Boutique hotels, shops and bistros make the sixth arrondissement one of the most stylish parts of Paris for a short break. Here are six reasons why.
1. Convenient Location
Bordering the Seine, with the Latin Quarter to the east, Les Invalides to the west and Montparnasse in the south, the sixth is the ultimate Left Bank location. As well as several Metro lines, the RER (suburban railway) Line C stops at the Musée d’Orsay on the edge of the seventh, providing a direct link to Versailles, Line B, from Charles de Gaulle Airport, stops at St Michel (just in the fifth), while Montparnasse Railway station is a hub for trains to Brittany and the South West as well as for bus connections to Orly airport. If you’re feeling energetic you can still walk to places like the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower or the Champs Elysées or just take a cab.
2. Good Neighbourhood
Although the sixth is only a short distance from many of Paris’s main attractions, it is less crowded than more popular zones such as a Latin Quarter, or the Ile de la Cité. The streets are a mixture of elegant apartment buildings with tall shuttered windows, and individual shops. You may get squeezed off the pavement by a chic maman pushing a pram, but at least you don’t have to swerve through living statues or people hawking knock-off goods. Property prices are high; however, the area retains an air of authenticity unlike zones dominated by tourists. All arrondissements have their vibe - be that classy e.g the 16th, edgy e.g. the third, or sleazy (I won't mention the area). However, the sixth is simply stylish.
3. Shopping Haven
Whether you are looking for a perfect dress, a gorgeous baby outfit, designer shoes or beautiful stationary, there are boutiques along virtually every street. Some of the best include Rue du Cherche Midi, with its quirky interior shops; Boulevard St Germain for designer stores; Rue du Bac for general fashion; Rue Vaneau for books; Rue de la Seine for art and Rue de Sèvres for gourmet shops. If time is short, or if the weather is vile, Le Bon Marché department store at Sèvres Babylon Metro has everything from fashion to food with its ground floor Grand Epicerie de Paris serving as a French style Fortnum and Mason, www.lebonmarche.com. The Marche du St Germain, 14 Rue Lobineau, www.marche-saint-germain.com, has over 20, mostly mid-range, fashion boutiques and cafes in a mall style complex which also contains local administration offices and a public swimming pool (3 Euros).
4. Chic Hotels
There are no palace hotels like the Crillon or George V in the sixth; instead you have a good selection of chic boutique hotels for those who don’t require so many additional services. Although hotels such as La Belle Juliette are less expensive than grander establishments, the vibrantly designed rooms with king-sized beds, walk-in showers, an i-mac screen and free Wi-Fi, are very comfortable. Named after Juliette Recamier, an 18th century socialite, hotel corridors feature engravings from the period depicting her famous guests. Downstairs there is Le Talma, an elegant black and pink bar where you can sip cocktails or linger over breakfast, while the beautifully lit basement spa is a luxurious treat after a day shopping.
Close to the Jardin du Luxembourg, Villa Madame is another chic retreat with free Wi-Fi. Rooms are decorated in calming neutrals with flashes of orange. Fashion prints adorn the walls, while the funky sitting room, courtyard bar and breakfast area appeal to real life fashion characters, or at least those featuring on French TV shows.
5. Brilliant Bistros
Michelin starred restaurants are wonderful for special occasions, however, when you are tired after travelling or too much sightseeing, you might just crave good food without too much fuss. As the sixth is still a residential area, many of its restaurants are aimed at locals. At places like Les Garcons, (79 Rue du Cherche Midi, +33 1 49 0 859) you quaff an old-fashioned coupe de Champagne at the bar (5 Euros) before settling at a small wooden table to choose from a selection of seasonal dishes of the day. These might include pan-fried foie gras, served in its juices alongside a crisp salad of honey encrusted purple carrots, or steak tartare, a nonchalantly continental concoction of raw steak with gherkins and a large plate of fries. The total bill for a dinner comprising two starters, two main courses, a glass of champagne, a glass of beer and 500ml of red Languedoc wine came in under 50 Euros, about the same as breakfast for two in some of Paris's hotels.
With leather benches and a cosy atmosphere, the Bistro d’Henri, (16 Rue Princess, +33 1 46 33 51 12) offers dishes inspired from South West France while the former carpenter’s guild headquarters, Aux Charpentiers, (10 Rue Mabillon; +33 1 43 26 30 05) is more touristy but still serves reasonable bistro dishes with decent steaks.
6. Ample Attractions
With its wedding cake walls, the church of St Sulpice is the left bank’s Sacré Coeur. The views are less impressive but you can sit in the square by the fountain and watch Paris’s fashion pack scamper to and from assignments. The Jardin du Luxembourg is a carefully manicured park set in the gardens of the Senate. Sculptures include a bronze by Auguste Bartholdi which was used as a model for the Statue of Liberty. Closer to the Seine, the Basilica of St Germain des Près, with its dark blue ceiling painted with stars, is also worth a visit before checking out Café De Flore or Les Deux Magots, the favoured cafe hang-outs of French intellectuals such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Local museums include the Musée National Eugéne Delacroix, which displays paintings and correspondence from the 19th century artist. Delacroix lived in the property at 6 Rue de Furstenberg while painting a chapel inside St Sulpice; www.musee-delacroix.fr. Straying beyond the sixth, the Musée d' Orsay has one of the world's largest collections of art by the French Impressionists, while the Rodin Museum contains sculptures such as Auguste Rodin's The Thinker, and The Kiss, set in the stately house and gorgeous garden. And then, there's the rest of Paris.