Thursday, May 11, 2006


Since the Middle Ages this riverside quarter has been dominated by the Sorbonne, and acquired its name from the early latin-speaking students. It dates back to the Roman town across the Ile de la Cité.

The area is generally associated with artists, intellectual and a bohemian way of life; this is mainly due to the thousands of students that live around.

But the place also has a history of political unrest : In 1871, the Place Saint Michel became the center of the Paris Commune, and in may 1968, it was a site of student uprising.

Today the eastern half has become sufficiently chic, however, to house members of the French Establishment.

The place contains many of the Paris monuments, museums and gardens, ranging from the brand-new Institut du Monde Arabe to the Middle Ages Musée de Cluny, or the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in the Jardin des Plantes.

The domed landmark now known as the Panthéon was commisioned around 1750 as an abbey church, but because of financial problems the massive structure wasn't completed until 1789.

Two years later, the Constituent Assembly converted it into a secular mausoleum for the great men of the era of French liberty. After a further stint as a church, the Panthéon once again became a secular necropolis

Permanent guests of the Panthéon include Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Louis Braille, Emile Zola, Jean Moulin, René Cassin and Pierre et Marie Curie

The Panthéon's ornate marble interior is gloomy in the extreme, but you get a great view of the city from around the colonnated dome, which is visible from all over Paris.

Address : Place du Panthéon, 5th. Phone: 43 54 34 51. From october to March, open daily 10 am-5.30 pm. the rest of the year, 10 am-6 pm.


Paris's most famous university, the Sorbonne, was founded in 1253 by Robert de Sorbon, confessor of Louis IX (Saint Louis), as a college for 16 poor theology students.

After centuries as France's major theological centre, it was closed in 1792 by the Revolutionary government but was reopened under Napoleon.

Today, the Sorbonne's main complex -(bounded by Rue de la Sorbonne, Rue des Ecoles, Rue Saint Jacques and rue Cujas) and other buildings in the vicinity house several of the 13 autonomous universities created when the Université de Paris was reorganised following the violent student protests in 1968.

Place de la Sorbonne links Blvd Saint Michel with Chapelle de la Sorbonne, the University's domed church, which was built between 1635 and 1642. It is closed except when there are special exhibitions.

Address : Place de la Sorbonne, 5th: it cannot be visited, since it is a university, except when public displaying.

Institut du Monde Arabe :

Built in the late 80's, this cultural centre for Arab countries was designed by Jean Nouvel, and is a clever blend of high tech steel and glass architecture and Arab influences, especially as concerns Moorish-styled windows.

The museum has been lent artefacts from collections in France and all over the Arab world including rare archaeological remains from Palmyra in Syria and Carthage in Tunisia.

Address : 1 rue des fossés Saint Bernard, 5th . Phone 40 51 38 38. open Tue-Sun 10am-6pm.

Musée de Cluny (musée du Moyen Age) :

This crenellated building was the Paris home for the medieval abbots of Cluny. It was built on the ruins of a Gallo-Roman baths complex, which is now partly restored.

The museum houses an exceptional collection of artefacts, including the celebrated "Lady and the Unicorn" tapestries, medieval statuary, enamels, ivory, fabrics, illuminated manuscripts and precious metalworks.

Address : 6 place Paul Painlevé, 5th. Phone 43 25 62 00. Open Mon, Wed-Sun 9.15am-5.45pm.

Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle

Within the Jardin des Plantes botanical garden, the reopened Grande Galerie de l'Evolution has taken Paris's Natural Hitory Museum out of the dinosaur age.

Stuffed animals and skeletons have been restored and the latest lighting and audiovisual techniques are used to present a rich array of species in their ecological an evolutionary contexts.

Collections of geology, fossils, skeletons and insects are housed in separated buildings over the park.

Address : 57 rue Cuvier, 5th. Phone : 40 79 30 00. open Mon, Wed, Fri-Sun 10am-6pm; Thur 10am-10pm.