Paris Left Bank
The Left Bank (rive gauche) has become synonymous with all things dissident and intellectual, especially radical student types. Although, topographically speaking, all Paris south of the river is the Left Bank, the name refers particularly to the traditionally Bohemian haunts around the boulevard St-Michel.
To the east of the boulevard, the medieval Quartier Latin clings to its student traditions, while St-Germain gets more and more chi-chi the further west from St-Michel you go.
In modern times the Left Bank's reputation for turbulence and innovation has been renewed by the activities of painters and writers like Picasso, Apollinaire, Breton, Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin and Hemingway after World War I; Camus, Sartre, Juliette Greco and the Existentialists after World War II; and the political turmoil of 1968, which escalated from student demonstrations and barricades to factory occupations, massive strikes and the near-overthrow of de Gaulle's presidency.
Nowadays, the streets from which such revolution sprang house expensive flats, art galleries and high-end fashion boutiques, and the cafés once frequented by penniless intellectuals and struggling artists are filled with the well-educated bourgeois. Over the years, those who question authority and the status quo have decamped to other parts of the city and those who define it – politicians, designers, photographers and journalists – have taken their place.
Despite this transformation, the small streets, busy shops and lively neighbourhood feel make this the perfect place to stroll or people-watch over a late-afternoon coffee or an after-dinner drink.