a strong influence on the district. But after her death in 1615, her palace was dismantled and her estate sold and built on.

Fine Arts School

Fine Arts School

The school covers more than two hectares. At the rear, the Palais des Etudes is its symbolic building. In the foreground, the main courtyard preserves a work of art from the Renaissance: the façade of the Anet château, a work by architect Philibert Delorme and sculptor Jean Goujon. Its façade was transferred here during the revolution by an archaeologist who wanted to create the Museum of French monuments.

Voltaire Quay - Carré Rive Gauche antique dealers

Voltaire Quay - Carré Rive Gauche antique dealers

On Voltaire quay begins the world of the prestigious antique dealers of the "Carré Rive Gauche". This quay, where philosopher Voltaire died in 1778, has always attracted artists. In the 19th century painters Delacroix, then Corot, then Ingres had their studios there, and poet Charles Baudelaire wrote "the Flowers of Evil" there.

Faculty of Medicine

Faculty of Medicine

This huge faculty of medicine (now University Paris V René Descartes) was built in 1953. It completed the complex of the original faculty of medicine situated 800 metres from here. On the façade, medallions represent different manners of treating illnesses all over the world. Above the entrance, work of art by sculptor Landowski.

University Street - Town houses of the 18th century

University Street - Town houses of the 18th century

At number 13, the former headquarters of the E.N.A., a school for civil servants, is now assigned to Political Sciences. At number 15, a monumental sculpted gate. At number 17, the house belongs to Gallimard Publishing Groups, one of France's biggest publishers. You enter Gallimard by number 5 rue Gaston Gallimard. Gallimard's historic flagship is the N.R.F., the Nouvelle Revue Française, founded in 1908: a genuine literary brand that made a name for itself with the greatest French writers of the last one hundred years.

Fountain of the Four Seasons - Maillol Museum

Fountain of the Four Seasons - Maillol Museum

This fountain was built here in 1745 to provide the growing district with water. Sculpted by Edmé Bouchardon, it represents the town of Paris between the Seine and Marne rivers, surrounded by children in the four seasons. Next to it the Maillol Museum displays collections by sculptor Aristide Maillol, friend of Gauguin and the Nabis, known for his feminine and well rounded sculpted bodies.

Grenelle Street - Town houses of the 18th century

Grenelle Street - Town houses of the 18th century

Rue de Grenelle, this former path that linked Paris to the village of Grenelle, perfectly illustrates the interest in property and lifestyle in the 18th century. It conceals an exceptional heritage, spared by the revolutions and restored by the embassies and ministries that occupied these sumptuous residences.

Hôtel du Châtelet - Ministry of Labour

Hôtel du Châtelet - Ministry of Labour

The son of Voltaire's mistress had this refined residence built in 1780 but had little chance to enjoy it, being guillotined during the revolution. The town house now houses the Ministry of Labour.

Hôtel Biron - Rodin Museum

Hôtel Biron - Rodin Museum

The Hôtel Biron was built around 1730 in the middle of a three hectare park. This town house, intended to be demolished, was saved by a squat of artists. In fact, in the beginning of the 20th century, Jean Cocteau, Henri Matisse and Auguste Rodin took over this abandoned place. To save it, Rodin suggested bequeathing all his collections to the State, provided that the town house became the Rodin Museum. The Museum opened in 1919, two years after the sculptor died, and the garden was populated with his monumental bronzes.

Hôtel des Invalides and Dome Church

Hôtel des Invalides and Dome Church

Louis the Fourteenth had the Hôtel des Invalides built in 1670, to welcome his wounded war soldiers. The establishment was used as a hospice, convent and barracks simultaneously. At the heart of the Invalides, Saint-Louis church is made up of two churches back to back: one for the soldiers (1679) and one for the king (the Dome Church, finished in 1706 by Jules Hardouin-Mansart). This dome is 107 metres high and covered with 12 kilos of gold. The crypt of the Dome Church also houses Napoleon the First's tomb. Don't miss the Army Museum and the Scale Model Museum either.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The offices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs lie behind a long façade on the Esplanade des Invalides. The Ministry was built around 1850 and nicknamed "le Quai d'Orsay", because foreign diplomatic delegations are received by the Seine. 150 diplomatic representations are present in Paris, and a lot of them are next to here.

Hôtel de Lassay

Hôtel de Lassay

The Hôtel de Lassay is the residence of the president of the Assembly. This palace and its neighbour the Palais-Bourbon were built at the same time in 1722, to facilitate the love affair between the Marquis of Lassay and the Duchess of Bourbon, illegitimate daughter of Louis the Fourteenth.

Palais Bourbon - National Assembly

Palais Bourbon - National Assembly

The Palais Bourbon and its neighbour the Hôtel de Lassay were built at the same time in 1722, to facilitate the love affair between the Marquis of Lassay and the Duchess of Bourbon. Now it is the National Assembly (the National Assembly and the Senate constitute the French parliament). The 577 MP's who are members of the Assembly are responsible for preparing and voting laws. They are elected by direct universal suffrage every five years. At the centre of the square, the marble statue named The Law (1855) represents the Constitution holding the sceptre of justice and the Tables of the Law.

Hôtel de Brienne - Ministry of Defence

Hôtel de Brienne - Ministry of Defence

The Hôtel de Brienne, built in 1724, is occupied by the Ministry of Defence.

Sainte-Clotilde Basilica

Sainte-Clotilde Basilica

Behind the chestnut trees and the Judas trees stand the spires of Sainte-Clotilde that are as high as the towers of Notre Dame. Decided on in 1840, this Paris's first neo-gothic church stirred up a lively debate. Sainte-Clotilde was finished in 1857 by architect Ballu, future author of the Paris Town Hall, who decorated its porch with statues of kings and saints as in medieval times. The first holder of the organ was composer César Franck. In 1896, the pope raised Sainte-Clotilde to the rank of basilica.

Hôtel von Salm - Palace of the Legion of Honour

Hôtel von Salm - Palace of the Legion of Honour

This district on the Seine riverside was rebuilt at the end of the 19th century, after having been totally burnt down in 1871 during the violent working class revolt called the Paris “Commune". The 18th century palace, which had belonged to German Prince von Salm, was also destroyed by the flames. It was rebuilt exactly as it was for the Palace of the Legion of Honour. Here are administered the highest French decorations and medals.

Former Orsay Station - Orsay Museum

Former Orsay Station - Orsay Museum

On the site of the former Palais d'Orsay (former Council of State and Court of Auditors) that had been ravaged by the fire in 1871 during the Commune, Orsay station was built, a rail station intended to welcome visitors for the Universal Exhibition of 1900. Abandoned later, the station and its luxury hotel with 370 bedrooms were turned into a national museum devoted to art from 1848 to 1914. The Orsay Museum was inaugurated in 1986. A number of works of art are displayed there, illustrating all the trends of the 60 years of artistic revolution including impressionism of course.

Pont Royal Bridge

Pont Royal Bridge

The Pont Royal bridge was built in 1685 under the reign of Louis the Fourteenth. It has remained intact ever since.

Louvre Museum

Louvre Museum

The biggest and most visited museum in the world. It presents western art from Antiquity to 1848. The Museum of Arts was inaugurated in 1793, just after the French revolution. Champollion, the scholar who had decoded hieroglyphics, supplied the department of Egyptian antiquities and made the Louvre one of the greatest Egyptian museums of the world. The latest building to date, christened the "Grand Louvre", was carried out by President Mitterrand. It allowed the redeployment of collections. The daring glass pyramid (Pei-1989) is now inseparable from the success of the Grand Louvre.

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