The heart of the Left Bank (the south side of the river Seine) is the Latin Quarter. To the west, St-Germain is a mixture of bohemian cafés and stylish shops.
Continuing downstream, the Seine curls around to the elegant buildings of the 7th arrondissement, which come to a halt in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.
The Musée d’Orsay displays France’s national collection of paintings, sculptures and objets d’art from the 1840s to 1914, including Impressionist works by Monet, Degas and Cézanne (00 33 1 40 49 48 14; musee-orsay.fr; 62 rue de Lille, 7e; 9.30am-6pm daily, closed Mon; £7).
In fine weather Parisians flock to the terraces and chestnut groves of the 23-hectare Jardin du Luxembourg. In the southern part of the garden, you’ll find urban orchards and the beekeeping school Rucher du Luxembourg (8am-5pm, 10pm in summer).
Famous for its appearance in The Da Vinci Code, the elegant Italianate church Église St-Sulpice was built between 1646 and 1780. The beautiful frescos in the Chapelle des Sts-Anges were painted by artist Eugène Delacroix (place St-Sulpice, 6e; 7.30am-7.30pm; free).
The Institute of the Arab World is in a building that successfully mixes modern and traditional Arab and Western elements. The institute’s collection focuses on painting a global vision of the Arab world (00 33 1 40 51 38 38; imarabe.org; 1 place Mohammed V, 5e; 10am-6pm Tue-Sun; £6).
The Musée National Eugène Delacroix was the artist’s home and studio when he died in 1863, and contains many of his more intimate works (00 33 1 44 41 86 50; musee-delacroix.fr; 6 rue de Furstenberg, 6e; 9.30am-5pm daily, closed Tue; £4).
Eat and drink
The king of Parisian fromageries, Quatrehomme offers an original take on classics, including Roquefort bread and Mont d’Or flavoured with black truffles and spiced honey (00 33 1 47 34 33 45; 62 rue de Sèvres, 6e).
For a unique Left Bank experience, dig into a couscous or tagine at La Mosquée de Paris within the walls of the city’s central mosque. Or spoil yourself with a peppermint tea and an oriental pastry in its tearoom (00 33 1 43 31 38 20; 39 rue Geoffroy St-Hilaire, 5e; lunch and dinner; mains £12-£20).
The hybrid Bistro Les Papilles is part wine cellar, part delicatessen. Dine at simply dressed tables on market-driven fare. Each weekday, the chef prepares a different marmite du marché (market hot pot). The wine list is exceptional (00 33 1 43 25 20 79; lespapillesparis. com; 30 rue Gay Lussac, 5e; lunch and dinner Tue-Sat; 2-/4-course menu £18/£26).
Lunch at L’Agrume and watch chefs work in the open kitchen on dishes such as sea bream tartare with spider crab. Evening dining is a five-course tasting menu (00 33 1 43 31 86 48; 15 rue des Fossés St-Marcel, 5e; lunch and dinner Tue-Sun; mains £25, tasting menu £30).
Le Comptoir du Relais serves seasonal dishes such as breaded pig’s trotter and foie gras salad. Arrive at 12.30pm to bag lunch without a reservation (00 33 1 44 27 07 97; 9 Carrefour de l’Odéon, 6e; lunch and dinner; dinner menu £42).
The Port Royal Hôtel has been owned by the same family since 1931, and is an unassuming budget option. The simple rooms, furnished with wrought-iron beds and bright yellow bedding, are very quiet. The cheaper ones share a bathroom. Credit cards are not accepted (00 33 1 43 31 70 06; hotelportroyal.fr; 8 bd de Port Royal, 5e; from £45).
You’ll need to book in advance to stay at the Hôtel du Champde- Mars. Situated near the rue Cler market, this townhouse has 25 cosy rooms decorated in French country style with printed wallpapers and painted furniture (00 33 1 45 51 52 30; hoteldu champdemars.com; 7 rue du Champ de Mars, 7e; from £85).
Occupying two Haussman buildings, the Hôtel Minerve has a reception area kitted out in oriental carpets and antique books. Rooms are styled with mahogany furniture and toile de Jouy fabrics and while some rooms have balconies, two have tiny courtyards (00 33 1 43 26 26 04; parishotelminerve.com; 13 rue des Écoles, 5e; from £105).
As much a work of art, with its stencilled façade by French artist Catherine Feff, as a design hotel, Apostrophe has 16 themed rooms, paying homage to the written word. Graffiti tags over one wall of room U, for ‘urbain’, which has a ceiling shaped like a skateboard ramp (00 33 1 56 54 31 31; apostrophe-hotel.com; 3 rue de Chevreuse, 6e; from £135).
Hôtel la Demeure is the domain of a charming father and son team who provide appealing extras: an iPod dock in every room, wine glasses for guests who bring their own, and art to buy on the walls (00 33 1 43 37 81 25; hotellademeureparis.com; 51 bd St-Marcel, 13e; from £145).
The Metro is the easiest way to get around and runs from 5am to 12.30am (single fare £1.50; ratp.fr). Day and multi-day tourist passes are available at larger stations. The Vélib bike scheme gives you access to 1,500 bike stations across Paris (velib.paris.fr).
There are easyJet flights from London Luton (from £60) and Edinburgh (from £100; easyjet.com) to Charles de Gaulle airport. Eurostar trains run from St Pancras International to Gare du Nord (from £69; eurostar.com).
The article 'Mini guide to Paris's Left Bank, France' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.