Looking for old-time artistic Paris
The buzzling Montmartre district is one of the places to visit in this sense. It was here that during the 19th century, poets and artists gathered. The shortest road leaves from Place Blanche and climbs the lively Rue Lepic market street, continuing on along Rue de Abbesses, Rue Ravignon and other flights of steps.
A spectacular view of the city it is offered by taking the rack-railway to the Roman- Byzantine Sacre Coeur church. It is around there and more precisely at Place du Tertre, a picturesque square and high-point of Paris, that portrait artists and souvenir sellers still congregate.
In this zone it is possible to stroll through the narrow twisting streets, squares and walk along the small hill-side terraces. Another arty district located on the east bank of the Seine is the Germain-de-Pres home to cafes, jazz-clubs and antique shops. It is an area which was frequented by intellectuals during the 1950’s and 60’s at the time of Novelle Vague. The well-known Lipp brasserie, decorated with multi-coloured tiles, is a favourite meeting point for politicians, while Les Deux Margots, the preferred choice of Hemingway, is still popular today (6, Place du Saint-Germain-des-Prés ; ph :+33 01.45.48.55.25).
Home to French poets Rimbaud, his friend Verlaine, and Mallarmé and painter Picasso, as well as a score of other creatives, Les Deux Magots is a ode to history. Taking it’s name from the Chinese fabric shop that had the space before it, it has been an institution since the late 1800s and the decor is from 1914. This café is incredibly expensive, but, you might only be in Paris once in your life… or you can afford a plain coffee. Café de Flore (172, Boulevard Saint Germain ; ph :+33 01.45.48.55.26) in the same district, is one of the rare café that during WW II was able to serve its customers underneath the bombs.
On its chairs some of the most famous writers, philosophers and artists spent entire days dialoguing and building up a new idea of society: Picasso, Sartre, De Beavoir, Giacometti were some of its clients.The city’s other artist’s district is Montparnasse, frequented by such artists as Picasso and Matisse. The district, situated on the left bank, is the site of Carrefour Vavin with its studios and cafes, very popular during the 1920’s and 30’s. Today the area houses cinemas and restaurants and is the site of the second largest tower in Europe, the glass and steel Tour de Montparnasse. The Montparnasse Cemetry, situtated in Rue Emile Richard, is the resting place of writers, poets and sculpturers ( De Maupassant, Sartre, De Beauvoir, Tzara, Baudelaire).
We cannot miss to remind the oldest restaurant in Paris: The Procope and the first café, opened in 1686. (13, Rue de l’Ancienne Comédie; Ph. +33 01 40 46 79 00; Metro:Odéon) The owner was Francesco Procopio Dei Coltelli. In 1689, the Comédie-Française moved to opposite the Procope and, between shows, the café became THE café for theatre-goers and actors. Voltaire, Rousseau and Diderot were loyal regulars and the Encyclopaedia was born under the crystal centre-lights of the Procope. During the revolution, Danton, Marat could all be found here. Benjamin Franklin even fine-tuned the American constitution here. Menu from 30 euros.
After dinner you might try a drink with some cool jazz at the Bob Cool (15, Rue des Grands Augustin; Metro Station: Odéon or St-Michel; ph: 01-46-33-33-77). A laid back left bank bar, this attracts the kind of crowds you’d expect from the left bank-old style. Writers, poets and artists are said to gather here to drink the night away.
Some hotels in the area are worth mentioning starting with the Bac Saint Germain hotel, Taylor Hotel, Mon Reve and Des Artes hotels. They all keep a very nice French atmosphere, with colourful rooms and stylish lounges where to relax or drink something. Very value for money and location also.