Left Bank

Left Bank
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Paris 5th district

Having overflowed from the Ile de la Cité the major part of the Roman city was to be found here. The Celtic Iron Age people the Parisii who had settled on the banks of the river Seine from the middle of the 3rd century BC and were vanquished in 52 BC by the Roman troops had spread over here during the second century BC. The layout of rue St Jacques and many nearby streets bear witness to this long-gone era, as do the Forum (rue Soufflot), the Thermae (the remains of which are in Cluny Museum) and the vestiges of the arenas (les arènes de Lutèce). The area also witnessed the appearance of ecclesiastical institutions such as Ste Geneviève and St Victor abbeys, as well as the “enceinte de Philippe Auguste” (1180-1220), the oldest city wall with an accurately known plan and which is still partially visible. The “Salpetriere” and “Val de Grace” hospitals were subsequently built here along with the Jardin des Plantes, France’s major botanical garden.

The former Philippe Auguste wall divides the district into two. First, the section within the fortifications known as "Université" in the Middle Ages with its numerous colleges including the Sorbonne. Thi still boasts many 15th, 16th and 17th century buildings. Surrounded by boulevards, the second is the more modern and airy “exterior” area which developed during the 18th and 19th centuries.

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Paris 6th district

Bordered by the “Montagne Ste Geneviève” hillock, “Mount Parnasse” and the “Invalides” hillock, this district also once had a Roman settlement on the site of what is today Luxembourg Gardens. In the sixth century, St Germain-des-Prés Abbey was constructed and, along with the sizeable village that surrounded it, became an important hub for urban and ecclesiastical life. The Philip Augustus wall surrounded the “Université” neighbourhood, and the “Cordeliers”, “Grands Augustins” and “Chartreux” neighbourhoods grew a short distance away. Each still today has its own distinct atmosphere: students swarm around rue de Seine and rue de Tournon, while around Luxembourg Gardens the rest of the district is more recent and somewhat more airy. In the Second Empire period the “La Closerie des Lilas” café/piano bar and the renowned “Bal Bullier” ballroom launched the Montparnasse area, which was to remain in vogue until after the Second World War. The construction of the 210-metre high “Tour Montparnasse” sadly led to the neighbourhood losing some of its attractive features. The skyscraper nonetheless has the redeeming feature of offering a truly exceptional view of the capital from its roof terrace.

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Paris 7th district

While the first six numerical districts are the capital’s oldest areas, from the 7th District on we move into a different period. Apart from the western “Pré-aux-Clercs” area where the “Queen Margot’s gardens” were created in the early 17th century, the first buildings, essentially for ecclesiastical communities, were built during the reign of Louis XIV. The buildings that make up les Invalides with their remarkable gilded dome were completed at the beginning of the following century, and the Ecole Militaire at the end of the following reign (1759). It was also during this period that many sumptuous private mansions, among them Brienne, Matignon and Bourbon, were built. The Abbaye-aux-Bois Cistercian convent, an establishment renowned for the education of the nobility’s daughters, was until the early 20th century also in this district. It was here that Madame Récamier received a daily visit from writer and politician Chateaubriand. Although during the Revolution the Champ de Mars had witnessed many significant and dramatic events, it was until 1860 also the site for a racecourse. It is here that in 1889 the Eiffel Tower was constructed to celebrate the bicentennial of the Revolution. Originally intended as a temporary exhibit, the “Iron Lady” was almost torn down and scrapped in 1909. Thankfully due to potential as a radiotelegraph station, “she” survived to undoubtedly become one of the world’s best-known landmarks. 

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