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Montparnasse : a walk through the past


Embark on a delightful two-hour walk through the Montparnasse area, a district renowned for its artistic legacy and bustling café culture. This journey will take you through the vibrant streets of Montparnasse and culminate in the serene Luxembourg Garden. My favourite area in Paris.

La Rotonde in Montparnasse - photo : Adam Ling on Unsplash

Starting Point: Metro Gaîté

Start your exploration at Metro Gaîté down Rue de la Gaîté, an area known for its lively theater scene and bustling ambiance with many bars and restaurants. A couple of centuries ago, this was just outside the borders of Paris, and a perfect place to dance and party.

Stop 1: Metro Edgar Quinet

This nice place is surrounded by cafes and restaurants., so full of life at night! Take a seat on the terrace of Café Odessa or Café de la place, and feel the ambience, you’re in one of the beating hearts of Paris.

Stop 2: Montparnasse Tower (optional)

When you arrive near metro Edgar Guinet, take a look on the left to see the huge Montparnasse tower. While it’s known for its panoramic views of Paris, the base of the tower offers a less-known sculpture garden, perfect for art enthusiasts. It’s worth going on top to get a beautiful view (including Eiffel tower, that you won’t see when you visit it).

Stop 3: crêperies at rue du Montparnasse

Continue your walk from rue de la Gaîté, straight ahead in Rue du Montparnasse. This street is famous for its many crêperies (pancake restaurants). There are so many of them here because Montparnasse train station is near and many trains were coming from Britanny, thus many people from this Western region brought their know-how and created crêperies restaurants.
I highly recommend Le Petit Josselin on the right side and Chez Jeanne on the left side.

Go down the stret to reach Boulevard du Montparnasse : you see the Notre-Dame des Champs church in front (translation : Our lady from the fields : a reminder that this part of Paris was not inside Paris, but full of green fields in the country 3 centuries ago). Turn right.

Stop 4: La Coupole

La Coupole is an iconic Art Deco brasserie. Frequented by famous artists and writers, it’s the perfect spot for a photo with its stunningly preserved 1920s decor.
La Coupole was a popular haunt for writers ansd artists during the 1920s.
It’s also a very good place to have a classical (and good) French meal.

Stop 5: Le Dôme Café

Continue your walk to Le Dôme, another legendary Montparnasse café, once a gathering place for artists and intellectuals.
Have a meal there to experiment a very, very classic French meal (but a bit pricy).

Just across the boulevard du Montparnasse, you can see La Rotonde, a famous café that was a favorite haunt of artists like Picasso and Modigliani. Imagine the lively discussions and debates that took place here among leading figures of the avant-garde art world.

Turn right in Boulevard Raspail after crossing it and move forward until you reach rue Campagne Première, just after sa small Garden.

Stop 7: rue Campagne Première

Turn left and stroll down Rue Campagne Première, a street filled with history. Here, you’ll find the former studio of Man Ray, the renowned photographer and Dada and Surrealist artist. The street has a bohemian charm and starts with one of the most beautiful art nouveau buildings in Paris: André Arfvidson’s studio building. A brilliant cameo of ochres and beiges punctuated by garlands runs down the façade. This flamed stoneware invented by ceramist Bigot is reminiscent of Art Nouveau. At the time, however, the wide windows of these workshops met all the ideals of modernity: central heating, telephone, light…

In 1922, Man RAY, who had become a successful photographer of French artists, American writers and his companion “KIKI”, the official model of Montparnasse, rented the studio to the left of the entrance to n° 31bis. In 1929, ARAGON in turn was able to offer Elsa TRIOLLET this flattering address as a famous artist. When they met at the Coupole bar in 1922, Elsa was staying at the Hotel ISTRIA (just besides this building).

At the end of the street, you’re back on boulevvard du Montparnasse. Cross it and go right, till you reach a green spot : a restaurant surrounded by plants.

Stop 8: la Closerie des Lilas

Surrounded by plants to keep some privacy and offer a good ambience, the historic Closerie des Lilas is a famous café and brasserie that has been a favorite haunt for artists and writers like Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Picture the literary giants discussing their works over coffee in this very spot.
It’s still a place for writers literary prize.

Stop 8: Jardin des Grands-Explorateurs

Jardin des Grands-Explorateurs (Great Explorers Garden) is a first parc before reaching Luxembourg Garden. Full of life allday, with runners in the morning, students at noon, elder people in the afternoon and kids playing after school. Before entering , take a look at the beautiful fountain “Fontaine des Quatre-Parties-du-Monde” (Fountain of the Four Parts of the World).

Walk inside this park while looking at the buildings : on the right, beautiful (and very expensive) flats, on the left, interesting buildings hosting universities.

Stop 9: Jardin du Luxembourg

The Luxembourg Garden (Parisians call it “Le Luco“) is a true oasis in the heart of Paris. Enjoy the lush greenery, fountains, and statues.
It was created in the 17th century by Marie de Medici and is modeled after the Boboli Gardens in Florence.

While in the garden, visit the Medici Fountain, a romantic and historic spot featuring mythological sculptures and a serene spot for photos.
The secluded benches around the fountain offer a quiet spot for contemplation.

There are plenty of things to be said about the place, but the best thing is to wander in the many alleys and be surprised by the different landscapes and the beauty of the place.

You can exit by the main entrance and head towards the Panthéon, take the RER at station Luxembourg or take one of the many buses (the 38 bus goes North, going through Chatelet and Le Marais area).

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