The latin district , around the St Michel boulevard remains the intellectual center of Paris, although many of its universities have built campuses on the outskirts of Paris, because of lack of space inside the city itself. But thousands of students still have the privilege to study in the oldest university of France, the Sorbonne, in the most prestigious “lycées” St Louis, Henri IV , to listen to lectures from the best professors and philosophers at the “College de France”. Plenty of bookshops , libraries, editing houses are there to provide all the intellectual tools they might need, just like in the past when scholars began to come and study in this part of Paris. At the time , latin was the language used to teach and study, this why this district of Paris is still called the Latin district.
Part of the land there and in the borough of St Germain, nearby, belonged to the powerful benedictine abbey of St Germain, which not only had the oldest church of Paris, in the romanesque style (very unusual ), but also a large monastery where scholars were very active, fields, markets and even a jail. Only the church remains from this huge complex of buildings and even this building was amputated from some of its annex when Baron Haussmann laid out the large St Germain boulevard. Many shops selling artifacts around the St Sulpice church, are a testimony of this great religious and intellectual influence. In the 18th century, lots of aristocrats decided to build their houses, “between courtyard and garden”, because they found more space than in the “Marais”, too crowded and often flooded. Many of them are now occupied by governmental administrations.
After WW II, it was time to have fun again and go to the jazz clubs to listen to music and dance or go to the famous intellectual “cafés” , Flore or 2 Magots , hoping to see Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.
Nowadays, one of the highlights of the district is the Orsay museum, formerly a railways station serving the southwest of France, with an interesting exterior and interior architecture. Its platforms were to small for the modern trains after WWII and it stopped being a railways station to become in 1986 a museum dedicated to the art of the 19th century. It displays one of the most important impressionist collection of paintings.